Battle against cyberbullying underway in local schools  

— Local anecdotal evidence suggests the problem of cyberbullying with students may be getting worse, but both state law makers and area school officials are working to stem the tide of harassment.

“I hope I’m wrong, but it just seems like it’s going in a direction where every year since I’ve been here, it’s been getting worse,” said Cicero-North Syracuse High School counselor Eric Briendel. Briendel has been working at the school for six years.

“With the advent of Facebook and the frequency that students are using it, I think there’s definitely been an increase in cyberbullying the last few years,” he said. “Especially we’re seeing it more with female students it seems. At least that’s been my experience. A lot of that often times unfortunately spills over to the school setting, which creates conflicts here as well.”

According to information provided by the New York State Police School and Community Outreach Unit, 42 percent of children have been bullied online. Somewhere between 10 percent and 33 percent of teens face harassment online. The same information indicates that the prevalence of internet harassment appeared to be stable as of 2008.

“More or less the complaints that we’re getting locally is more of that they’re getting harassed or bullied online and it gets to the point where a parent is notified and then notifies law enforcement or schools,” said State Trooper Jack Keller, a member of the unit.

Keller also noted the pattern of more female involvement.

“Research has definitely shown that girls are online... more than boys simply at an earlier age,” he said. “Research has shown that girls go on social websites, the Facebooking, social networks earlier than boys. Boys, for the most part, go online to play video games.”

Students do it even though they know they might pay a heavy penalty if they get caught. Second degree aggravated harassment is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and $1000 fine. Briendel said his school’s safety officer does a good job of educating the student population on the subject.

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