by Jim Donovan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s “Safer Internet Day,” and 3 On Your Side’s Jim Donovan is taking a look at how devastating cyber bullying can be, and what experts are doing right now to try and stop it.
18-year-old Brandy Vela was tormented online by kids in her Texas City school for a year and a half.
Her parents and police tried to help her, but Brandy took her own life right before Thanksgiving.
“I want to see these people get locked up. I hope they get what they deserve, because I didn’t deserve this,” said Raul Vela, Brandy’s father.
Studies show one-in-three kids say they’ve been cyberbullied.
40% of bullying cases involve instant messenger services, 30% on social networking sites, and 20% while playing online games.
“We want to make sure kids are staying safe when they’re online,” says Callahan Walsh of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The Center says smart phones have contributed to an increase in cyber bullying.
“Parents used to keep the computer in the living room, but now it’s in their child’s pocket. So it’s in their bedroom, it’s in the bathroom with them, it’s everywhere they’re going, so it’s even tougher for parents to monitor when they’re on it 24/7,” Walsh explained.
Walsh’s brother, Adam, was kidnapped and murdered in 1981. Since then, their father John Walsh has dedicated his life to helping kids stay safe.
“They’re finding an explicit image of child, by different means, it could be hacking an account and using it to blackmail the child for further images,” said Walsh.
The Center has created an animated safety series to teach young kids how to protect their privacy early.
“Through different activities, we try to empower kids to make good decisions on their own,” Walsh said.
Experts say children who are being bullied should not respond and tell a trusted adult, save any evidence, then block the bully.
In some cases, cyber bullying can be considered a crime.
Walsh says parents should have frequent discussions with their child about online safety, and set ground rules about which sites are okay to visit.