Colusa DA takes on bullying
Bullies are still pushing around other kids and passing mean notes to students perceived as different.
But the new battlefield of bullying allows students to be anonymous and a crowd of bullies can gather instantly, behind closed bedroom doors.
Cyberbullying can take the form of impersonating someone else on Facebook, or forwarding photos and comments through "sexting," the act of sending and receiving sexually explicit content via text.
Parents may want to take note of cyberbullying for many reasons, including the fact that it could be criminal activity.
Cindy DeWoody, an enforcement officer with the Colusa County District Attorney's office led a workshop last week for parents to build understanding about what cyberbullying is and what parents' responsibilities are.
On Monday, she gave presentations to seventh-graders at Egling Middle School in Colusa.
DeWoody said the biggest hurdle with parents is convincing them they need to be monitoring their children's phones and online accounts.
"The biggest misconception is that parents have this feeling that it's spying. I'm trying to get them to understand that it is responsible monitoring. Having access to technology is a privilege and the only way to assure our kids are protected is through monitoring," DeWoody said.
"A lot of kids think it's their right to have a phone. But it's not. It's a privilege that comes with responsibility." One reason parents should consider it a responsibility is because of the liability of owning the phone or computer that teens may be using to engage in sexting.
"Kids that are involved in sexting don't realize that they fall under laws of child molestation or child pornography," said DeWoody.
Teens sharing those photos could put the parents at risk as well.
Sexting is a topic DeWoody addresses as cyberbullying because photos are often shared among teens and pre-teens and used to gain power status at the expense of the person in the photo.
"Boys are very good at manipulating girls into sending them photos. That's what these girls don't understand, is that he is going to share it," she said.
"What good is it to brag about it, unless he can share it?"
While no juvenile in Colusa County has been prosecuted by police for cyberbullying, some have been turned over to the Probation Department for mandatory counseling or community service, according to DeWoody.
"If it's repeated behavior then they will turn it over to law enforcement, which will turn it over to Probation. If it's a one-time event, it is handled by school officials," she said.
Some cyberbullying has been taking place in Colusa County.
"In (Colusa Unified), the thing that I've seen is kids calling the girls bad words, telling them they are overweight or ugly, or threatening that they are going to 'get them,'" said DeWoody.
Egling Middle School vice principal Erika Lemenager said she has seen students posting inappropriate comments on Facebook or video game chats, as well as students recording themselves saying something about another student and then posting it.
"They are jockeying for a status position at a very young age, before high school," said DeWoody.
She has been giving presentations to seventh graders at Egling Middle School for a couple of years, and will do an assembly for fourth- and fifth-graders later this school year.
"Seventh- and eighth-graders are pretty knowledgeable about technology. A lot of times they are more knowledgeable than their parents," said DeWoody.
DeWoody said she is available to give presentations to any school that wants it.
Additionally, she recommends parents watch the movie, "Bully," a documentary put together by a father who lost his son due to bullying.
The District Attorney's Office has copies available for parents to borrow.