Seattle conference aims to help fight against cyberbullying

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by MEG COYLE/KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on November 15, 2010 at 7:56 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 1 at 10:16 AM

SEATTLE -- Cyberbullying will take center stage in Seattle this week as a week-long conference will focus is on spotting bullying and giving victims the tools to fight back. 

The goal is to arm parents, teachers, law enforcement and teens with the tools to fight back. Much of the conference will talk about how the support network that is also found through technology. 

One local man is getting the word out in a big way.  Dan Savage is the editor of "The Stranger," but these days his name might be more synonymous with a website called, "It Gets Better."  It's an outlet for victims of bullying that's even gotten the attention of the President of the United States. 

"People have just responded in a way that has blown my mind," says Savage.

The project is for gay and lesbian teens. "It Gets Better" is meant for those who feel at their worst,  many of them literally bullied to death. 

The online empathy channel has become a worldwide phenomenon.  Even President Obama's made his pitch: " You are not alone.  You didn’t do anything wrong.  You didn’t do anything to deserve being bullied.  And there is a whole world waiting for you, filled with possibilities."

Savage has been there. As a gay teenager he too, had contemplated suicide. 

"I thought it would be easier on my parents," he says. "I thought it would be better for everyone involved because it would be easier for my parents to have a dead child than a gay child." 

Jake Arlan is a junior at Bothell High School and knows the reality of bullying. 

"The kids who are being bullied aren't popular enough for other kids to care that much and it just becomes the funner thing to do for these kids who have gotten used to picking on kids their entire life so far," says Arlan.

Savage believes sites like "It Gets Better" can make a difference. He's already seen it. 

"Lives have literally been saved through the project through people reaching out," Savage say, thrilled with the site's success but far from content. "We're moved, we're touched. The response has been overwhelming but we would only be happy if there was no need for these videos in the first place."

Savage says 40 percent of gay and lesbian teenagers have contemplated suicide because of bullying.  Savage says they often don't have the family support system behind them. 

For tips on how to deal with bullying: http://www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/kids/ and www.itgetsbetterproject.com

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