Personally Battling Against Cyberbullying

By Tyler Marko, originally published in the Nassau Herald.
Lisa-Michelle Kucharz Battling Cyberbullying Nassau Herald

Photo: Tyler Marko

Making the battle against online harassment, cyberbullying, personal, Valley Stream resident Lisa-Michelle Kucharz, used her own experiences as she spoke to about half a dozen attendees at the workshop hosted by the Marion and Aaron Gural JCC on Oct. 17.

Kucharz’s story began with receiving threatening messages and having defamatory postings made about her on Facebook and in emails in September 2014. The harassment continued for two years before Canadian police arrested […] a woman from Ontario, Canada for the online harassment. […] was sentenced to six months in jail for her crime.

Such cyberbullying appears to be more commonplace as 59 percent of teenagers and 41 percent of adults in the United States have reported being cyberharassed, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center study conducted in March and April. The study also found that 20 percent of Americans have dealt with what was called “severe forms of harassment online,” including harassment over long periods of time, physical threats, sexual harassment or stalking.

Despite the frequency, just more than half, 52 percent of teens, actually report being harassed online, Kucharz said. She noted that studies have found that these young people fear having their cell phone taken away should they report the cyberbullying.

Natasha Chait is studying to become a school psychologist at Queens College and said after the presentation that knowing the reasons that students may not want to come forward could help them deal with these situations. “I think that it would be good to address if there ever a student who we’re seeing and is hesitant to approach their parents or an authority figure,” she said. “I think that just knowing [their motivations] will help.”

Adi Carlucci, a North Woodmere resident and the mother of a two children 7 and 11, said that she attended to not only learn how to handle a situation where her children were being bullied online, but also how to prevent her children from ever being the ones to do the bullying. “It really resonated with me to not use the word bully,” she said. “That labeling the child in that way really sticks with them.”

Kucharz also covered strategies for dealing with the harassment. These included documenting everything, contacting the police or school, and retaining the services of a lawyer as soon as possible.

She said that she wants people to leave knowing there are ways to deal with the situation, and they don’t have to live with it. “I hope the attendees walk away with a sense of hope,” Kucharz said. “That should they or someone they know experience cyberbullying or online harassment that they can stop it, prevent it, and get the help they need.”

More information, resources and advice for handling online harassment can be found at Kucharz’s website, www.lmkucharz.com.

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Taming a Technological Gift — With Cyberbullying on the Rise Gural JCC in Cedarhurst holds Oct. 17 Forum

By Jeffrey Bessen, originally published in the Nassau Herald.

A woman who was stalked online and saw her harasser sent to prison will present a cyberbullying and online harassment prevention workshop at the Marion & Aaron Gural JCC in Cedarhurst on Oct. 17.

Lisa-Michelle Kucharz, of Valley Stream, who describes herself as a cyberbullying prevention advocate, was cyberstalked starting in September 2014 . . .

Learn how to battle with online harassment

“Social media is one of the greatest gifts of the 21st century, connecting families around the world, long-lost friends, professional peers, people with similar interests, homebound seniors, the physically challenged and more,” Kucharz said. “With so much more of our lives taking place online today, we owe it to ourselves and future generations to make the digital world safe.”

Pew Research Center - Teen Cyberbullying

Fifty-nine percent of teenagers and 41 percent of adults in the United States have reported being cyberharassed, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center study conducted in March and April. It also found that 20 percent of Americans have dealt with what was called “severe forms of harassment online,” including harassment over long periods of time, physical threats, sexual harassment or stalking.

A year earlier, 33 percent of teenagers had experienced online harassment, such as threatening messages, emails or texts sent to others without their permission, having an embarrassing photo posted without consent or rumors being spread online, according to the 2017 Pew Internet & American Life Project.

“But even as most parents are confident they can educate their child about proper online conduct, [they] are concerned about the types of negative experiences their teen might encounter online,” Pew Senior Researcher Monica Anderson wrote in an article highlighting the report’s findings.

Pew also reported that girls 15 to 17 are 41 percent more likely than boys to report experiencing cyberbullying. Teen suicide caused by bullying and cyberbullying is on the rise, and advocates, civic leaders, educators, parents and school administrators need to address ways to reverse this trend, experts in the field said.

“Cyberbullying and online harassment have become serious, frightening and widespread issues,” said Rachayle Deutsch, the Gural JCC’s cultural arts and education director. “With family members of all ages accessing the internet and computers and on their smartphones, the possibility of even young children being victims has increased.”

In 2014, Kucharz reported her cyberstalker to Nassau County police. After Tyson was tracked down, she pleaded guilty to criminal harassment [and was sentenced] to six months in an Ontario correctional facility.

“Stopping someone who is cyberbullying may be difficult, but it’s possible,” said Kucharz, adding that attendees of the seminar will learn practical steps to prevent and stop cyberbullying, how to recognize that children might be experiencing online harassment and information on support resources.

How to handle cyberbullying and online harassment

  • If you or your child is in immediate danger,  call 9-1-1.
  • If the harassment includes private messages, emails, or text messages, send the person responsible [one] message, “Stop” or “Do not contact me again.”
  • Block the abusive person’s account(s).
  • Don’t retaliate or engage with the harasser.
  • Document all incidents by creating screen captures. For internet content, the best screen captures include the full URL.
  • Report abusive content to sites.
  • Save your documents in multiple locations.
  • If the harassment includes threats of violence, contact the police.
  • Should students experience cyberbullying by students in the same school or school district, parents should request to meet with the principal.
  • Consider contacting a lawyer to understand the relevant laws in your state, advocate on your behalf with law enforcement, the school or organizations; consider getting a cease and desist order or assist with defamatory content removal.
Sources: Lisa-Michelle Kucharz, Nassau County Police Department, and New York State Police.
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Digital Citizen Pledge

Discussing positive online behavior with children is important. Sharing your expectations and online safety best practices are critical for their well-being and protection, especially when they begin to independently use the internet or have their first cell phone.

I recently put together a new digital citizenship pledge for a local organization that is a good tool for parents or schools — a conversation starter and reminder of points to address.

Digital Citizen Pledge

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.
  • Keep personal information private.
  • Only post or share appropriate photos.
  • Not share my login information.
  • Inform an adult of content that is threatening or mean.
  • Choose suitable online profile names.
  • Use respectful language.
  • Avoid conversations that are unkind or disrespectful.
  • Be an upstander and stand up to cyberbullying.
  • Notify an adult if I feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
  • Check with my parents before installing software or apps.

Signature and Date

It’s important to discuss the pledge and expectations, fostering an open conversation and opportunity to ask questions, as well as discussing possible ramifications for breaking the pledge.

 

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