A no nonsense attitude towards cyberbullying

Well I have to say it’s not very often I find an article that’s from Fox News. But I saw this circulating round on Facebook so I thought I’d spread the word. Ironically Facebook is part of the topic.

Two girls have been arrested in the death of a 12-year-old central Florida girl who authorities say committed suicide after being bullied online by several girls for nearly a year, a sheriff said.

A Facebook post from one of the girls saying she didn’t care about the suicide of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick led police to the arrests, according to Sheriff Grady Judd. The suspects, ages 12 and 14, have been charged with felony aggravated stalking, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. “We decided, look, we can’t leave her out there,” Judd said. “Who else is she going to torment? Who else is she going to harass? Who is the next person she verbally and mentally abuses and attacks?”

Judd held a press conference on Tuesday morning and said authorities acted fast because even though the accused girls’ parents were contacted by police about Sedwick’s death, the parents did not cooperate with police and the girls were still able to use their social media accounts.

“The parents were not doing what parents are supposed to do,” Judd said. “My goodness, wake up, girl.”

He said police moved in and made the arrests because it was unclear if the girls would pick a new victim. Judd said Sedwick was “terrorized” by as many as 15 girls who ganged up on her and picked on her for months through online message boards and texts. Some of the girls’ computers and cellphones were seized in the investigation. He said the two girls arrested were the major culprits. One of the suspects had been dating Sedwick’s former boyfriend. The two had gone to the same school where, at one point, there was a physical confrontation between the girls.

The girl who had been dating Sedwick’s former boyfriend went to friends around the school and tried to have them turn on Sedwick, Judd said. The girl posted comments on the Internet saying Sedwick should “drink bleach and die,” Judd said. The second girl arrested was a former best friend of Sedwick’s who was influenced by the other girl to turn on her, Judd said.

A man who answered the phone at the 14-year-old’s Lakeland home identified himself as her father. He told The Associated Press that his daughter was “a good girl” and he was “100 percent sure that whatever they’re saying about my daughter is not true.”

Judd said the girls face felony charges because of Sedwick’s age. Though Florida has adopted a bullying law, Judd said the sheriff’s office was not likely pursuing any other charges against the girls. Judd said he released the names and pictures of the girls who were arrested because they’re accused felons. Fox News is not releasing their names or pictures because they are minors.

A 12-year-old girl was also arrested in the case. A message left at her Lakeland home was not immediately returned.

Sedwick’s mother removed her from the school after the 2012 school year, but the bullying continued on the girl’s cellphone via social media, Judd said. On Sept. 9, Sedwick climbed a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and jumped to her death, authorities said.

After the suicide, police looked at the girl’s computer and found search queries for topics including “what is overweight for a 13-year-old girl,” “how to get blades out of razors” and “how many over-the-counter drugs do you take to die.” One of her screensavers also showed Sedwick with her head resting on a railroad track.

Florida has a bullying law named after a teenager who killed himself after being harassed by classmates. Amended July 1st to cover cyberbullying, the law leaves punishment to schools, though law enforcement also can seek more traditional charges.

Both girls were charged as juveniles with third-degree felony aggravated stalking. If convicted, it’s not clear how much time, if any at all, the girls would spend in juvenile detention because they did not have any previous criminal history, the sheriff said. “Time may not be the best trainer here. We’ve got the change this behavior of these children,” Judd said.

We wouldn’t see that in this country at the moment would we? All we are seeing is the government wanting social networks and other webs to provide stronger filters to stamp out access to pornography, but the rest of cyberbullying seems to be prevalent, and the answer is simply tell kids about it through education. It is important to remember that cyberbullying is rife in our world at this moment in time, largely due to the amount of access through smartphones, tablets and other technology. The question needs to be asked is who monitors children’s access to the internet. I am aware that we do not wish to literally look over our children’s shoulder, but it is quite clear that there isn’t enough out there. It’s very easy to hide behind a username or a false facebook name to target someone, but it’s much harder to hide typing it if they are unsupervised. I personally would like to see more kids being arrested and made to suffer the consequences of their actions.


7 thoughts on “A no nonsense attitude towards cyberbullying

  1. You are so right with your last comment Mark. Parents do need to step up to the plate on this. I think some parents have this idea of not intruding on the privacy of their children but the mistake is they forget they are CHILDREN & don’t need that sort of privacy.

    1. Hi Julia, thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my blog.

      I agree, but then those same parents might then say they do that because they want their children to become aware of the dangers of the internet by experiencing them. In the mortal words of my grandfather ‘you might try something, then think to yourself ‘what was the point of that?’ and never do it again.’ Unfortunately there are some areas which are harder to avoid and can become addictive: pornography and ‘trolling’ would be the obvious examples.

      Personally I believe all children should be supervised until the age of 18, when they have gone through compulsory education and should be educated and aware of the dangers of the internet. A lot of parents will hit back and me and quote the ‘invasion of privacy’ argument, but if the children don’t do anything stupid on the internet they have nothing to hide from and won’t mind being supervised. I don’t like the idea of kids have computers in their rooms, especially as I have taught some children as young as 6 who have said they have computers in their rooms! I have the same argument with phones. What do kids in school need mobile phones for? Emergencies are covered by the school phone, which leaves merely distracting themselves from class. Yet I see primary school kids with phones these days.

      The mind boggles that’s for sure

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