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AG says: The effects of cyber bullying can last a long time

By Staff | Feb 7, 2011

The Pennsylvania Attorney General's office spoke to the Muncy School district last Tuesday on cyber bullying and its impact on students. L to R: Tim Welliver, high school principal; Chief Sutton, Muncy Police Chief; Craig S LeCadre, Senior Supervisory Special Agent for the Office of Attorney General, and Bill Ramsey, principal at Myers Elementary.

MUNCY – The Attorney General’s Office paid a visit last week to the students at Muncy High School and explained to them the consequences, some leading to death, of using social networking sites and the internet to bully or harm the reputation of others.

It is a work in progress and there is much to learn about this newest technology as well as its advances to keep kids safe and away from the dangers of its usage. Let’s face it, kids are kids, and they will do what they think according to the speaker, Craig S. LeCadre, Senior Supervisory Special Agent with the Office of Attorney General in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

His position with the state is fairly new but he has a background in criminal justice and is trying now to prevent the crime from occurring in the first place. “Our kids today are part of the first generation to grow up with the internet. They do not know any differently. They still need to learn from us and our life experiences,” commented LeCadre. He noted that the overuse of technology is inhibiting their ability to develop interpersonal skills that are necessary to have to deal with problems through conflict resolution today. The inability to resolve conflicts often leads to a pattern of dehumanizing another through the use of technology. Students get mixed signals exposed through technology and it can be overwhelming to them. “After awhile they don’t understand what is supposed to be true and is not nonsense,” LeCadre said.

The laws today governing the internet cannot keep up with the advances in technology, so parents need to be especially watchful. Monitor your child’s page on “My Space” or ‘Facebook’ or ‘Twitter.’

He also cautioned the students about their camera phones. Sexting and sending inappropriate photos is a 3rd degree felony in the state of Pennsylvania. Several of the students did not know this LeCadre told the parents at another assembly later that day.

There are concerns right now for law enforcement officials when it comes to verifying the evidence to determine if it is a criminal offense, especially when it comes to privacy. Search warrants are necessary to access computers. The internet has no jurisdiction so it can become a problem on where to serve a warrant and file criminal charges. “This is all new to the court systems and to the judges,” he said.

Posting harmful comments, photos, rumors or threats can all be done at the push of a button without thinking about its harmful effects. He referred to a case in Sullivan County when a young boy committed suicide because of cyber bullying. It can often lead to alienation and depression. Know the warning signs, he told the parents. Is your child getting bad grades or is their health suddenly poor?

“This is no different than giving a car to kid at 16 – this tool can still wreck their lives,” said LeCadre holding up his Blackberry phone. Often parents don’t know what is going on. The days of the diary under the pillow are long gone. We are now part of the U Tube Generation.” Most of the incidences do occur outside of school grounds. Uninformed parents are the missing link until it reaches a crisis stage. Meanwhile parents need to be more proactive in addressing cyber bullying and establish a policy that is administered in a consistent and equitable manner. “Failure to act could become a liability issue,” Place the computer is a centrally visible location, block filters, use internet tracking software, limit texting and camera features, LeCadre added. If parents want to know what social networking sites are out there, they can go to www.search.org/programs.

The qualities of self-respect, self-acceptance and empathy toward others need to be encouraged by parents and teachers to our youth always so they can constantly be improving themselves, and most importantly believe in themselves. Constantly working with them to make a difference and develop their strengths and skills to bolster confidence and self esteem is the best way to prevent cyber bullying in the first place, LeCadre acknowledged.

“We have to correct a lot of stuff, because there is a lot out there right now. This is a complicated issue,” LeCadre concluded.