Establishing a Cyberbullying Task Force — Update on New York State Legislation

Many of you have asked about the status of advocating for cyberbullying prevention legislation in New York. While some states recently have added or amended legislation to protect youth against cyberbullying, New York State still does not have laws which define or address cyberbullying.

After New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky introduced a bill in the Senate on February 6, 2018, Assemblymember Didi Barrett sponsored a version in the Assembly. The latter is now co-sponsored by David Buchwald, Christine Pellegrino, and Rebecca Seawright.

The bills would establish a task force to explore the effects of cyberbullying in New York and potential measures to address such effects.

The task force would conduct a comprehensive study on the effects of, and potential methods to address cyberbullying, including processes for school districts to develop cyberbullying prevention policies; procedures for school districts to assist individuals in reporting cyberbullying; procedures for school districts to implement to ensure prompt and thorough investigations; identifying existing staff to assist school districts in responding to incidents, such as counselor services, support services, or intervention services; a suggested statement about prohibiting reprisals or retaliation against any person who reports cyberbullying and the consequences for a person who engages in reprisal or retaliation; how often a school district should conduct a reevaluation and review of its cyberbullying policy; methods school districts can use, such as grants, to fund programs regarding cyberbullying; identifying the most common victims of cyberbullying by age, ethnicity, religion, gender, or any other identifying characteristic the members of the task force deem relevant; determining the most common mediums used in cases of cyberbullying, including but not limited to, text messages, websites, and social media; identifying the social and psychological effects of cyberbullying on individuals; reviewing measures other states or legislative bodies have taken to address cyberbullying; drafting model regulations that may be promulgated by this state to address cyberbullying; and drafting model policies that may be implemented by a school district to address cyberbullying. Read more about Senate Bill S7678.

Establishing a cyberbullying task force is a great first step to address and prevent cyberbullying, and I applaud the legislators who already are supporting the bills.

The last day of the 2018 session for the New York State Legislature is June 20. The bill is not currently scheduled to be discussed, or brought to a vote in the Senate or Assembly. If it is not discussed and passed by June 20, it will be held till the next session in 2019.

If you reside in New York, please reach out to your senator and assemblymember to encourage support of this important legislation to help create a safer cyber-world for our youth.

Find your New York State senator.

Find your New York State assemblymember.

If your state or country doesn’t have legislation to address cyberbullying, reach out to your elected officials and explain why this is an important issue to you and how legislation can help address it.

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

The Most Important Thing Parents Need To Know If Their Child Experiences Cyberbullying

By the time I was impersonated online, I already feared for my life and knew I was being harassed by what appeared to be a young woman interested in dating a man who was my friend and trainer at the time, and someone with whom I previously had a brief intimate relationship. What I didn’t know was how much worse the situation would get before I began to believe it could ever be resolved.

It was at that moment when I realized how deep the devastating effects of youth cyberbullying could be. I was 44 when my ordeal began and, if you asked me beforehand what was my perception of my strength and resiliency, I would have told you they were both quite strong. My friends, colleagues, and family would have agreed. But, the round-the-clock barrage of attacks — direct messages, public humiliation, defamation of character, intimidation, threats, contact with my employer, and hate speech — terrorized and broke me.

During this traumatic time, I decided I would become an advocate to help prevent youth cyberbullying and adult cyber-harassment. I planned to share my story and speak out for educational resources, legislation reform, resources for law enforcement, awareness campaigns, and assistance for youth carrying out cyberbullying, once my case would be resolved. It took more than three years from when the harassment began till the offender’s sentencing. After she pleaded guilty to criminal harassment, I reached out to elected officials and advocates.

As a former victim of cruel and continuous cyber-harassment, I’m in somewhat of a unique position of having faced the same, or similar, experience as today’s victims of youth cyberbullying. At the sentencing, Judge J. Gage shared that it was “a perplexing and troublesome case. The messaging and posting on the internet that constitutes the harassment is virulently and aggressively demeaning toward the victim. It represents without question the epitome of cyberbullying and the most egregious form of posting that I have had the misfortune to review . . .”

While the offender was not as young as she claimed, but rather a woman in her 30s, it could be said that her online behavior was similar to that of those engaging in youth cyberbullying today.

My experience taught me a lot about the nature of those carrying out cyberbullying and harassment. It taught me how to document evidence, engage investigators and law enforcement, recognize offline and online red flags, keep private information private, the importance of upstanders, how you can be a victim without your own online presence, and how much work needs to be done to diminish cyberbullying and cyber-harassment. It taught me about the negative effects of not having a federally recognized definition and consistent state legislation for this harmful behavior that is greatly impacting youth throughout the U.S. and around the world. It also taught me I could survive a very dark and difficult time.

Make no mistake about it, today’s youth are regularly witnessing online harassment and too often becoming victims of it. “One in three online teens have experienced online harassment . . . such as receiving threatening messages; having their private emails or text messages forwarded without consent; having an embarrassing picture posted without permission; or having rumors about them spread online,” according to the 2017 Pew Internet & American Life Project.

The most important thing parents in the U.S. need to know if their child experiences cyberbullying is laws vary from state to state and policies can vary from school to school. Before taking any action, parents should find out their state laws and school policy regarding cyberbullying. If the content includes threats of violence, they should immediately contact their local police. If their state has legislation pertaining to cyberbullying, or the student carrying it out does not attend a school in the same district, parents should contact law enforcement who will either look into the matter further, or inform them of possible next steps or who to contact. Depending on the nature of the messages or posts, parents may want to contact an attorney before taking any action.

Research shows victims, witnesses, and those carrying out bullying and cyberbullying are all impacted by it immediately and in the future. According to, “Bullying can affect everyone — those who are bullied, those who bully, and those who witness bullying. Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes including impacts on mental health, substance use, and suicide.”

For today’s youth, all of us must cultivate a safer cyber-world and, at the same time, foster empathy, kindness, and respect online and off. Parents and educators can start by leading by example, sharing safe practices, and opening lines of communication. With so much of our lives taking place online today, we owe it to ourselves and future generations to make the digital world safe.

Lisa-Michelle is a recognized expert in traditional and digital marketing, communications, and social media. She is an effectiveness, career, lifestyle balance, and positive psychology coach. She is an adjunct professor and inspirational speaker.

She is teaming up with legislators and advocacy groups to help diminish cyberbullying and cyber-harassment. She shared her story and how it impacted her with elected officials to demonstrate the devastating effects cyberbullying can have on youth and adults. After informal research, she proposed cyberbullying legislation, including a comprehensive definition. In addition, she proposed several initiatives, such as launching a New York State youth cyberbullying task force, sharing information with parents of school-age children, awareness campaigns, and resources for law enforcement.

On February 6, 2018, New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky introduced a bill in the New York State Senate (S7678) to create a task force to explore and address the impact of cyberbullying. The task force would review best practices and share suggestions for school policies and procedures, cyberbullying prevention programming, and state regulations. The bill also was sponsored in the New York State Assembly (A9846) by Assemblymember Didi Barrett and co-sponsored by Assemblyman David Buchwald.

Originally posted on the American Society for the Positive Care of Children’s Blog.

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

Standing Up To Cyberbullying

When you hear of cyberbullying victims, you expect to discover stories about teens or tweens. I was 44 when my ordeal began. The cyberstalking and harassment continued nonstop for more than a year before the offender was arrested and almost another two years until she pleaded guilty to criminal harassment and was sentenced.

‘This wasn’t supposed to happen to me,’ I remember thinking. I was in my 40s. I was a respected professional. I was an adjunct professor. I taught digital and social media. I didn’t know anybody who would do this to someone, who would behave this way. I learned the hard way that it can happen to anyone, and the results can be devastating.

I lost more than three years of my life, and I will never be the same person I was before this period of being terrorized — harassed, threatened, intimidated, impersonated, defamed, humiliated, bullied, stalked, and tormented by hate speech.

The offender repeatedly told me to kill myself and hoped I would die soon. She claimed to put spells on me and to have hired other people to do so. The insults were constant. There were hundreds of menacing private messages and defamatory comments posted on various social media pages. She had other people cyberstalk me and often tried to question people about me.

Throughout it all, I contemplated the impact similar cruel cyberbullying had on teens and tweens, and I promised myself I would become an advocate for prevention and support when my case was resolved.

The personal and professional humiliation I experienced was overwhelming and harmful. I lost connections and shied away from making new ones or maintaining contact with people who were not part of my everyday life. I stopped participating in some activities and declined most online projects.

In addition to insults and horrendous defamation of character, I was intimidated by threats of violence and being followed. When alone, I slept with chairs and other items barricading my door in hopes that the threats would not be actualized, or at least I would hear someone trying to enter my apartment. I had people available to escort me to and from my car where I worked, and my friends accompanied me on the phone when I travelled alone till I safely arrived at my destination. At times, I also prepared my phone to call 9-1-1 with just one click. I was terrified that someone was following me and would attack me at any time. I lived in constant fear. At times, I experienced challenges breathing from the anxiety. I still look over my shoulder in public, enter and lock my car door quickly, and easily get startled when I hear an unexpected noise.

I had frequent nightmares and could not sleep. I was constantly tired, and this impacted my work, my relationships, and my mood. I often was in emotional pain and could not function well.

As a marketing professional and adjunct professor of new media, including social media, it was demoralizing to live in fear of the public defamation of character and the significant harm that was happening to my reputation.

I was advised to deactivate my social media accounts to help bring about an end to the harassment. I reluctantly did so, but to no avail. The offender then sent me frightening and disturbing messages through my website and email, while continuing to defame me online.

When I engaged a cyber investigator, I re-entered the social media world, and I was constantly being watched by the offender and some of her acquaintances. Being the victim of cyberstalking was unsettling and debilitating, impacting my ability to be myself and openly engage people online.

The repeated sentiments against Jews directed towards me and my family were sickening and heartbreaking. We lost many family members in the Holocaust, so seeing the disgusting hate comments was very painful.

Like many victims of online harassment, damaging defamatory remarks about me made before the offender’s arrest remain online and continue to appear in search engine results. Even though I succeeded in having a lot content removed, some third-party content sites do not consider removal without a court order. After spending more than $35,000, I hope eventually to resolve this without additional legal fees.

A person I never met terrorized me and vowed to ruin my life. She set out to intimidate and humiliate me. She succeeded in doing so over the course of three years. She damaged my reputation, instilled fear in me, took away my peace of mind, and changed the course of my life.

Today, I’m an advocate for cyberbullying prevention and support to help create a safer and kinder cyber-world.

Originally posted on Impact Stories by the American Society for the Positive Care of Children’s .

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