Sen. Andrew Rice filed legislation today to combat cyber-bullying, a growing problem among Oklahoma’s youth. Senate Bill 152 strengthens the School Bullying Prevention Act to include cyber bullying.
“We have young people injuring and killing themselves because they are being victimized by their peers via videos, texts and entries on social media sites,” said Rice, Senate Democratic Leader. “Technology is changing rapidly and this has impacted how our youth communicate and interact with each other.
Unfortunately, it has also led to a disturbing increase in cyber bullying and we must strengthen our laws in order to protect our youth from themselves and others.”
Cyber bullying is where one kid targets one of their peers using various forms of interactive technologies including cell phones, text messaging, interactive games, Instant Messaging, cyber bashing on social media sites, and password or identity theft.
Recent national studies verify the prevalence of cyber bullying. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, i-Safe Foundation, and the Cyber Bullying Research Center, over half of young people have experienced or engaged in some form of cyber bullying. More than one in three youth have been threatened online. Around 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet.
“The statistics aren’t surprising given the popularity of social media sites like Facebook, and given that over 80 percent of teens use cell phones,” said Rice, D-Oklahoma City. “Unfortunately, these studies have also found that very few victims report the incidents to their parents, school officials or law enforcement. It isn’t until some kind of physical violence occurs that adults become aware of the situation. This measure will help better protect our children in a pro-active manner, and hopefully prevent any further tragedies.”
The current School Bullying Prevention Act pertains only to those actions that take place on school grounds, in school vehicles, at designated school bus stops, at school-sponsored activities, or at school-sanctioned events. SB 152 would strengthen the Act by including all electronic or other communication or conduct whether or not it originated at school or with school equipment or within official school hours. The measure would require district boards of education to include cyber bullying under their harassment/bullying policies and specifies stricter procedures for school staff on how to handle harassment and bullying.