Cyber bullying affects 1 in 2 Hawaii teens - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Cyber bullying affects 1 in 2 Hawaii teens

Valery Ishimoto Valery Ishimoto
Antonia Alvarez Antonia Alvarez
Christopher Young Christopher Young
Kaleo Akim Kaleo Akim

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email 

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - "Megan, you're a tramp.  Your makeup makes you look like a clown." The dialogue in an Ad Council public service announcement encourages teenagers to think before they type and hit send.

But too often these days teens take the low road and rip others on-line.

The anonymous attacks are called cyber bullying.

"They were supposedly one of my friends. And they just started anonymously posting things," Valery Ishimoto said.

Someone infiltrated her social network. For weeks she was harassed and humiliated. She withdrew from friends and skipped school. Valery suspected everyone.

"I was afraid that I would get dirty looks, people would be calling me names," she said.

Research shows that in Hawaii more than 50 percent of teenagers have been cyber bullied either on the Internet or on their cell phones via text messaging.

Antonia Alvarez of Mental Health America of Hawaii talks to teenagers about the dangers associated with cyber bullying. She urges cyber bullies to stop.

"The level of shame and embarrassment and stigma for the targets, the kids who are being bullied, can be really devastating," she said.

It's devastating and deadly.

In 2006 Megan Meier of Missouri killed herself after being harassed on a MySpace site.  In January, Phoebe Prince of Massachusetts committed suicide after being mistreated online.  And in September, Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi took his life after a roommate posted unflattering videos of him on the Internet.

"People are talking about it now. People are becoming more aware of it because of these national stories. And I think we'll get an upswing of reports being made," said Christopher Young, chief of the Attorney General's Criminal Justice Department.

In Hawaii, cyber bullying could be prosecuted under the harassment law. The attorney general's office has the methods and machinery to investigate computer and cell phone related crimes.

Soon law enforcers will have a training manual specifically for cyber bullying.

In classrooms across the state, peer educators are getting students to discuss cyber bullying and to talk about how to handle it.

"Let your parents know. They are the people that are in your life to protect you and support you and love you," Kaimuki High School peer educator Kaleo Akim said.

"They really are emphasizing Internet safety in many of the schools, which means not sharing your password with your boyfriend or girlfriend and hot sharing your password with your friends -- really trying to minimize the risks," Alvarez said.

The AG's office encourages people being targeted by cyber bullies to document attacks by capturing screen shots and printing the messages.

Valery never found out who was bullying her but she closed her MySpace page and restricts access to her other sites.

Now some of her friends are being cyber bullied.

"They come to me and they ask me, 'Why me? And what should I do?' because they know that I've been cyber bullied," she said.

Cyber bullied victims know words can hurt.  So watch what you say in cyberspace.

To learn more about cyber bullying and how to deal with it, go to ncpc.org/cyberbullying.

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