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

Senator Kaminsky Introduces Legislation To Create Task Force On Cyberbullying

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On Tuesday February 6, in an effort to stamp out cyberbullying across New York, Senator Todd Kaminsky introduced legislation (S.7678) to create the New York State Task Force on Cyberbullying.

Assemblymember Didi Barrett has also joined Senator Kaminsky in sponsoring this bill. Senator Kaminsky introduced the bill in response to requests from local parents and educators. The Task Force would be comprised of parents, teachers, school administrators, and guidance counselors. They will be tasked with examining cyberbullying in schools and will propose remedies to the issue in a report to the Governor, Legislature, and State Education Commissioner.

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance report, 15% of students nationwide experience cyberbullying, a number that has grown steadily over the past years. These incidents have escalated due to increased use of digital communications such as text messaging, social media, and email among young people.

“Cyberbullying has exploded into an epidemic that has adversely affected the lives of too many our students,” said Senator Todd Kaminsky. “This much-needed Task Force will take a close look at the issue and report back with workable solutions. We need to act swiftly to put an end to bullying — our children deserve no less.”

“I am pleased to join Senator Kaminsky in sponsoring this bill because I believe we must do more at the state level to address the toxic capacity of cyber bullying.   In our ever evolving digital culture the nature of cyber bullying changes as quickly as the technology. A task force will help us get a better handle on this scourge and be more proactive to help people of all ages avoid this damaging and unacceptable behavior,” said Assemblymember Didi Barrett.

“Equality New York commends Senator Kaminsky on the introduction of legislation to create a cyberbullying task force,” said Gabriel Blau, co-chair of Equality New York. “As this issue continues to be a persistent, underreported matter in New York State schools and one that particularly effects LGBTQ youth, it is more important than ever to bring together educators, parents, and students to come up with common sense solutions that create a safer learning environment for everyone.”

“Establishing a task force to explore ways to address cyberbullying is a great first step to make the cyber-world safer for our youth,” said Lisa-Michelle Kucharz, Cyberbullying Prevention Advocate, Valley Stream resident. “The findings of this task force and subsequent actions will make a profound impact. Cyberbullying can be damaging and painful, especially for school-age children. I applaud Senator Kaminsky for introducing this important legislation to ensure the safety and well-being of New York’s youth.”

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