JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - Because October is National Bullying Prevention Month, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is encouraging parents throughout the state to talk to their kids about the effects of bullying and cyberbullying.
Teens are often the victims of cyberbullying, which occurs through cell phones and social media. Cyberbullies often hide behind the anonymity of the Internet.
However, words really do hurt, and words said online versus in a face-to-face confrontation may escalate into isolation at school, truancy, and even youth suicide. Studies show that what teens share on their phones also affects their performance in schools.
Parents should be aware and conscious of their child's potential to become a victim. A middle school child is especially likely to be a victim of cyberbullying via cell phones and social media, and older teens often become victims of dating bullying.
"It is important for parents to communicate openly about their child's phone and media usage," said Attorney General Hood. "Especially targeted attacks from another person or to another person via social media."
Mississippi passed a bullying law, which includes cyberbullying and any type of bullying on a school campus. The law – Miss. Code Ann. 1972, as amended, 37-11-67 – defines bullying or harassing behavior on campuses and requires schools to have a bullying policy. Students and teachers with knowledge of bullying are also required to report it to a school official, and retaliation against the person who reported it is strictly prohibited.
"Mississippi cyberstalking laws make it a felony to use the internet or cell phones to threaten bodily harm or to communicate repeatedly in order to threaten, terrify, or harass a person," said Attorney General Hood. "In fact, a conviction can lead to a maximum fine of $5,000 and up to two years in prison."
A few things that Attorney General Hood suggests when talking to a child who is at risk of experiencing cyberbullying include ensuring that there are open lines of communication between the child and the child's friends or family. He also advises that parents encourage their child to not react impulsively to cyberbullying and to not delete anything sent by the bully, such as messages, texts, photos, etc.
Children should often be encouraged to try and understand that the bully may act meanly towards others because of difficult experiences in his own life. It should also be emphasized to the child the importance of not retaliating to being bullied.
To continue their efforts of educating students and parents in communities throughout Mississippi, the Attorney General's office provides anti-cyberbullying presentations for all ages.
"Our Internet Crimes Against Children task force recently led sessions at the Bullying Solutions conference for 200 school professionals in Biloxi," said Attorney General Hood. "And, in cooperation with the State Department of Education, led a group of 400 student leaders at the Mississippi Agriculture Museum in lively discussion of responsible cell phone etiquette and anti-bullying solutions."
Parents can find additional resources on cyberbullying, like brochures and tips, by visiting www.agjimhood.com.