Cyber-bullying, a Growing Issue - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

Cyber-bullying, a Growing Issue

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BILLINGS -

It can be more vicious than face to face bullying, and more prevalent. Cyber-bullying is growing rapidly, and it's tearing apart the youth in our community.

"I was just angry and depressed all at once. I couldn't think. Didn't have peace of mind," said a male student here in Billings who wishes to remain anonymous.

"The problem with cyber-bullying is there is no face to it. So when you don't know who your attacker is, when you walk down the hall, it could be anyone," said Kimberly Vershoot, Assistant Principal at Billings West High School.

"I just felt like I'd be confronted by everyone about it. I wouldn't be able to be left alone," said the male student.

Billings high schools had Confession pages on Facebook. Entries involved extreme cyber-bullying that was targeting students. That triggered an intervention by the police, and that got parents attention. According to a study by Yale University, students that are bullied are, on average, about five times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims.

"It's kind of an eye opener for them to realize that it's not a big city problem or a big state problem, it's truly here as well," said Earl Campbell, an officer of the Billings Police Department, who works on the Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Because of the Confession pages, students were required to watch presentations on cyber-bullying and learn the consequences. "The goal is to get the information out there, and show the kids that being anonymous online generally doesn't happen," said Campbell.

George Zorzakis is a School Resource Officer at multiple schools in Billings. He has encountered many acts of vicious cyber-bullying. "There isn't that technology talk on how to properly use technology, so kids find themselves with access to things they were never meant to have access to," said Zorzakis.

These findings prompted some schools, including West High, to come together and combat cyber-bullying. A letter was sent out district wide informing parents of the cyber attacks.

"They came together as a school community and tried to support one another," said Vershoot.

But, for some students, the bullying hasn't stopped.

"In all honesty, I thought that I don't belong here. If it's all happening to me, why am I still here?" said a female student who wishes to remain anonymous.

"It just made me not want to be there. Just not do anything, just kind of lay in bed and do nothing," said the male student.

Vershoot said, "Parents really had to start looking closely at what their students were doing, what their children were doing, and what they were doing online. And that knowledge is power."

"Parents have to do whatever they can to determine A, if their kids are safe, and B, if their kids are doing something bad to other people," says a Guardian who wishes to remain anonymous.

But the damage has been done, and some students fear it will never end.

The female student said, "I don't see it stopping because you can have so much more power behind a keyboard."

Officer Zorzakis suggests implementing an Internet safety part of student's curriculum, and believes that educating parents is key.