Parents, experts discuss cyberbullying in Seminole County

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Seminole County parents are hearing about ways to stop cyberbullying and recognize the signs.

Cyberbullying experts met with parents at the Seminole County School Board headquarters in Sanford Wednesday night to discuss what is going on online, on children’s cellphones and on social media accounts.

“A lot of kids, they talk about committing suicide, so it’s kind of scary,” said Charlotte Copeland.

Discussions like that are what prompted her mom to bring her to the very adult seminar about a very real danger.

The talk focused on what parents can and should do to protect kids online, including frank talk and controlled access to phones and social media. A tip suggested to parents was to tell their kids using social media to “pause before they post” and put themselves in other people’s shoes.

“Many parents are very active in their kids’ offline lives, but for whatever reason, they’re sort of hands-off in their online lives,” said Dr. Sameer Hinduja, with the Cyberbullying Research Center.

Parents packed inside the seminar to listen to Hinduja, a cyberbullying expert. Many came after recent news that bullying may have led to a teen’s suicide. Lamar Hawkins shot himself at school after his parents said bullies tormented him to death.

“With the student passing away, I think a lot of people realized how serious this matter is,” said Abby Sanchez, the PTSA president at Lake Brantley High School, as well as a local teacher.

It is not yet known if the teen who committed suicide ever experienced cyberbullying, but experts said parents should handle online bullies the same as real-life ones.

“It is scary, there’s a lot out there,” said Julie Copeland, who said she realized she’s already doing exactly what she should as a parent. “It makes me feel good for (my daughter) to see that those are things that good parents do, they restrict the kids. My daughter is constantly on the phone and my eighth-grade son is constantly on their iPods and I want to know everything that I can so that I can be aware and ask them and I want them to know that I’m aware of what’s going on.”