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More cyberbullying in public schools

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by Michele Catahay

Guam - While bullying in schools has been a major issue in recent months, more cases of cyberbullying are being reported. School officials say it's even more dangerous with social networking taking over the digital age.

George Washington High School Assistant Principal for Discipline Gaylene Cruz says while much talk has been about bullying on campus, she says more reports are surfacing when it comes to cyberbullying on websites such as MySpace, Facebook and the newer Formspring. She says parents need to keep track of what their children are posting on social networking websites.

She explained, "They need to be very attentive to what their children are doing online because that's where most of the issues start. They start all the exchange of words and posting then that's what you call bullying-when you have a bunch of students saying one thing about a student, then the other student doesn't want to come to school. I would believe there are more cyberbullying than there are on-campus bullying."

Cruz says sometimes it's difficult to determine the individual who is bullying another student.

"It's easier to deal with because we're able to find out who it is, but many times how we would diffuse it that we would have a big meeting with all the parents and students whoa re involved in this cyber bullying issue. And indicate to them that if it doesn't stop, the victim may file with the Guam Police Department and then it's going to be double-charges. It's not just going to be bullying but also Internet violations," she added.

With the advance in technology and mobile phones, Cruz says bullying has been difficult to handle nowadays. "That has been a big interruption or distraction and that's where a lot of the issues that are starting, with technology that is available to students," she said.

In the meantime, JFK Assistant Principal for Special Programs and Student Support Services Asherdee Duenas Rosete says this year, she's dealt with two cases, saying, "Very dangerous. We've talked to the students and I've explained to them that especially with cyberbullying, when you use this form of communication, different guidelines and regulations are applied."

For Rosete, talking to the students helps. She says U.S. Attorney Alicia Limitiaco recently spoke to the students about cyberbullying. "I think with cyberbullying, there's more investigation, not like the typical bullying where you can name the person, the perpetrator or the offender is. When it's cyberbullying, the student that I dealt with had no idea who it could've been," she said. "She had some suspects but most of it was suspicion."

Rosete says when a student reports a cyberbullying incident, a thorough investigation is conducted. "It was through pictures and things like that we were able to identify who the person was behind the false profile because these pictures were only taken with one person's camera. So it's little things like that," she said.

The bottom line, Rosete says, parents need to get involved, noting, "Parents need to be aware of what their children are doing. Login yourselves and see and read some of the things that are happening. It's a very serious website and it could be damaging for other students."

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