The Jefferson School District in Tracy is investigating an incident in which several girls allegedly hacked a social media site of a 12-year-old Jefferson School student and injected “sexually derogatory information” on the account.
The incident came to light when the girl’s mother filed a police report so that she could close an Instagram account. Apparently, neither the mother nor the school district could get rid of the offending material on the photo-sharing social media app without a police report.
Jefferson School District officials say it was a case of cyber bullying. The report says the girl reported a case of bullying by a classmate to the school and the offender was suspended. The mother believes her daughter’s e-mail and Instagram accounts were hacked in retaliation.
Paul Hall is the director of student services with the neighboring Tracy Unified School District and says cyber bullying can be a huge problem.
“Technology is a social lifeline for kids,” said Hall.
But the nature of social media means that hurtful statements that were once confined to the schoolyard, playground or to a small circle of acquaintances reach a much wider audience who can misinterpret online entries.
“They do things and don’t understand the effects that it has, how it can go viral,” said Hall.
Victims of cyber bullying have committed suicide or harmed themselves.
Many kids are not old enough to open a social media account, but many lie about their age or their parents enable them.
“We, as parents, think our kids are old enough or because of pressure that they put on us because other children have them, we soon let our kids have them, but with it comes our responsibility to teach them,” said Hall.
The Tracy district has an extensive cyber bullying awareness program. Hall says the most important thing for parents to do is t0 keep an eye on their kids behavior and to go as far a monitor their messaging and internet use.
The Jefferson School District says it will take appropriate action after its investigation of the Instagram incident.
They should also establish good communication with their kids so they can be open if they become victims of bullying. Hall also says its important for kids to carefully protect passwords to prevent others from gaining access to e-mail and other web based accounts.