Cyberbullying cases rise in stateline schools

Teachers say it’s nearly impossible to monitor every student’s social media pages, making it even harder to know who is a target of cyber-bullying.
Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 6:57 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Social media unlocks endless ways for people to communicate, but it also opens a gate for cyberbullying.

“It’s real easy to hit send, it’s real easy, and that’s unfortunate,” said Hononegah School District board president David Kurlinkus. “Social media is not going away; it’s going to be around forever.”

Kurlinkus thinks back to when he started on the school board in 1995 - those days without smart phones or endless access to information at our fingertips. But today, he feels too many students are bullied both in person and online. On top of that, it can be done without the bully revealing their name.

“You can destroy someone in 40 words, and that’s it,” said Kurlinkus. “A lot of the bullying wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for this; if you had to take responsibility for what you say.”

Freeport English teacher Jena Klindel says the majority of the tormenting in her district happens only online.

“Bullying nowadays doesn’t happen in the classroom or at school,” said Klindel. “Why would I take the risk of bullying you to your face, when I could just say it over Snapchat?”

Even if school leaders want to step in if they see someone being picked on, Kurlinkus says it’s much more difficult than that.

“We can’t monitor social media; it’s impossible to monitor it all,” said Kurlinkus.

That’s why he believes it’s up to the students to make a difference.

“If a student witnesses bullying, even if they’re not involved in it, [they need to be] going out and getting help for other people,” said Kurlinkus. “Words can hurt, and anonymous words can hurt.”

Kurlinkus says teachers can help by giving kids an important piece of advice: Just because a negative comment is not said out loud, doesn’t mean it’s okay.

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