Day-long conference examined cyberbullying

Sep 20, 2012

With National Bullying Prevention Month about ten days away, educators, law enforcement, mental health professionals and others took part in conference Wednesday on "Understanding and Addressing Cyberbullying."

WBFO and AM 970's Eileen Buckley moderated a panel discussion during the day-long event at the Millennium Hotel.

The conference put on UB's Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse and Prevention featured Sameer Hinduja,  co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. He says one-out-of-four teens has been bullied online and about one-out-of-five admit to bullying others.

"There really isn't a profile. We tend to think that traditional bullies might be bigger, stronger...but online absolutely  it could absolutely be anyone," said Hinduja.

Hinduja is an internationally recognized expert on the issue.  He says cyberbullying is a large problem because kids have embraced technology. And while suicide is often tied to bullying, he says it's actually very rare.  

"Mostly though, kids who have been victimized online tend to  struggle with emotional problems and psychological problems. They struggle academically. They engage in minor and moderate forms of school     delinquency and school violence," noted Hinduja.

To reduce the problem, schools are being encouraged to create a positive culture. Conference panelist Kimberly Cirillo, Assistant Principal at Orchard Park Middle School, says in 2009 the district adopted the Olweus Program which stresses kindness, empathy, and compassion. Cirillo says it's more of a way of life than a program.

"All students from elementary to high school participate in the program.  One of the key aspects being classroom meetings where we build a sense of community and belonging and mutual respect versus just,'no     bullying," said Cirillo.

Cirillo says another focus of Orchard Park's program is on those who witness bullying. She says the goal is to get bystanders to stand up and take ownership of their own culture.