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When cyberbullying messages tell kids to 'go kill themselves"

In Cyberslammed, hot topics, we discuss cyberbullying tactics that come from real-life news stories and insights on how to "identify, prevent, combat and transform them."

Minnesota-Recently a group of female high school football fans from one team got into it with fans from a rival team and is so often the case, they took their fight online.

A story in Fox9.com reports:

"Officials say at least one of the bullies made a post on Facebook urging a group of girls to go kill themselves...

Investigators say the suicide posts came from a fake Facebook account, and they're still trying to track down exactly who is behind it. "

[Note: If you've followed this blog, you'll know that a "Fake Facebook account" is what we call an Imposter Profile--a website or social networking profile set up by the perpetrator to appear as if it is owned or maintained by the target.]

The story goes on to say:

"Parents should be aware that what they send is often electronically traceable," Hattstrom warned. "If it's offensive or threatening in any nature, basically, you're going to hear from the Police Department."

Kids know that the "Go kill yourself" hot button is the ultimate insult/torment these days, particularly with the rash of international and national suicides that have been linked to cyberbullying this fall. I had a kid ask me yesterday, "How do you know if you're being cyberbullied?" as in when is it a prank and when does it get real?

According to Cyberbulling Research Center, the true definition  of cyberbullying (which we use in the book) is: "willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices."

A one-time prank where someone steals your password to your social networking profile and writes some mildly teasing or obnoxious words, while unpleasant, is not really cyberbullying. Keep in mind the words "willful and repeated harm."

Any time someone is threatening you, telling you to go kill yourself, using extremely derogatory language, publishing your private information, defaming you, libeling you....any time words and intent cross the line into criminal behavior, that's when you know it is real. And that's when it is advisable to bring the police into the situation.

Case in point: this story of an Orono, ME target of criminal threats brought the police in. And in no time, they found out who the perpetrator was. all kids need to understand: just because you know how to write an anonymous comment via an anonymous account, you are never anonymous. Everyone leaves a digital footprint behind with every keystroke and the police, cyber crimes units and the FBI know exactly how to find the source of every electronic communication.

The rest of the article states:

"Police say they recognize there is a fine line between free speech and harmful threats, but they say charges are possible in this case. If students are behind the anonymous bullying, they will also face punishment from the Anoka-Hennepin School District."

Free speech does not lend itself to threats of any kind. In both the Minnesota and the Maine case, girls crossed the line, venting their frustration, their fears and their anger into something much more malevolent and lasting. And prosecutable. We need to have in-class or at-home conversations with our girls to help them channel these negative emotions into better outcomes.  Stay posted to this blog for more real-life examples of the six most common cyberbullying tactics.

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