CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Cyberbullying, or bullying through internet applications and technology, is a nationwide issue making its way into Lowcountry classrooms.
Tuesday night, West Ashley High School held a community meeting to tackle the issue of Cyberbullying and discuss what safety precautions the school takes.
"When we were children our bullies couldn't follow us home... Now, because of social media the bullies have greater access to their targets almost 24 hours a day," Charleston County Sheriff's Department Detective Jason Bowen said.
Bowen spoke to parents about the effects of Cyberbullying and what to look out for, saying parents can help by being alert and having an open flow of communication.
If you witness cyberbullying, Bowen suggests doing the following:
- Consider saving the evidence
- Block cyber bullies
- Set up new accounts
- Talk to the school
- Report (to officials)
And according to www.netsmartz.com Cyberbullying can come in many forms:
- Sending hostile messages
- Recording videos of people being harassed and then sharing for public viewing
- Identity theft and impersonation
- Photoshopping images to embarrass someone
- Sending threatening messages
- Spreading online rumors
According to www.netsmartz.com one-third of online teens have been victims of Cyberbullying, and girls are more likely to be targeted.
Emily Torchiana is a cyberbullying victim that knows the statistics all too well.
"I was kind of shy, kind of an easy target to be bullied," Torchiana said.
She grew up near Philadelphia and her first two years of high school were two of the worst when girls in her school made a fake Facebook profile for the sole purpose of starting rumors about her.
"When you're a freshman in high school, people will believe anything they hear so people were friending the account," Torchiana said. "It ended up getting hundreds of friends on Facebook so people that didn't even know me who sat next to me in biology were commenting and saying things about me that weren't even true."
Torchiana said it was hard to tell her parents because she was worried they would believe what people were writing.
"After trying to commit suicide my sophomore year of high school — my brother walked in on me trying to overdose on pills, on pain medication — that was kind of the wake-up call for my family. They had no idea any of this was happening... why I was being so quiet all of the time, why I wasn't being myself.," Torchiana said.
The www.netsmartz.com website lists signs that your child may be a victim of Cyberbullying:
- Avoiding the computer or cell phone
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Avoiding conversations relating to the internet
- Low self-esteem including depression
- Declining grades
- Poor sleeping habits.
In Torchiana's situation, girls who made the page were forced to take it down but she still struggles with her self-esteem when it comes to social media.
"Bullying could have lifelong effects on people so your one comment that you may say about someone you have no idea that it is piling onto a million other things that that person already feels about themselves," Torchiana said.
One of many cyberbullying victims, Torchiana hopes sharing her story prevent it from happening to anywhere else.