When I was in school, bullies stayed on the playground, oroutside the corner pizza parlor.Our children are growing up in a different world.Now, bullies travel wherever a cell phone can go and their victimscan no longer close the front door to escape them.Instead, their taunts amplified a thousand fold by socialnetworking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and are foreverpreserved on the Internet.This constant e-harassment is called cyberbullying.And, as we have seen, it has proven to be deadly.A few months ago, a 14-year-old New York teen took his own lifeafter being targeted by cyberbullies. Last year, a college freshmanjumped off the George Washington bridge after his roommatemaliciously spread a hurtful video of him online.Those are some high-profile examples, but national statistics showthere are thousands more. The National Crime Prevention Councilreports that 43 percent of all teens in the U.S. have beensubjected to cyberbullying. Among LGBT youth, that number jumps to53 percent.However, no New York-specific numbers on cyberbullying currentlyexist.I, along with my fellow members of the Independent DemocraticConference, are working to change that.We have launched the first-ever New York Cyberbully Census atwww.nycyberbullycensus.com.This 12-question online survey is aimed at gathering informationfrom students in Grades three to 12 throughout New York. The surveyis designed to gauge student attitudes, as well as experiences withcyberbullying. The Cyberbully Census is also anonymous, allowingstudents to answer questions honestly and without fear ofembarrassment.Additionally, we are asking for their suggestions on legislation tohelp combat cyberbullying.As legislators, it’s our responsibility to ensure that our lawskeep pace with technology. It has become very clear that technologyhas made the old rhyme about sticks and stones obsolete.Our goal is to not only stop these bullies in their tracks, butalso to change attitudes about cyberbullying.A generation ago, people had a different view of drinking anddriving.It took education and tougher laws to change attitudes and makepeople aware of the dangers of drunk driving.By no means have we eradicated drinking while driving. However,most people now understand the reckless and destructiveconsequences of that behavior.As we have seen, words can kill in the digital age. It is our hope,that cyberbullying will one day soon have the same social stigma asa DWI conviction.
Diane Savino represents the 23rd Senatorial District inBrooklyn and Staten Island.