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Cyber bullying expert offers advice

Dr. James Colt said Thursday cyber bullying is a problem that continues to manifest itself in new ways as technology evolves.
Dr. James Colt said Thursday cyber bullying is a problem that continues to manifest itself in new ways as technology evolves.

Colt said the challenge for teens, their parents and school districts is to keep that technology from being used for destructive purposes.  "Bullying should be called abuse because it results in true harm," he observed.

Colt is an expert on cyber bullying.  He co-authored the book, "Cyber Bullying: Protecting Kids and Adults From Online Bullies."  The problems associated with online harrassment are nothing new.  "It's been around since the technology enabled it to be around," he said. 

Colt called cyber bullying a serious issue among tech saavy teens.  They use texting, social networking sites, fake and anonymous websites and YouTube to post harmful words, images and video.  Smartphones can make the process almost instantaneous.  "I would call it public shaming," said Colt, who is the Coordinator of School Safety and Security for Monroe #1 BOCES.  "When someone is cyber bullied usually the kids in the schools know about it and it becomes a popular piece which just enhances the victimization."

He believes disinhibition is a crucial factor in the rise of cyber bullying among teens.  "When they're online they're more likely to say or do things that they would not do in person because they can't see the harm they're causing, and they don't feel that people can see them."

Colt has children and is also a member of the Avon School Board.  He believes parents and schools have a shared responsibility to teach kids proper behavior.  "It's about treating others with respect and dignity, and number two, it's how to use that new technology safely," he said.

Colt said parents should make learning about their kids online habits a priority, and schools need to supplement strong policies with curriculum to reinforce ethics and responsibility.  For teens, the message is simple, pause before you post.  "It's really about teaching that you need to think about how anything that is sent, whatever you send or post, how that can be used against you," he said.

Colt said the biggest problem parents and educators face with cyber bullying is that kids are reluctant to tell adults that it's happening because they think it will only make matters worse.  Creating a sense of trust, said Colt, is an essential part of the solution.

Colt has authored two books that teens, parents and educators can use as references, "Cyber Bullying: Protecting Kids and Adults From Online Bullies" and "Cyberpredators" which he said is aimed at the teen reader.  In addition, Colt recommends people use the internet as a resource to stop cyber bullying.  For more information, click here.


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