Cyberbullying Task Force Bill Passes in New York State Senate

On Tuesday, June 18, 2019, the New York State Senate passed Bill S5786 to create a cyberbullying task force, which was introduced by NYS Senator Todd Kaminsky and co-sponsored by Senators Jen Metzger and Luis Sepulveda. The task force would explore the effects of cyberbullying and potential measures to address it.

Senator Kaminsky explained his vote, “Thank you very much, Mr. President. I think no matter where you live in this state, we can all agree that cyberbullying has become a tremendous problem. Recent reports show that nearly half the teens in our country have reported being cyberbullied, and while our schools, while we in the legislature have taken pains to make sure our schools have procedures in place to deal with it, what happens after school and what happens to regular adults who have to deal with cyberbullying and the horrors that it brings? I have a constituent, Lisa-Michelle Kucharz, who really survived a terrible ordeal with a stalker who was cyberbullying her and, instead of cursing the darkness, she’s chosen to light a candle and advocate very hard on this issue. So, what this bill would do would create a task force that would make recommendations to schools about how to handle cyberbullying that takes place outside of its walls and that leads generally to policies and procedures that would help deter cyberbullying at all levels for all members of our society. We need some good thinking and good planning to go into this issue, because it’s time we put an end to cyberbullying. Thank you, Mr. President.”

Posted in Bullying, Bullying Prevention, Cyber-harassment, cyber-safety, Cyberbullying, Cyberbullying Prevention, Online Harassment, Online Hate, stalking | Leave a comment

Summer Vacation Cyber-Safety

Cyber-Safety Summer Vacation

Cyber-safety is important throughout the year, but what happens when students are on break and have more time on their hands — and on their devices?

Summer vacation means more leisure time for kids, even those who attend camp or most other activities. “We’ve found that for parents who track and review their kids screen time report, it can sometimes be a real eye-opener,” shares Richard Guerry, founder and executive director of the Institute for Responsible Online and Cell-Phone Communication (IROC2). According to the Pew Research Center, throughout the year, “the biggest chunk of teens’ daily leisure time is spent on screens: 3 hours and 4 minutes on average.” This may include “time spent gaming, surfing the web, watching videos and watching TV . . . On weekends, screen time increases to almost four hours a day.” When teens are on break, that number increases.

The cyber-world can be a great way to connect and engage children of all ages, but it also presents risks that must be addressed. Open communication with youth about online dangers and digital citizenship are critical to keep them safe. When they begin to independently use the internet, have their first cell phone, or even before summer vacation, it’s time to discuss positive online behavior, and share your expectations and online safety best practices.

While many of us are familiar with the alarming statistics on cyberbullying, some targets so tormented, they consider suicide, many parents are unaware of other serious threats their children face online. Today, youth are exposed to many dangers, from cyberbullying to phishing scams, from seeing unwanted pornographic material to exposure to sexual predators and even luring by human traffickers.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one in seven youth internet users received unwanted sexual solicitations, and one in 25 received an online sexual solicitation in which the solicitor tried to make offline contact — with the most common first encounter of an online predator taking place in a chat room. In addition, one in five youth saw unwanted sexual material online, and one in nine received requests for sexual material from their peers or adults, according to a recent study shared in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Parents should not shy away from discussing these serious threats with their children.

One of the most helpful ways to discuss cyber-safety with youth is to use a Digital Citizen Pledge to guide your conversation. Cyber-safety and cyberbullying prevention experts weigh in on what else can help your child stay safe online this summer:

According to Sue Scheff, cyber-safety advocate and author of Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate, it’s important to “learn more about your child’s online life through offline chats, and be sure they know you are always there for them — all-year-long — if they are ever feeling uncomfortable online or off.”

It’s also critical to teach them about the permanency of one’s electronic footprint and potential pitfalls of poster’s remorse, since there’s “little room for a ‘what was I thinking’ moment, before it could become attached to them forever and for all to see,” shares Catherine Bosley, online advocate and award-winning journalist. “With every pic and post, they need to take inventory of everything it might say about them. No matter what age, no one is immune from their pics or posts being misinterpreted or misrepresented in the moment.”

Advise your kids to “avoid engaging with anyone who is aggressive, angry, or threatening,” shares J.J. Cannon, author of @Sophie Takes a #Selfie — Rules & Etiquette for Taking Good Care Before You Share. “Many times, bored, unhappy kids are just looking (trolling) for a fight. Another important reminder, not just for kids, is that everything we see online almost always is out of context. We’re all looking from our own point of view.” Cannon also suggests encouraging kids to enjoy tech-free days.

“Get them involved in activities where they are helping, doing things for others who are in need can shift their perspective from me to we,” advises Linnea McFadden, author of It’s Cool to Be Kind.

Matthew Morgan, vice president of Career Training Concepts, Inc., publisher of the HEAR – Helping Everyone Achieve Respect bullying prevention programs, encourages parents to “Be a good role model! Despite their seeming indifference, kids do pay attention to how the adults in their lives behave, online and offline.”

Summer vacation is a time for children to recharge and enjoy themselves. When it comes to tech this summer, Phyllis Fagell, LCPC, author of Middle School Matters, encourages kids to “get outside, offline and take a break from the drama.”

Before the summer break begins, discuss digital citizenship, screen time expectations, and cyber-safety best practices with your children. Ask them to let you know if they see anything that makes them feel uncomfortable, and encourage them to be kind online and share with care.

Posted in cyber-safety, Cyberbullying, Cyberbullying Prevention | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Digital Citizen Pledge Update

The cyber-world is continuously evolving, and our efforts to help youth stay safe online need to keep up with the times. With growing concerns of exposure to unwanted pornographic material, sexual predators, and human trafficking, it’s important parents do not shy away from discussing serious online threats with their children.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, last year one in seven youth internet users received unwanted sexual solicitations, and one in 25 received an online sexual solicitation in which the solicitor tried to make offline contact. In addition, one in five youth saw unwanted sexual material online, and one in nine received requests for sexual material from their peers or adults, according to a recent study shared in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Perhaps the most challenging concept for youth to understand is there is no absolute privacy. Even when they share their thoughts and images one-on-one with a close friend, in a group of trusted peers, or on their private pages, all online content can be shared. It can be helpful to discuss an example from the news to demonstrate, especially when your child is in doubt.

Educating children and maintaining open lines of communication on potential dangers and how to respond is critical for their safety — online and off. Youth Digital Citizen Pledges are helpful to guide cyber-safety conversations.

As you review the pledge with your children, create a comfortable environment for questions and give concrete examples. Be prepared to clarify expectations and discuss ramifications for breaking the pledge but, most importantly, let your children know you will be there for them when they need you.

Here is a new example of a Digital Citizen Pledge that can be adjusted to meet your family’s needs:

I, ______________________________, understand the expectations of my online actions and promise to:

  • Only connect with people I know in real life.
  • Communicate kindly.
  • Respect different opinions and feelings.
  • Use respectful language.
  • Avoid conversations that are unkind or disrespectful.
  • Only post or share appropriate photos.
  • Be an upstander, and stand up to cyberbullying.
  • Keep personal information private.
  • Not share my login information.
  • Disable location services, and never share my location.
  • Choose suitable online profile names.
  • Check with my parents before installing software or apps.
  • Notify an adult if I
    • Receive or see content that is threatening or mean.
    • Feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
    • Receive nude or sexual photos.
    • Am asked by strangers to meet in person.
    • Receive gifts or promises of gifts from strangers.


Signature and Date

For teens, this may be a good opportunity to introduce creating a positive online presence and discussing how they can strategically plan their content and engagement to help them achieve their current and future goals.

Be kind online. Share with care. Be cyber-safe.

Posted in Cyber-harassment, cyber-safety, Cyberbullying, Cyberbullying Prevention, Online Harassment, Online Hate | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment