ó The Internet messages were so vicious that they
pushed 16-year-old Ivy Griffiths into therapy for
cut yourself until you bleed to death," a Champlin
Park High School classmate wrote to Ivy online.
a whore, a stupid bitch, a horrible person," wrote
deserve to die," wrote yet another.
a new attack is mounting, but this time the targets are
the cyberbullies themselves. The oft-scrutinized Anoka-Hennepin
School District in Minnesota is launching a yearlong
anti-cyberbullying campaign to address everything from
sexting to the dangers of online gaming.
in combating cyberbullying, which experts say has become
the most prevalent form of bullying, law enforcement and
school officials face an ever-changing challenge: The
cruel messages and pictures Ivy received arrived on
websites like Ask.fm, Snapchat, Instagram and Kik ó
relatively new sites that have been linked nationally to
teen suicides but remain foreign to many adults.
know that low self-esteem is linked to cyberbullying,
and most teens have heard that some of these
high-profile suicides have been linked" to new
social websites, said Justin Patchin, a University of
Wisconsin-Eau Claire professor of criminal justice who
has co-authored four books about cyberbullying.
still visit Facebook, but it is pulling back a
bit," said Patchin, a native of Hoyt Lakes, Minn.
"Thereís always a new site, like Formspring. And
now, thereís software that deletes messages and images
within seconds, and thereís lots of software online
for resurrecting those disappearing images."
are discovering all of it ó sometimes to torment
classmates with comments and photos that are sent
anonymously and vanish suddenly, before they can be
traced. The effect can be devastating.
Anoka-Hennepin, Minnesotaís largest school district,
three of seven students the district lost to suicide
from 2009 to 2011 were identified by friends and family
as having been bullied. An estimated 42 percent of all
kids have been bullied online, according to information
gathered by Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo. Patchin
says about 20 percent of students are sexting ó
sending nude photos of themselves or classmates online
ó although many of the two dozen students interviewed
last week at Champlin Park High School said more than
half the student body participates in sexting, with some
students sending "selfies" and others putting
naked photos of their significant others on the web, for
anyone to see.
term Iím hearing recently is sextortion ó sexting
and extortion, the threat to release those
pictures," said Victoria Powell, a Sherburne
County, Minn., prosecutor who deals with juveniles and
has crusaded against cyberbullying for years.
started the countyís Bullying Prevention Project a
decade ago. Today, the kind of bullying she often
encounters stems from altering online photographs and
texts, hacking, posing as someone else, repeating
instant messages, pornography sites, tricking students
into sharing passwords and creating negative websites.
of having the guts to go up to somebody face to face,
these kids hide behind screens or false names or remain
anonymous," Powell said. "With Ask.fm, Kik,
Instagram and Snapchat youíre able to sign up for a
fake account or anonymous account and then use that
account to bully someone. In the old days, on Facebook,
you knew who was posting it. Now, the recipient has no
idea, and itís so hurtful and vile."
student is fair game, as Ivy Griffiths discovered. Her
father describes the freckle-faced high-school junior as
"extremely well liked" and "gentle and
caring." Steve Griffiths says his daughter has had
the same boyfriend for more than a year. Sheís polite.
Sheís not flamboyant. Sheís the last person youíd
expect to be bullied.
when Ivy started receiving hurtful messages online in
the eighth grade, she was devastated.
didnít tell anybody about it," she said. "I
didnít want to talk about it, usually. I didnít know
where it was coming from, or why, and I deleted most of
it. But after a while, I started believing it myself. Iíve
been to treatment for depression. Cyberbullying
Blodgett, principal of Roosevelt Middle School in
Blaine, is leading the Anoka-Hennepin "cyber
citizenship" program that begins this month with a
video explaining how cyberbullying occurs and addresses
monthly topics, including cyberbullying, cybersafety,
social networking and protecting privacy.
do you do if youíre cyberbullied?" Blodgett says
students are asked. "How do you protect yourselves
from predators? How do you know itís not a 55-year-old
posing as a teenager thatís reaching out to you?
trying to make this personal," Blodgett said of the
program, four years in the making. "But we only
hear the tip of the iceberg of whatís happening in
are attacked online for their looks, sexual orientation
and race, he said. "Fitting in is still the primary
concern," he said. "That hasnít
have the consequences of bullying.
long-term effect is almost a public-health issue,"
said Palumbo. He noted that one in six children who
engage in bullying will have a criminal record before
they turn 24. Bullying online is as damaging as
face-to-face bullying, he said. As for sexting?
"This is child pornography," he said. "We
could be charging half the school."
Griffithsí dad said he is more concerned about victims
of cyberbullying than the bullies themselves.
a parent, you do the best you can," said Steve
Griffiths, executive director of the Anoka-Champlin
Meals on Wheels program. "You can take their
cellphones, take their computers. But you canít
wake up ó and suddenly itís there. That hateful
message. That awful picture. How do you control that?
How do you even find these new sites that kids migrate
to, but parents donít know exist?"