After Schilling cyber-bullying, local expert offers advice for parents

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Posts on the Internet can be enlightening and atrocious.  When it comes to our children, it is easy to feel helpless to stop the trolls who would bully our kids as if they can't be caught. Experts say we need to keep our kids talking.  And if they are bullied, there are ways to build a legal case against the bullies.

It began as a simple tweet from baseball great Curt Schilling, publicly congratulating his daughter on becoming a pitcher at Salve Regina University. Then came the responses, some of them sexually explicit and others threatening violence.

“She's going to carry this stuff for the rest of her life,” Schilling said last week in an interview with his daughter.  “So the lesson is accountability. The anonymity of the Internet doesn't exist.”

Furious about the degrading commentary, Schilling proved that.  He tracked people down and called them out on his blog.

“I found out every one of their names,” he said.  “I knew where they went to school, where they worked.”

One man was fired from his job with the Yankees; another suspended from a community college.

“I applaud him for taking action,” said Shane Watson, Manager of Parent and Faculty Education for notMYkid.  “I applaud him for not following through on the temptation to meet with these individuals personally.”

Watson said that can lead to your own legal problems. And confronting online bullies can antagonize them, making them continue.  He teaches parents how to build their case against a cyber-bully.

“What we generally recommend is to keep evidence of everything that has happened,” Watson said.  “Take screen shots, text messages; if there's voice mails, keep those.  Keep copies of everything.” 

It is not illegal to bully someone in Arizona, but harassment, intimidation or threats of violence can all lead to a criminal case. A third of teens say they've experienced online harassment, but Watson reminded us, they need to feel comfortable telling parents about it.

“Start that dialogue before there is a problem,” he said.  “And make their kids aware that they can come to them about anything they may be dealing with because you can't help a child if you don't know they're struggling.” 

Curt Schilling is a computer-savvy parent, who encourages others to get on board and protect their children by understanding technology.

“Twitter is the real world,” Schilling said.  “And if you're a parent, you better be able to admit that and understand it.”

Teenagers still have a tremendous amount of access to strangers and cyber-bullies. Watson said the average teen is on six or seven social media sites.