Orange County cyberbullying victim shares story, expert offers tips to parents
July 1 law allows schools to punish cyber-bullies for crimes committed off campus
The suicide of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick and the arrests of her accused bullies have left many parents wondering how to protect their children in an online world where anonymity emboldens teens to say anything.
And now, an Orange County teen hopes sharing her story will help parents and protect other teens.
What should have been a care-free summer for 13-year-old Amber Glenn ended with one text, an anonymous Kik message demanding explicit photos.
“If not they would spread rumors about how I did inappropriate things with guys,” explained Glenn.
“It was very offensive, very vulgar, very offensive,” said her mom Linda Glenn.
And it didn't stop with there.
Amanda says her tormentors turned to Instagram to spread those hateful messages.
“My ultimate fear was years from now, a college looks for her or even now if a parent needs a babysitter,” said Glenn.
But mom acted quickly. She called police, turned over screen grabs of all of the messages and called her daughter's school.
“I was taken aback when they called and told me the first day of school they were handling it and weren't going to let it get out of hand,” said Glenn.
“It's exploding,” said Earl Green, Area Director for Orange County Public Schools who deals with crime and punishment on campus.
He says cyberbullying especially among girls is rampant, vicious and isolating.
“N one is going to talk to you it's just, it builds and if its on the internet it must be true,” said Green.
But thanks to a new law that went into effect in July if bullying happens off campus, but can be proven to affect the child's education the school can take action.
“They have to document it all, put a safe plan in place, and by law call both sets of parents,” said Green.
But it's the proof that's critical.
Screen shots made it possible for Glen Ridge Middle to punish Amber's bully.
“Call the school let us know, we're trained in it so many times, the parents are throwing their hands in the air they don't know what to do,” said Glenn.
And that brings us to being a parent overwhelmed by the swarm of social media. Can you stop bullying before it starts?
“When my oldest one was five or six there weren't iPods or iPads. Now it's all Instagram, Vine and Kik chat, there's a bunch of things,” said Beth Granchi, a mom who must keep track of for her four kids ages seven to 16.
Local 6 set Granchi up to meet with tech expert Amy Jantzer who is Senior Vice President at Echo.
Jantzer explained three important options for monitoring social media.
One if your an Apple user, iOS7 has brand new restrictions.
“You can literally block calls, texts, or FaceTime messages from them,” said Jantzer.
Second have your family "friend" your child.
“It takes a village to raise a child so if you can involve extended family. Kids are more likely to friend their cousin than their mom,” said Jantzer.
And third set up a HootSuite account and use it as a clearing house to monitor your child's social media activity.
“Mom could log in and see their Instagram feed, their Facebook feed, their Twitter feed all in one place for a time saver,” said
Linda Glenn, Beth Granchi and Amy Jantzer all agree the most important thing to remember is communication. Amber told me she's very thankful her mother took her seriously and listened to her.
Granchi says she believes all the monitoring in the world can never replace a good conversation with your kids.