At first, La Cañada High School students gathered in the campus auditorium began laughing when they saw examples of online harassment appear on a screen as part of a school-wide assembly on cyber-bullying Monday morning.
But the room went silent when La Cañada High Assistant Principal Joanne Davidson said those words were all actually written by LCHS students on a fellow student’s Formspring, a question-and-answer based social network website that allows users to set up a personal page where people can anonymously ask them questions.
“People read these [comments] and they are upsetting,” said Davidson, listing several examples of teenagers from other U.S. communities, such as Phoebe Prince and Jessica Logan, who both committed suicide after being repeatedly bullied via technological devices.
According to a study, 20% of all high school students have been cyber-bullied, Davidson said. Online harassment has become a bigger problem as more and more teens use technological devices, such as computers and cell phones, as the primary way of communicating.
Texting is a common way for bullies to say unkind words from afar. One in 10 teens reported being bullied via text, Davidson said.
“Online words cannot be taken back,” she said, adding that 8% of those who are digitally demonized reported that they had considered suicide.
Ninety percent of the study’s respondents who said they had been cyber-bullied didn’t tell an adult, because they felt like they should deal with it on their own or were afraid of losing Internet privileges, Davidson said.
Davidson encouraged the group of students assembled to tell an adult if they’re cyber-bullied. She went on to warn any potential online harassers about repercussions of the act.
“If you go online and harass someone, and we have the documentation, we can suspend and even expel you,” said Davidson, adding that there could possibly even be criminal charges.
After the assembly, students returned to their individual classes and were prompted to write about their own cyber-bullying experiences. La Cañada High’s administration will take the time to read every single one of those essays, Davidson said.