Fighting a battle against cyberbullies

10/13/2010 2:08 PM |

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO Alyssa Scartozzi, 13, of Mattituck is no longer intimidated by cyber bullies. She fought back and wrote a song about the experience.

First she cried. Then Alyssa Scartozzi of Mattituck, now 13 and an eighth grader, did exactly what any victim of cyber-bullying needs to do: she enlisted her mother’s help to fight back. And she wrote a song — “Don’t Twitter Me, Text Me or Facebook Me.”
It all started innocently enough. The honor roll student at Mattituck Junior-Senior High School, winner of this year’s Mattituck Idol contest, put up a YouTube video of herself singing when she was 10.
As such videos often do, Ms. Scartozzi’s went viral, attracting many rave reviews along with some mean spirited ones.
Along with the “You go, girl” and “You are amazing” comments came others calling her “a horrible singer.” One read, “Everybody makes fun of you. You’re so bad.”
That was hurtful, but what followed was worse. Someone out there stole her identity and created sites that weren’t hers, but bore pictures of her, also stolen. Friends and relatives received messages that definitely didn’t reflect the young girl’s thoughts and feelings.
Ms. Scartozzi is a musician who sings and plays the violin, guitar, piano and oboe. For the past three years, she has been selected by the Suffolk County Music Educators Association to participate in All-Country Festivals in both the vocal and violin categories.
“I didn’t realize the hateful things you could get” on the Internet, Ms. Scartozzi said in an interview at her home Friday night.
“Sometimes you think it’s jealousy, but it’s not,” said her mother, Michelle Gambino Scartozzi. She said she doesn’t know what prompts people to abuse the Internet to attack someone. But she has made it a habit to be aware of her daughter’s Internet activity and to help Alyssa fight back. But it hasn’t been easy.
Both YouTube and Facebook, while ultimately cooperative in helping to shut down most of the bogus sites and hurtful video criticisms, required three incidents before they would take action, Ms. Gambino said. And a couple of sites remain out there because their creators remain elusive, she said.
“It’s so easy to take somebody’s identity,” Ms. Gambino Scartozzi said. “It’s really sad.” The perpetrators “want to get rid of the good in the world,” she said.
Her advice to other parents is to monitor their children’s accounts and activity on line and to investigate if they see anything strange.
“We don’t want others to get hurt,” Ms. Gambino Scartozzi said.
Ms. Scartozzi’s advice to her friends, who may encounter similar problems, is simple: “Tell someone about it; don’t keep it to yourself. There are people there to help you.”
Although initially hurt by the Internet barbs directed her way, Ms. Scartozzi now takes a mature approach to the problem.
“There’s no way of stopping them,” she said. “You’ve got to look on the bright side of life.”
She continues to sing and hopes to release a CD soon and, if she profits from its sale, she wants to contribute money to rebuilding the track at Mattituck High School.
She continues to use the Internet and to enjoy YouTube, but takes steps to protect her pictures and identity.

View “Don’t Twitter Me, Text Me or Facebook Me” on YouTube here.

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