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Cottage Grove Middle School students (from left) Jordan Pinnix, Kadie Moberg and Ali Gaynor said they know bullying while online is wrong, but they don't see it as a major problem. (Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner)

Speaker addresses 'cyberbullying'

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education Cottage Grove, 55016
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

Stories like the one of a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl who committed suicide after being bullied have school administrators concerned about online bullying.

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To provide information on cyberbullying to parents, Karina Berzins, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension coordinator on Internet Crimes Against Children, spoke at Cottage Grove Middle School April 13.

Kids are meaner online because they are not talking to someone face to face, she said.

"This is happening everywhere, with 42 percent of kids saying they have been bullied online," she said.

Some kids don't identify it as bullying and don't tell anyone about it, Berzins said.

Cyberbullying is accelerated when kids start forwarding messages to other kids, she said.

Photos can be altered in photography programs and re-posted.

In a survey by the Associated Press in connection with MTV, 13 percent of girls and 9 percent of boys reported sending pictures of a sexual nature to friends with 90 percent of the recipients sending the pictures on to someone else, Berzins said.

"Only 25 percent thought they could get into legal trouble," she said.

Pictures and other communications can affect kids later in life when they apply for jobs, she added.

Parents should talk with their children about the dangers of offering personal information to anyone online that they have not met face to face, because predators have other identities online.

Kids, and adults too, should not use passwords that can easily be identified such as last or first names, she said.

Cottage Grove Middle School eighth-graders said they haven't had a major problem with cyberbullying, but if they did, they'd be OK.

"I think I can handle it," said Jordan Pinnix in an interview at school, adding that if it was "serious" that he would tell his parents or a teacher.

Males have a "different perspective," Pinnix said. They do more kidding and joking around online than girls do.

Kadie Moberg said she deletes messages and contact names if they send communications she doesn't want.

Ali Gaynor said she agrees with Moberg and Pinnix that negative comments should be ignored and deleted.

"I don't think it's as big a deal as people think," Pinnix said.

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