EDUCATION

Facebook starts initiative against bullying

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(AP, ABC7) Many parents are happy that Facebook is acting out on bullies because 750 million people use it. Even though it's designed to be an outlet for friendship, harassment is happening online as well.

(Photo: Associated Press)

“I've heard about it and I've heard about it in the hallways at school,” said Isabella Ness about her high school in Alexandria.

Asked if she had ever seen anybody bully anyone on Facebook, the 17-year-old replied “I've seen it on my news feed a couple of times."

"It is easier to bully someone. It's not right, it's kind of sad," said her sister Kristina. Kristina Ness is in college now, but witnessed cyber bullying.

"One of my friends was kind of ganged up on by two other girls online. It was really ridiculous and caddy,” Kristina said.

According to the White House, 13 million students are targets of bullying. That accounts for nearly one third of children in school. Bullying has lead to emotional problems, drug abuse and even suicide.

"If you teach your children early that you don't have to take anything from anybody, what you carry inside you is what counts,” said Karen Domenici. Teenagers have to be 13 years old to be allowed to sign up for Facebook, but the company admits that some younger children lie about their age to sign up earlier.

"We believe that by working together with parents and teachers, we can teach young people to speak up and stop bullying," said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer.

The anti-bullying campaign will be waged on the Internet, on TV and radio and several major U.S. magazines. It's being billed as "Stop Bullying: Speak Up," a theme that Time Warner's Cartoon Network has been trumpeting since last year.

Now the message is being extended to Time Warner's CNN on TV and in three of its magazines, People, Time and Sports Illustrated. CNN's Anderson Cooper will host a town hall focused on bullying in October while the magazines will all delve into the topic during the same month.

"I think middle school is the time when it gets the worst, puberty is hitting … is really volatile,” Isabella said.

By the time most kids return to school later this summer, Facebook plans to release a new application that will broadcast a user's pledge to stop bullies. Facebook already introduced a feature to make it easier to report online bullies, or "cyber" bullies, four months ago as part of a White House conference that President Barack Obama held on the topic.

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