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“What do you do if you’re cyberbullied?” Blodgett says students are asked. “How do you protect yourselves from predators? How do you know it’s not a 55-year-old posing as a teenager that’s reaching out to you?
“We’re 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 what’s happening in schools.”
Students are attacked online for their looks, sexual orientation and race, he said. “Fitting in is still the primary concern,” he said. “That hasn’t changed.”
Nor have the consequences of bullying.
“The long-term effect is almost a public-health issue,” said County Attorney 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.”
An elusive evil
Ivy Griffiths’ dad said he is more concerned about victims of cyberbullying than the bullies themselves.
“As 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 can’t control intake.
“You wake up — and suddenly it’s 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 don’t know exist?”
Paul Levy • 612-673-4419