Editorial: Watch out for online bullying

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Living here in the Midwest, folks might not have heard about the recent death of Alexis Pilkington, a 17-year-old from West Islip, N.Y., on Long Island.

She took her own life Sunday after being cyber-bullied. Cyber-bullying is being taunted online, usually on social networking Web sites — such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.

She had been taunted on a new social networking site called formspring.me.

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What’s more, the tauntings of Pilkington continued after she died.

Her parents downplay the role the online taunting had in her death, noting she was already in counseling. Still, the police are looking into the role the Internet bullying played in the death, and the story has prompted concerns nationwide over how teens behave online.

The New York State Division of Criminal Justice gives some tips:

Discourage your child from responding to cyber-bullying. The bullies only crave attentions. With no reaction, they might move on.

Preserve evidence. This is important for making a police case if the bullying gets out of hand.

Do your best to identify the cyber-bully. Even with a fake name, certain responses might identify the bully. And there may be ways to track the bully through your Internet provider.

Consider filing a complaint with your Internet provider. Sending inappropriate language may violate the “terms and conditions” of the bully’s e-mail, Internet or cell phone services.

Block contact. For instance, bullying via e-mail easily can be blocked via filters. Cell phones can block numbers.

Make sure the school officials know. If the cyber-bullying occurs in connection with school in any way, officials might need to intervene.

If the parents of the cyber-bully are known, consider contacting them. It might be best to communicate with them in writing and with proof, probably with a mailed letter, rather than face-to-face.

Contact the police if the bullying contains threats of violence, extortion, obscene or harassing calls or texts, harassment, stalking or child pornography.