Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun
Monday, April 27, 2009 | 10:26 a.m.
Adelson Educational Campus
MySpace and Facebook, texting and e-mail can be great ways to keep in touch with friends, but they can also provide easy, anonymous ways for young people to hurt each other.
The cloak of anonymity is what makes cyberbullying so attractive and so dangerous, Deborah Ruiz, program director for the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate program told a group at Midbar Kodesh Temple in Henderson recently.
The program, which focuses on schools to combat bullying of all forms, now is taking its message to parents and the community. It had its first public forum on Wednesday at Midbar Kodesh Temple, 1940 Paseo Verde Parkway. It plans another session this week at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Adelson Educational Campus, 9700 W. Hillpointe Road in Summerlin.
Ruiz showed the group a public service announcement that shows a girl at microphone insulting a girl in the audience during an assembly. It’s uncomfortable to watch, and that is the point, Ruiz said.
“The message is, if you wouldn’t say something to someone in person, why would you type it?” she said.
What makes cyberbullying a rising danger, Ruiz said, is that it levels the playing field in a way that makes it easier to be a bully.
“In the old days, bullies were the guys who were the biggest,” she said. “Anyone is capable of being a bully now.”
In addition, she said, “Anonymity intensifies the cruelty. Because they think no one can figure out who it is, they can say whatever.”
In national surveys of children ages 10 to 15 in 2006, Ruiz said, 28 percent said they had said something mean online or had something hurtful sent to them. That is double the figure in a similar 2001 survey, she said.
“While it’s not a majority, it’s still an increasing number,” Ruiz said.
After hearing the hourlong presentation, Silverado High School sophomore Jonathan Eisen, 15, said it rang true to him.
“It seems all the time you hear about people posting stuff on MySpace and Facebook that’s not true,” he said. “It’s almost a daily occurrence.”
Ruiz said that is what she sees when she talks about cyberbullying at schools as well.
“I ask how many have encountered cyberbullying or know of someone who has,” she said. “Seventy-five to 80 percent of the hands go up.”