Protecting children from bullies on the Internet

FRESNO, Calif.

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Raw emotions can turn into physical violence when teasing, name calling and taunting reach a boiling point.

This video was posted on YouTube last September after Fresno County Sheriff's Detectives accused the parents of encouraging two girls to fight.

The two women face misdemeanor, child endangerment charges in connection to the fight. They have pleaded not guilty.

Bullying is something we've all dealt with at some point in life.

A group of teenagers says at times, they've been singled out for being too tall, too dark or too heavy.

Bullard High Student, Autumn Williams said, "I felt hurt and heartbroken just because I'm not skinny like you, doesn't mean I'm fat."

Bullard High Student, Sidney Dye-Ilg said, "To judge somebody by the way they look or just something simple about them is really ridiculous."

National statistics suggest a teen is bullied in person or through technology every seven seconds, and more than 5.7 million teens are bullied every year.

Dr. Tamyra Pierce said, "That blows my mind. It seems to be escalating and it seems to be getting younger and younger."

Last month an Oakhurst second grader was accused of bullying a dozen classmates, his teacher was temporarily removed from the classroom for notifying parents.

Clinical Social Worker Madhu Sameer says there are many reasons kids become bullies. She says some can learn aggressive behavior from extremely strict or abusive environments.

"The child is an example of what is toxic in the environment it is acting out that toxicity but it's getting it from somewhere." Sameer said.

In addition to face to face interaction with a bully, there are now more ways to victimize others,

Sidney Dye-Ilg said, "It happens to happen a lot on the computer. Not so much give me your lunch money, but rude names and inappropriate things being said."

Sexual or inappropriate text messages, harassing emails, or phone calls are known as cyber bullying. Dr. Tamyra Pierce says damaging messages can be sent in mass, in an instant. "It only takes a second for that material to get out there. Once it's out there you can't get it back."

Most cyber bullying takes place by way of smart phones, a new controversial iPhone app called the "Ugly Meter" has many parental groups upset. For 99 cents the app will supposedly tell you how "ugly" a person is on a scale of one to ten.

But kids aren't using the iPhone app called "Ugly Meter" in the way it was intended. Instead of taking a picture of themselves and rating their own appearance, they're taking pictures of other people, posting the results online and then using it against them.

We talked with the developer of the "Ugly Meter", Eugene Overline, who says people are over reacting.

"We make apps to have fun." Overline said, "Kids who bully are going to bully no matter what. We think parents that give their kids iPhone and then complain about what they do with then aren't taking responsibility for their own parenting."

Bullard Parent, Jamel Nichols said, "How daddy deals with it teaches him to deal with it."

Some apps give parents weapons to fight against bullying.

Software like Mouse Mail filters messages, and when questionable language is used, it sends the message and an alert to parents. Saftey Web reports inappropriate behavior to Facebook officials and Gogostat parental guidance goes one step further, sending a report to police if there is an emergency.

Experts say the only way to fight bullying is for parents to talk with children about it. For kids who aren't comfortable telling parents they are being bullied, they should find an adult they trust and tell them in order to stop it.

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Resources:

MouseMail
MouseMail uses Active Email Filtering to scan for inappropriate content, as well as non-approved contacts in every email.
http://www.mousemail-beta.com/

SafetyWeb
Receive automated parental alerts for Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and mobile phones.
http://www.safetyweb.com/

GoGoStat
Enables parents to monitor their children's activity on Facebook, helping to identify risky behavior, text, contacts and photos.
http://www.gogostat.com/

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