Bullying takes on new form

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. Just a decade ago sharing your ideas to more than a million people seemed unimaginable, and chatting face-to-face with someone living on the other side of the world was the stuff of science fiction.

Now, thanks to social media websites like Facebook, we're more connected than ever.

You may already know about sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; but new sites appear every day, and sharing too much can sometimes leave you vulnerable.

Mass shootings and suicides the world over attributed to online bullying have brought to light the grim realities of what can happen on the internet.

More than a sixth of the earth's population actively uses social media, exponentially increasing the potential threats.

Ask.Fm is a site dedicated to asking questions.

The questions are often vulgar and asked by anonymous hosts. In the end, your Ask.Fm profile often ends up looking like a list of vulgar insults sent in from unknown entities.

In recent months Ask.Fm has gained international fame after being linked to the suicides of several young girls. One of whom, Florida's Rebecca Sedwick, was bullied mercilessly through sites like Ask.Fm until she felt there was no other way out.

The reason high school students feel online bullying is worse than bullying in person is related to the anonymity.

The anonymity gives more strength to the insults because the bully doesn't see how their actions impact their victims. Any pang of remorse they might feel in person is lost through the impersonal delivery of a computer keyboard.

"Being anonymous allows a bully to be more powerful and less vulnerable" says licensed professional counselor Shelley Millsap.

Millsap also says that the best way for parents to weather the mounting storm of social media is to maintain an open line of communication with your kids.

"You can work out a compromise," says Millsap. "You're not totally hovering but you're also staying active and knowledgeable about what's going on in their life."

If your child is being bullied, the time to act is right now. There is no jurisdiction on bullying, and District 51's director of security Tim Leon says that any form of bullying should be reported to a school administrator as soon as possible.

From there, the police department will get involved if the bullying is consistent, repeated, or containing threats. At that point criminal charges can be pressed.

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