BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) – It’s wrong. It’s illegal, and sometimes it’s deadly. Mississippi’s Attorney General Jim Hood is telling high school students if they threaten or harass people online, there are consequences.
Hood said cyberbullying is putting pressure on today’s young people like no generation before them has ever faced. The teasing and name calling that used to be mostly for school yards is now out there for the whole world to see.
It’s bad enough when people talk trash about you, high school students say when comments are on a social networking site, it’s even worse.
“Even though the adults, your parents and teachers tell you it doesn’t matter what other kids say about you because you know the truth, it still hurts inside,” said Courtney Gerous, high school sophomore. “It’s really hard to deal with.”
Hood told St. Stanislaus and Our Lady Academy students, “I know what you’re going through with bullying in general, particularly with the internet.”
Hood said there are consequences for sending threats, nasty comments and nude pictures over the internet or through text messages which include possible jail time for the perpetrators and possibly years of shame for the victims.
Marta Domingos, a senior, said, “If it stays on the internet for a very long time, it may haunt you when you’re older, and you’re trying to get a job.”
“So with regular bullying, you can try to forget about it. But cyberbullying is always there,” said Morey Wood, high school senior.
Students said they think some of their peers post mean comments online because they don’t know any better.
“I think there’s people who don’t realize how big of an impact they’re having,” said senior Ryan Weitzel. “Then there’s also the people that are trying to be mean, and something needs to be done about that.”
Hood said cyberbullying can do a lot of harm to young people who don’t have emotional support.
“Suicides occur frequently, particularly with children who are already beaten down,” Hood said. “It doesn’t take much cyberbullying or regular bullying on school campuses to push them over the edge.”
Gerous said she thinks hearing from Hood will make a difference for young people.
“It’s going to make more students aware of what the consequences [are] if they’re caught bullying. I think it will help anyone who has been affected speak out and tell people so they can get help,” Gerous said.
The attorney general said another problem is people who create internet profile accounts using other people’s identities. A new state law will go into effect later this year making that a crime.
To report school bullying, call the Mississippi Department of Education School Safety Hotline at 1-866-960-6472.
Parents, students and teachers can also learn more about how to stop bullies and how to recognize if a child is being bullied by visiting http://www.fearstopshere.com.
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