Teens fear bullies' new tool: Text messaging

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by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on October 27, 2009 at 11:39 AM

There's a new form of bullying that can be harder for parents to detect and it can be more emotionally troubling for the teenage victims.

It used to be the spoken word and the fists were the weapons of choice for bullies.

Now, experts say computers and cell phones are used to intimidate and threaten, often leaving behind deeper emotional scars.

Jeanne Chauvin reviews her daughter's 10th grade studies for the day.  Fifteen-year-old Mika Odom is now home schooled after she spent a semester of her freshman year being bullied.

"I couldn't make them stop or just ignore it; it was everyday," said Mika Odom, a victim of cyber bullying.

But this wasn't the traditional, in your face form of bullying -- it's what's called cyber bullying.

"There are many more outlets for that type of behavior now, that we never had to deal with when we were in school. You know it's email, Facebook, cell phones, text messaging," said Jeanne Chauvin, Odom's mother.

For Odom, the bullying usually came via her cell phone.

"It was more of calling me all the time, texting me with really, really threatening messages," Odom said.

Reliving the emotional pain her daughter went through a year ago was too much for Chauvin.

"Having your daughter call you from school and she's crying in the bathroom and you can't, you can't do anything," Chauvin said as she cried.

Experts say what happened to Odom is not an isolated incident.

"We know it's real because about 160,000 teens skip school every day nationally because of bullying and because of their fears of what their peers are doing to them," said Julia Cuba, the Executive Director of GENAustin.

Cuba says teenage girl on girl cyber bullying is called relational aggression.

"It is something that's hard to detect. Adults can't see it happening because it is such a covert behavior in relationships," Cuba said.

Once Chauvin learned of the cyber bullying, she wanted to contact the school immediately, but mom to the rescue isn't what a 15 year old wants -- even one who's being bullied every day.

"That would be embarrassing because your mom is coming to the school to like back you up," Odom said.

Experts say that's a common reaction, and it's also common for parents to find out there's not much school administrators can do about the problem. So Chauvin and Odom were back to square one.

"Here I am trying to guide my daughter in how to deal with this and these girls get to come to school and act any way they want," Chauvin said.

So mother and daughter decided home schooling was the best option, and Mika says she has no regrets.

"My friends are actually having a really fun year this year and it makes me sad yes...but the fact I don't go there anymore, I have no drama in my life whatsoever...not anything like I went through last year, so I think it was a really good decision for me," Odom said.

Cyber bullying and how to deal with it will be one of the topics at GENAustin's upcoming conference November 14 at the Ann Richards school.

More than 1,000 girls are expected to attend.

Parents are welcome.

Deadline to register is November 5.

For more information go to www.genaustin.org.

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