Archived Story

Rep. Sharon Tyler: Protecting your kids with the power of one

Published 8:59pm Wednesday, April 18, 2012

When most of us hear the words “March Madness,” we think about four weeks of the best college basketball has to offer — but in my case, my thoughts tend toward March is Reading Month and all the schools in my district that allowed me to read in their classrooms throughout the month.

I got the chance to meet some amazing kids from the area, and, even though March is Reading Month is over now, I still urge young students to continue reading throughout the year — and to remember some of the important issues we talked about when my reading time with them was done.

Each time I read at a school, we would spend some time together afterward asking questions and discussing solutions to common problems, and the topics of internet safety and cyber-bullying consistently came up. And while they may seem like two separate topics, we live in a world where we are always connected to the internet. Nowadays, bullying does not end when the bell rings at school — it continues via text, email and even on Facebook.

Although Facebook does not permit children under 13 to use its services or even access its website, any tech-savvy kid with a little knowledge can figure out how to open an account by faking the year of their birth. That’s why it’s important to start early and keep talking to your children about internet safety and how to best use the internet when connecting with classmates. Technology is everywhere, and unfortunately, that sometimes means that bullying is everywhere as well.

The State of Michigan passed legislation at the end of last year that requires schools to adopt and enforce anti-bullying policies that protect every student, but we must also make sure that students feel safe at home when connecting with friends via the internet. While many students know it’s wrong to pick on someone face-to-face, often they do not realize that things said and done online can be just as hurtful. Insults posted on Facebook may not seem as real as those hurled on the playground, but cyber-bullying is a real problem that affects people in very real ways.

In the words of the children at Brandywine Community Schools, who shared their anti-bullying pledge with me: “I will not bully others; I will not stand by while others are bullied; I will report and deal with bullying whenever I see it because I have the power of one!”

I look forward to hearing your comments on these important issues. Please feel free to contact me by calling (888) 373-0078 or emailing sharontyler@house.mi.gov.

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