PATERSON, N.J.- On Thursday night, Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, Paterson Public Schools, Paterson Police, and Passaic County Sheriff's Department teamed up together for an educational seminar about cyberbullying and sexting.
Kelly M. Walsh, Assistant Prosecutor from Passaic County, and Sandra McBeth, LCSW from Family Intervention Services, INC. led the presentation to inform parents and students about what they can do if a case of cyberbullying or sexting occurs.
The seminar began with Amanda Todd’s suicide video-note about how she became involved in sexting- which led to her being bullied and ultimately suicide. Walsh and McBeth used to the video to center their presentation about the “what ifs” that many young people may face.
McBeth explained the difference between “bullying” and “cyberbullying”, and how bullying has changed over time. Sharing her own story, McBeth explained that she was made fun of for being a tall girl in third grade, but the jokes became old and her peers stopped. However, she said that if it were to occur today, she would’ve been bullied and it would be harder for her to concentrate on her school work since young people can use technology to bully one another.
“Statistics shows that 70% of those who are being bullied lasts longer than a month and 95% of bullying happens every week,” McBeth stated. The statistics also show that bullying has no gender- meaning no gender is bullied more than the other.
The presentation also explained why cyberbullying is a prevalent issue compared to traditional bullying for the reason that it is can be anonymous, it’s easy to do it, there a punitive fears, and disinhibition. Also, the presentation explained to parents and students of what to do in a situation of cyberbullying.
Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik shared his comments about cyberbullying, “[Cyberbullying] is a very important topic in this area today which is predominate...we have an internet crime unit and we’ve been very involved in quite a few investigations.”
Sexting was discussed heavily in the presentation with the McBeth and Walsh relaying the message, “Just don’t do it.” McBeth went into depth about the reasons why young people would sext and gave statistics regarding who sexts and why. Reasons given for sexting is that young people are either curious, they are feeling pressure, they may believe they are in love, or they may not be thinking. McBeth used the developing brain as a source, specifically the prefrontal cortex, as it controls impulse control, planning, working memory, and ability to weigh decisions.
Walsh went into depth about the legal consequences of both cyberbullying and sexting. Many people in the audience were surprised with the strict and broad statutes that NJ has. Overall, Walsh pushed the message to not cyberbully or sext.
Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes commented, “It’s the beginning of a conversation that we are going to have county wide. There are young people who are sexting and they are not really understanding the legal consequences and the social consequences. I was very happy to see that we had the turnout that we did and we’re going to be talking to schools, churches, etc. about this topic.”
Passaic County Freeholder T.J Best, who is District Anti-Bullying Coordinator for Paterson Public Schools said, “[I] see a lot of bullying present itself in many different manners and the biggest manner that’s happening right now is cyberbullying. It’s happening at a younger age- Middle School is probably our biggest issue and it’s important for educators and parents to stay abreast on all of the latest trends and technology so that they know where it’s happening because it’s not just happening in the classroom anymore,” Best also added, “Now it’s happening on the internet and it’s important for people to know. This presentation helped us finding out what the resources are in order for us to address it...in which we are already doing by working with these departments.”
Walsh gave her thoughts after the presentation stating, “I think it will [be beneficial to the young people who came tonight]. I think a lot of the youth today don’t realize the legal consequences of the actions they are taking. They think that it is innocent, harmless interaction, but there are legal consequences to what they do.”