Teachers, administrators try to curb cyber bullying at schools

COVINGTON - Over the past couple of years, teachers, administrators and other school personnel are noticing a new problem among teens that is apparently nationwide in scope: cyber bullying.

With tens of millions of users - many of them teens - spending their free time at home on online social networking Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook, the problem has made its way into many middle and high schools.

In Newton County, School Resource Officer Deputy Sammy Banks said he hasn't seen too many middle school students having problems on school grounds, even though they are using those sites.

"It's very seldom; we've been very fortunate," he said. "It seems like it's progressing to high schools."

Tracey Curtis, an assistant principal at Newton High School, agrees.

"(MySpace) is one of the worst things that could ever happen," he said. "I don't like it."

He said many times students will post something about another student on their MySpace profiles, which can cause fights within the school.

"When they end up bringing things from home into the school, we end up talking to the kids, as well as the parents," he said.

If administrators hear of problems from others students, sometimes they will go online to look at public profiles of students to see what's going on inside and outside the school building.

"Some kids have decent spaces, but some of it can get to be negative," he said. "We'll see a lot of gang pictures and kids brandishing guns, thinking it's cool."

He said a lot of what's getting posted online is due to a lack of parental monitoring.

"A lot of parents aren't checking behind kids to find out where they are going and who their friends are," he said. "Parents need to keep a better eye on it. If I had kids, I would check to see what's coming in and going out."

Students also have a responsibility, he said.

"I tell (students), 'You are putting too much information on there,'" he said. "They are saying things about their friends, and everybody and their mother can read it. You have to be careful what you say."

He said Web sites such as MySpace are blocked on school computers.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.