Statistics presented at a March 8 forum geared toward local teenagers indicate that cyberbullying affects 40 percent of teens while 20 percent of parents do not supervise their children’s use of the Internet.
“The Cyberbullying Forum: Identification, Prevention, and Response” was held at the Elk Grove City Council chambers in response to a teen town hall meeting held there late last year that identified bullying as the No. 1 issue.
Since many teens communicate through modern technology, the commission and city officials decided to jointly present the March 8 forum.
“We really want to emphasize what it does to the children, but it really crosses no boundaries,” Elk Grove Mayor Steve Detrick told the crowd of more than 70 attendees.
Elk Grove Vice Mayor Jim Cooper, a captain with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department who until recently supervised high-tech crimes for the department, added, “A lot of good things come from the Internet. A lot of bad things come from the Internet.”
The city had noted in a press release that the National Crime Prevention Council said that cyberbullying affects 40 percent of teenagers. This can occur through e-mail, instant messaging, text messaging, and social media websites.
In addition, Elk Grove Police Department Det. Terry Chew cited statistics from the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office that said that 20 percent of parents do not supervise their children’s use of the Internet while 62 percent of teens say their parents know little or nothing about the websites the children visit
“The Internet has changed our life on a global scale,” Chew said.
More than 50 people attended the teen town hall hosted by the commission last November and responded to questions dealing with the main social issues facing teens in the city. The main social issues brought up then were drugs, teen pregnancy, gangs, and suicide.
Among those issues also receiving multiple votes from the public were skipping school, handling popularity, fighting, rumors, financial issues at home, and depression.
However, bullying was the runaway top choice among teens, who added then that they had started to hear more about bullying through social media.
At the forum, youth commissioners emphasized that something that initially seemed funny or innocent could quickly become problematic.
Ryan Stewart said social media users of Facebook should watch what they post on that website as what is put there will be available for others to see. Benjamin Arriaga said to make it a habit of deleting old posts on Facebook.
If one sticks with Facebook, Commission Chair Salvador Rosas said, “Be aware of who you surround yourselves with. Do not feel obliged to add people. A lot of the time, even though they are your friends, that can lead to other things with negative effects.”
Speaking March 4 from Washington, D.C., via phone with interested reporters in and near his Third District, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Gold River) emphasized the importance he places on cybersecurity.
Lungren said the Congress uses a process known as factor-based budgeting, during which each Federal agency has to justify every penny spent and list priorities in order of importance. If Congress needs to make cuts, he said the least important priorities are more likely to be chopped first.
But Lungren said he would not cut cybersecurity at all.
“That is a far more justifiable program than some other programs,” he said.
Cooper said at the forum that the city is part of the Eastern District in terms of the federal courts, and the district has more arrests and prosecutions for child pornography than anywhere else in the country.
That does not factor in bullying or sexual-related crimes that occur when two people meet following a conversation that originates online.
But the Youth Commission will focus on its top issue by presenting a film on bullying and holding a panel discussion on April 12. That session will start at 6 p.m. and be held in the City Council Chambers, 8400 Laguna Palms Way.
Patrick Larkin, a recreation supervisor with the Cosumnes Community Services District and adult advisor to the commission, said the movie will be geared toward teens and their parents, but that the public is invited to attend.