Internet "Burn Books"

"In the movie "Mean Girls" the popular girls write disparaging remarks about other young women in what they call a "burn book." This journal later gets out and causes fighting rivaling that of jungle animals in an African safari. The movie makes light of a very real problem today — that of mean adolescent girls bullying others weaker than themselves.

Both boys and girls bully their peers. And today's Internet-savvy youths have put down their pencils and their fists in favor of online messages of hate.

Technology has made brutality — particularly the emotional kind — much easier to inflict. Through e-mail, blogs, Internet bulletin boards, and Instant Messaging, cyber bullies can cast their wrath instantly — and anonymously.

These tactics have far-reaching impacts on the juvenile community.

Bullied kids experience health, psychological and educational problems. And, they may retaliate, in often violent ways. The bullies also suffer. These teens are more likely to fight, vandalize or steal property, drink alcohol, smoke, take drugs, skip school, drop out of school or carry a weapon.

How can law enforcers turn the tide on this growing youth problem? Stopcyberbullying.org suggests the following:

  • Select and implement a research-based bullying prevention program.
  • Be accessible to students and teaching staff.
  • Create an anonymous reporting system.
  • Institute passive surveillance.
  • Work with school administration to create a safety plan for bullied kids.
  • Develop intervention plans for kids who bully.

Because while a movie about mean girls might provide a few laughs, in the community bullying has become no laughing matter.

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