Survival of the Fittest
I find myself concerned for the common kid. In this day and age, most of us text, Facebook and email one another, giving us multiple ways to communicate our thoughts and views. Also our animosities. In the nineties, we didn’t really have much of that yet. From my personal experiences, typically a kid in school had to prove himself in some way in order to claim his social status – whether fighting or causing some sort of mischief to amuse the hierarchy laughing at him. If he was successful though, he’d get a pass. He’d be considered cool and could hang with the popular crowd. If he failed, he’d experience a barrage of verbal harassment and nitpicking. Every day, the hallways were similar to gallows. At least by the time he arrived home, he was free. He no longer had to face the slow, grizzly death of his reputation until the next day.
Cyber Bullying Affects Everyone
Cyber bullying is a new animal. It’s no longer confined to a classroom, working or any public environment for that matter. It’s now waiting for you wherever you are in cyberspace, even in the comfort and privacy of your own home, making it a difficult monster to escape from. It also provides an outlet for the perpetrator to strike and hide, fostering an environment of anonymity or eventually might serve as a prelude to physical violence. Statistics show on average, 70% of today’s students have been effected by this malicious form of behavior. In addition, with the evolution of cellular devices, there’s now a faster, more efficient way for bullies to get to work. According to a recent study, Over 80% of teens use a cell phone regularly, making it the most common medium for cyber bullying. So what was once an activity that required a computer, can now be done much more conveniently at any given time. What’s more of a concern, is that most parents are often unaware of these events involving their child, technologically illiterate to the ills surrounding their child. Cyber bullying, can be simplified as uncivil actions taken against others over the Internet with an intent of harming them emotionally, manipulating or controlling them. It has also become an easier method with the increased use of social networking tools and the phenomena of Twitter. This Internet style of bullying or harassment, has recently gained more public recognition, due to some severe cases where victims have gone as far as committing suicide after being called a “bulbous honey boar“. It’s not a difficult to sympathize with their extreme rationalities as depression, anxiety and thoughts of helplessness are a common aftermath from this kind of emotional degrading. A Suicide victim, Amanda Todd is a prime example. Amanda was stalked from ages thirteen to sixteen and her bully would use a tactic known as a “digital pile on”. By doing so, the bully would use the Internet to instigate other students in Amanda’s high school to bully and spread rumors about her. Students even went as far as beating her up. Amanda’s first suicide attempt was drinking a bleach martini, after she survived this attempt she made a YouTube video to speak out against her bully. Unfortunately, the YouTube video only started to gain recognition after her death following a second suicide attempt. Since Amanda’s story has hit the airwaves, the public has taken action in an attempt to halt cyber bullying and laws have been passed in some states to uphold her legacy. Tori Wilson, an eleven year old with a history of being bullied, was recently interviewed by About.com in detail about her traumatic experiences. She provides us with some insight on what girls like Amanda and millions of others are going through:
“I have several experiences but the two that stick out in my head are these two girls. One girl who knew a boy a I went to camp with telling me on facebook how ugly I was, how untalented I was and constantly shooting nasty messages to my inbox. And another girl simultaneously posting both publicly on the wall, my pictures and inbox, she was a friend of a friend. It progressed to in person bullying.”
Is Cyber Bullying Legal? State governments have put into effect laws to protect citizens from the criminality of it and to help broaden the scope of what defines it. There’s two sub-categories of cyber bullying. One, cyberstalking, which involves the internet or other electronic communication as a means of stalking an individual and
generally refers to a pattern of threatening or malicious behaviors. It’s considered the most dangerous form of internet harassment. Second, there’s cyberharassment, which differs from cyberstalking, in that it may generally be defined as not involving a credible threat. Cyberharassment usually pertains to threatening or harassing email messages, instant messages, or to blog entries or websites dedicated solely to tormenting an individual. Although the technicalities behind these laws vary by state, there’s an increased awareness among legislatures in regard to how important this issue is becoming. Even attorneys across the country are willing to seek compensation for pain and suffering for their clients.
There are various motives behind cyberbullying and often, their unpredictable. The best way to handle it, as a parent or teacher, is to be educated on the subject, watch for signs and respond appropriately within the legal limitations. A parent especially, must monitor their child’s behavior periodically to make sure they aren’t being victimized or…doing the victimizing. Schools reprimand students for unacceptable behaviors and seek to correct it with the assistance of guidance counselors, but when schools try and get involved by disciplining the student for cyberbullying actions that took place off-campus and outside of school hours, they are often sued for exceeding their authority and violating the student’s free speech right. They also, often lose. Many anti cyberbullying communities, such as the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), have suggested new provisions be put into affect to allow schools more authority over what takes place outside of the classroom. Currently, no federal law or policy requires schools to address bullying, but a growing number of states and local authorities are spreading awareness of it and implementing their own policies. In New York specifically, legislation recently extended the “Dignity for All Students Act”, which includes cyberbullying in 2010. The New York State Assembly commented with the following:
“The cyberbullying amendment to the Dignity act will establish protocols to respond to cyberbullying, harassment, bullying and discrimination, including designating a school official to receive and promptly investigate reports; take actions to prevent recurrences; coordinate with law enforcement when appropriate; and develop a bullying prevention strategy; and provide notice to all school community members of the school’s policies. It would also set training requirements for current and new school employees.”
Although many states are progressive in the fight against cyberbullying, I’m curious to see how the Federal Government responds, and whether or not we see any regulations.