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Terry Goddard Urges Greater Vigilance to Stop Cyber-Bullying Tragedies

(Phoenix, Ariz. – Oct. 21, 2010)  In the wake of several highly-publicized tragedies caused by cyber-bullying, Attorney General Terry Goddard today called upon parents, family members, teachers and administrators to take increased measures to protect Arizona’s children.

“I am deeply saddened by news of the deaths of several young people across the nation as a result of cyber-bullying,” Goddard said.  “As the father of an 11-year-old son, these tragedies hit especially close to home.”

Tragedies connected to cyber-bullying have included the suicides of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, 17-year-old Alexis Pilkington of West Islip, N.Y., and 11-year-old Ty Smalley of Perkins, Okla.  And these are just a handful of many cyber-bullying related suicides, which have grown far too numerous over the past few months.

For young people on the Internet, cyber-bullying has become an increasing risk.  According to statistics on Wiredsafety.org, 85 percent of kids say they have been bullied online, but only 5 percent say they would tell their parents about the abuse.  What may start as a joke can have very serious consequences, and the impact of cyber-bullying on a victim and the victim’s loved ones can be devastating.

While parents bear much of the responsibility for keeping their kids safe online, others can play an important role, too. Teachers, school resource officers and administrators, nurses, coaches and family friends also can make students more aware of the risks and can stay alert to warning signs of trouble.  Earlier this year, Attorney General Goddard sent letters to all school district superintendents in the state, urging them to educate their students on the topics of Internet Safety and cyber-bullying.

“Unfortunately the law can only go so far in protecting us from the actions of others on the Internet, so all of us have a personal responsibility to do what we can to prevent these tragedies from occurring,” Goddard said.

Since Goddard took office, he and his staff have established a successful statewide Internet Safety campaign, visiting more than 200 schools to deliver presentations on Internet safety and cyber-bullying. They have reached nearly 50,000 students, parents and educators.

Tips from Goddard’s Internet Safety Campaign for recognizing and preventing cyber-bullying and other Internet predation include:

  • Talk to children about Internet safety and what is “happening” online. Ask them to show websites they visit, along with their Facebook and/or MySpace pages. 
  • Take an active role in encouraging and enforcing age-appropriate rules for Internet use. Do not allow your children to share personal information (such as home address, photos, birth date, school information) with people they don’t know personally.
  • Block and encourage children to block any suspicious users or those who are sending intimidating or degrading messages.
  • Let children know that they can talk to you if they are bullied online. Take action if the bullies are classmates at school and contact school authorities.
  • Report any suspected Internet predators or cyber-bullies to law enforcement at www.cybertipline.com, or by calling 1 (800) 843-5678.

“Protecting children from Internet predators is a top priority,” Goddard said, “and I remain committed to aggressive prosecution of Internet offenders, including through my membership in the Arizona Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (AZICAC).” That unit is comprised of investigators representing 53 Arizona law enforcement agencies.

Last year, Goddard helped to launch the program “Web Wise Kids” in Arizona. Some 50 schools and the Attorney General’s Office were trained to use interactive video games to help teach middle school students about Internet predators.

This year, the Attorney General partnered with iKeepSafe, a coalition of professional and government leaders working for the safety of youth on the Internet, to launch its pilot program, “Generation Safe,” here in Arizona. 

For more tips on Internet safety awareness and links to other resources, check out the Internet Safety Guide for Parents and Teens on the Arizona Attorney General’s Office Website.

For more information, contact Mika Marquart at (602) 542-7714, or contact the Crime, Fraud, and Victim Resource Center at (602) 542-2123 to arrange a presentation or request Internet safety publications for your school or community group.