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Family 411: Internet Cyberbullying
DAYTON -- Cyberbullying is rampant on the internet. It's often impossible to identify the bully or stop the attacks, and that's leading to a growing trend: Taking the cyberbullies or the websites they use to court.
Being crowned Miss Ohio Teen USA was the best moment in Kendall Fein's life. But just one day later Kendall was being cyberbullied. She says the bullies were taking pictures off my Facebook and photo shopping them, photo shopping things in my hands, alcoholic beverages, crazy, unreal things I didn't even know were possible. Then the threatening messages started, and next her Facebook page was hacked. She says, I would cry to my mom, what am I doing wrong?
Media attorney Daliah Saper says cyberbullying is hitting new heights on social media, and it's leading to a new trend: lawsuits. Forms of sabotage that have developed in the last two to three years never cease to amaze me. We've certainly filed countless suits in the last year and a half, two years because of the increase in cyberbullying in different forms, said Saper.
A Texas couple filed a defamation lawsuit last month against six of their daughter's classmates and their parents after their daughter's pictures were posted on an explicit Instagram page.
An Illinois teen's bullies set up fake Twitter accounts, and disguised as the teen, offered sex acts to other users. Her mother is suing Twitter to find out the bullies' identities. But cyberbullying victims are not just kids. Saper says, A case we took to the Illinois Supreme Court a couple years ago involved women in their 50's.
Saper says police don't have the resources to track down the cyberbullies if there's no imminent threat to a person's safety, so more people are turning to the courts or their lawmakers. California Assembly member Cristina Garcia says, "I've gotten the most support from parents that just tell me thank you." California lawmakers are considering changing the state education code to put cyberbullying under the jurisdiction of schools. The ACLU is fighting it, arguing the law violates the first amendment.
First amendment expert attorney Jack Greiner says, I'm not sure whether we really need a whole new book of law to cover what's going on. You could make the argument that existing anti-stalking law probably applies there. Yet several states have passed cyberbullying legislation.
Kendall is trying to move on, but says the cyberbullying still affects her life. It is kind of hard when I want to go for internships, people look at Facebook, she said.
Kendall and her parents went to the police, and they thought about legal action, but they never found out the identities of her cyberbullies. Now, she hopes other victims will look to her to see they're not alone. She says, I know what it feels like, and it's awful. And she's not letting cyberbullies stop her from pursuing her dreams. What they want to do is tear me down, but you have to make your life what you want it to be.
Attorney Daliah Saper has helped some parents navigate school meetings with the parents of bullies, and she says she's always surprised by how little some parents know about what their kids are doing online. She thinks kids probably don't need smartphones, but if they have them, parents should limit the apps on the phones and monitor all of the ways they're using online media.
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