On Tuesday, June 18, 2019, the New York State Senate passed Bill S5786 to create a cyberbullying task force, which was introduced by NYS Senator Todd Kaminsky and co-sponsored by Senators Jen Metzger and Luis Sepulveda. The task force would explore the effects of cyberbullying and potential measures to address it.
Senator Kaminsky explained his vote, “Thank you very much, Mr. President. I think no matter where you live in this state, we can all agree that cyberbullying has become a tremendous problem. Recent reports show that nearly half the teens in our country have reported being cyberbullied, and while our schools, while we in the legislature have taken pains to make sure our schools have procedures in place to deal with it, what happens after school and what happens to regular adults who have to deal with cyberbullying and the horrors that it brings? I have a constituent, Lisa-Michelle Kucharz, who really survived a terrible ordeal with a stalker who was cyberbullying her and, instead of cursing the darkness, she’s chosen to light a candle and advocate very hard on this issue. So, what this bill would do would create a task force that would make recommendations to schools about how to handle cyberbullying that takes place outside of its walls and that leads generally to policies and procedures that would help deter cyberbullying at all levels for all members of our society. We need some good thinking and good planning to go into this issue, because it’s time we put an end to cyberbullying. Thank you, Mr. President.”
“Digital messaging, texting, and social media activity are central to the way youth build and maintain relationships today,” shared Lisa-Michelle Kucharz, professor and cyberbullying prevention advocate. “While they provide the benefits of engagement and connection, they also have been associated with harassment and other threats.”
Ninety percent of U.S. teens believe online harassment is a problem that affects people their age, and 59% of them have experienced cyberbullying, according to the Pew Research Center.
While both girls and boys report a similar frequency of experiencing online harassment, some teens are at greater risk. For example, teens who identify or are perceived as LGBTQ and those from lower-income families are more likely to encounter cyberbullying. In addition, according to stopbullying.gov, students who identify as LGBTQ are less likely to report incidents, due to safety concerns.
Teens experiencing cyberbullying are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, misuse of drugs and alcohol, risky sexual behavior, and poor academic performance. Cyberbullying also effects witnesses and those carrying it out, and it can have a negative impact on teen environments — schools and other locations activities take place. Even if online harassment takes place off school premises when it’s not in session, it likely will impact the learning environment.
In most cases, parents are unaware their child is experiencing cyberbullying or the extent of the abuse. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, only 52% of students who experience cyberbullying report the incident to a parent or other adult.
“Establishing a cyberbullying task force is a great first step to help foster a safer and kinder cyber-world for youth,” said Kucharz. “Presenting best practices and initiatives will inform decisions to help diminish cyberbullying and support those who experience it.
“Cyberbullying can be devastating, and it’s impacting the majority of our youth. As a former target of online harassment, I understand the pain and havoc it creates. Our youth deserve better. One teen considering suicide from experiencing cyberbullying is too many.
“I’m grateful for the leadership of Senator Todd Kaminsky, who is dedicated to the safety and well-being of New York’s youth — online and off — and appreciate his introduction of the bill to create a cyberbullying task force. I applaud the New York State Senate for passing the bill, but I’m disappointed it was not discussed in the Assembly, even though it was referred to its Governmental Operations Committee in January.
“New York’s youth deserve better initiatives to help prevent cyberbullying and to support those who experience it. Online harassment is one of their greatest concerns today, and we need to address it.”