Tags: cyber | bullies | shesmart.org | website | protects | young women

New Web Site Helps Kids Cope With Cyberspace Bullies

New Web Site Helps Kids Cope With Cyberspace Bullies
(Jewel Samad/Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 03 May 2016 07:47 PM

Two South Florida businesswomen who suffered schoolyard bullying are launching a unique website that offers potentially life-saving advice to young women, parents, and counselors on countering online abuse — the cyberbullying phenomenon that has been linked to an epidemic of teen suicides.

Jaclyn Marshall and Carly Capko are timing the debut of their website, SheSmart.org, to correspond with the start of the new school year. The site, now under development, will help impressionable, 12- to 17-year old women to avoid the emotional pain, stigma, and trauma of online bullying.

The true scope of the problem is rarely recognized. Studies show that over half of adolescents have been bullied online — yet only about 1 in 10 teens will tell their parents they’ve been victimized. Girls are slightly more likely to be affected than boys.

Most alarming: Teens who have been shamed, embarrassed, or otherwise disparaged online are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts, researchers report.

In 2013, BuzzFeed documented nine suicides linked to cyberbullying. A Wikipedia entry on the topic documents 16 cyberbullying-related suicides, most of them involving young women between the ages of 13 and 16. But experts believe many more cases have gone undocumented.

Marshall, 25, is the founder of J Blue Productions, a Delray Beach, Fla., business promotion and public relations firm.

In high school, she was a track athlete competing to earn a scholarship to an Ivy League school. Like any long- and middle-distance runner, she was athletic but thin. When she reached her junior year, jealous friends began to post derogatory images and messages on social media criticizing her appearance. Those betrayals, she says, caused "anxiety, emotional shake-up, and damage."

Marshall responded by withdrawing socially, not only from peers but also from her family. Rather than go out, she would just stay home.

Marshall, fortunately, was able to stay focused on her goals, work her way through her depression, and attend Columbia University where she competed on the track team.
Now, along with SheSmart.org co-founder Carly Capko, she’d like to help other young women avoid cyber-bullying.

Capko’s experience with bullying was even worse. She states that as a direct result of schoolyard bullying she was driven to suicidal thoughts on several occasions as a youngster.

Like Marshall, Capko went on to start her own business, a digital marketing firm. Now, she would like to reach back and help others.

The two met by chance at a South Florida Starbucks, became friends, and decided to work together to find a solution to the bullying epidemic that had affected both of their lives.

After a year of research, they drafted a piece of legislation titled the "Social Media Awareness and Responsibility Teaching (SMART) Act." The SMART Act requires Florida schools to provide instruction on responsible use of social media to students in grades 5 and 6.

Marshall and Capko sought to prepare 11- and 12-year-olds for what could happen when they were thrown into the middle school environment with 13- and 14-year-olds.

"Sadly," Capko states, "cyberbullying is a part of life for far too many young people, especially kids in middle school. We can’t allow it to get any worse. We can’t afford to risk another young person taking their own life by allowing children to be subjected to cyberbullying without giving them the resources they need."

Marshall adds that the epidemic is getting worse, not better. "These kids are so young," she comments. "It’s a critical place in these kid’s lives, and they’re getting decimated. They need to be prepared."

The proposed course material covers cyber-safety, cyber-security, and cyber-ethics, and a discussion of the harm that is caused by irresponsible use of social media platforms.

Marshall and Capko found legislators willing to sponsor the bill, which was introduced earlier this year. But as often happens with new legislative proposals, the SMART Act died in committee, specifically in the K-12 Education subcommittee chaired by state Rep. Janet H. Adkins.

According to Marshall, Adkins offered no explanation of why she would not allow the measure to come up for consideration. She suspects it may be related to Adkins’ current campaign for the post of superintendent of schools in Nassau County, north of Jacksonville. Adkins did not respond to several Newsmax requests for an interview.

The two friends, unwilling to give up, instead collaborated on SheSmart.org, a site designed to give young women a safe forum where they can come forward for help. It also seeks to alleviate the stigma and isolation many cyberbullying victims feel.

The website isn’t just for young people, however. It also will help parents and counselors stay abreast of the latest social-media trends, offer warning signs parents and counselors should watch out for, and provide references for local counselors and therapists who may be of assistance.

One of the biggest hurdles, they say, is helping adults who didn’t grow up in the age of social media understand why cyberbullying is so devastating.

In the pre-internet days, they explain, bullies would hang around the school yard. Five onlookers might see a child pushed to the ground. Victims could try to avoid the bully, or at least forget the harassment when the school day was over.

Not so in the age of social media, however, when many young people are locked into the reality of their Facebook pages and other social media in a way that an older generation finds difficult to comprehend.

Instead of a handful of people watching an ugly scene, a negative post may be viewed by untold thousands. And it’s documented forever online.

Often, the cyberbullies remain anonymous, and unaccountable for the damage they wreak.

Because social media is pervasive, the emotional pain is not something a social-media user can simply leave behind at the end of a bad day.

"The school-yard bullying has now become the Instagram bullying, the Snapchat bullying, the Facebook bullying, the Twitter bullying," Marshall says. "These kids carry around their devices with them at all times and check them on a regular basis."

Marshall says that makes bullying of the cyber kind "way more traumatizing," but she hopes the launch of the new website will help make a difference. She and Capko are planning to reintroduce their legislation in the next session of the Florida legislature.

"Technology is exponentially increasing the rate at which we evolve in this world," says Marshall. "And the dangers that come with this are evolving as well. These kids need to be taught about that — and how to defend themselves."

© 2019 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

1Like our page
Two South Florida businesswomen who suffered schoolyard bullying are launching a unique website that offers potentially life-saving advice to young women, parents, and counselors on countering online abuse-the cyberbullying phenomenon that has been linked to an epidemic of...
cyber, bullies, shesmart.org, website, protects, young women
Tuesday, 03 May 2016 07:47 PM
Newsmax Media, Inc.

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved