Cyberbullies put on notice in New Jersey – Keeping Kids Safe Online

Credit: Steve Sandberg 10/10

Cyberbullies in Haledon, NJ have been put on notice.  Parents and students at Manchester Regional High School are not sitting by passively “waiting” to see what will happen.  Police and prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation against alleged cyberbullying attacks against several students at Manchester Regional High School. The attacks targeted several students, prompting five families to complain to police.

Someone created a profile on Instagram and posted photos of mostly girls from the school, followed by captions that called them ugly and fat.  One girl was urged to kill herself and the bully even went as far to post a photo making fun of an autistic boy.

In 2011 New Jersey enacted what has been called the “nation’s toughest anti-bullying law” after the death of Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old-freshman at Rutgers University.  Clementi committed suicide after his roomate allegedly took a video of his romantic interactions with a man and shared it on the Internet.  The state indicted Clementi’s roommate on hate-crime charges, but it also drafted a law requiring public schools to adopt extensive anti-bullying policies.  The new law requires New Jersey schools to conduct extensive training of staff and students, appoint parent, teacher and staff safety teams and launch an investigation of every bullying allegation within one day.  In this case the county prosecutors have already subpoenaed Facebook, which owns Instagram.

New Jersey has it right, and this story serves as a perfect example of getting in front of the issue.  This tough legislation serves to ensure that victims know they are protected and puts bullies on notice that we are no longer tolerating their behavior.

Although more school districts are adopting bullying policies, this does not let parents off the hook.  One parent whose child was attacked said the incident was an opportunity to have an open discussion about bullying and its consequences.

Parent’s should be vigilante about monitoring their child’s online behavior, and not leave it up to anyone else.  Unfortunately there are many stories of cyberbullying that end with the victim committing suicide, with many of them posting their desire to end their lives “online.”  I challenge all parents and adults to get involved, monitor, ask the questions…get in your child’s business.

A few things to consider:

  • Does your child’s school have a social media and/or bullying policy?
  • Has your child ever been cyberbullied?  If so, do they know what steps to take to report it?
  • Are you monitoring your child’s social media interactions?  Do you know who they are chatting with, what photos are they posting, are they acting as the bully, who are their friends, etc.?

Getting involved could be the difference between life and death….Let your child know you “have their back,” by monitoring, listening, and putting bullies on notice!

Marlin Page is a Speaker and Technology Lifestyle Strategist.  As a global speaker, former Coder and Chief Information Officer Marlin travels the world speaking about Online Safety, S.TE.M. and Technology Strategies.  Marlin is also a global speaker and partner for Microsoft’s DigiGirlz Program.




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