California Cracks Down on Cyber Bullies - KMPH FOX 26 | Central San Joaquin Valley News Source

California Cracks Down on Cyber Bullies

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By: Jim dela Vega and Kyra Jenkins

A new law puts an end to threatening emails and text messages, targeting the younger population. The School cyber bullying law takes effect January 1, 2009.

Experts say cyber bullies prey on a teen's emotions, focusing on ways to harm them with words or pictures.

"I see a lot of people get threatening text messages all the time," student Lacey Lowry.

It's called cyber bullying and as the name implies, it's an update of the same kind of bullying that kids have dealt with on schoolyard for years, but with a high tech and dangerous twist.

Thanks to email, text messaging and social networking sites like MySpace and FaceBook, almost anyone can say anything to almost anybody without ever having to confront them face-to-face.

"Many of my friends have experienced boyfriends sending threatening emails or posting pictures they don't like on their MySpace.  It can be really offensive and hurt a lot of people," said student Brianna Murray.

Experts say that unlike the schoolyard version, cyber bulling prey harms the victim with harm them with words or pictures, before a high-tech audience.

"Worse case scenarios, we have folks attempting suicide, things like that and so what we find is that the wider range makes it much, much, worse.   There's no way to get away from it.  You can't walk away from the bully taunting you on the playground. You go home and it's on their Myspace or they've created a fake website or they're sending text messages around the school," said Marriage and Family Therapist Paul Mavrogeorge.

It's a problem that is growing. Over 40% of all teenagers with Internet access have been bullied on-line in the past year, and only ten percent told a parent.

And girls are much more likely to be the victims than boys, according to the National Crime Prevention Center.

The new law will allow schools to suspend or, in some cases, even expel those found guilty of cyber bullying.

"I think that's good idea. I really do because I know when it happens to me, I feel really bad. It doesn't make me feel good at all," said student Lacey Lowry.

According to the National Crime Prevention Center, 15% of parents really know what their kid's social networking habits are.

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