Cyber Bullying: A Social Epidemic By Jessica Meyer

 Bio:

My name is Jessica Meyer. I am a Communications major with a concentration in Public Administration and Mass Communications. I have one more year left, and then I plan on graduating from CSUSB. I work in the Records office where I help students register for classes and process records. I enjoy learning about the world around me and studying different ways of life. When I graduate I plan on working in medical public relations in order to better patient care in hospitals.

 

     

 Cyber bullying affects everyone, and with crimes being committed all over the internet, it is no wonder why this has become such a stressed topic of discussion. There are billions of websites that circulate throughout the world. Some allow us to access knowledge with the touch of a key to better our society, while others threaten to destroy it. One act against mankind that exists through cyber bullying is hate crimes. Some argue that it is free speech, and with so much ground to cover, regulating cites that promote the obliteration of others proposes itself as a national issue. Neo-Nazi websites exist globally, putting others down using violent word usage and sometimes horrific videos showing the injustices being done to victims of these hate crimes. In Russia, a 24 year old student came forward in 2007 to say that he had posted violent videos of Neo-Nazi crimes and had distributed materials online supporting hate crimes against others. It doesn’t just happen in Europe, hate crimes exist in our own backyard. To learn more about the investigations of hate crimes on the internet visit: http://www.partnersagainsthate.org/publications/investigating_hc.pdf

Cyber bullying has even cost those their lives due to the unbearable ridicule that victims have suffered from these vicious online attacks. Just recently, 15 year old Phoebe Prince committed suicide in January of this year after being humiliated at her high school in South Hadley, Massachusetts. According to reports, she had sexual relations with a boy at school, and this got around at the high school. Other girls began to taunt Phoebe throwing bottles at her, and calling her names in the hallway such as “slut” and “whore”.The bullying became so difficult for Phoebe to tolerate, that she hung herself. She was mocked even after her death on a facebook account which ultimately led to the arrest of nine high school students. What makes this case worse is that school officials were notified of the harassment that went on, but nothing was done until it was too late.

A recent incident involving webcam and internet broadcasting opened the eyes of many Americans when Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, jumped off the George Washington Bridge in September, after being videotaped having sex with another man by his roommate using a webcam. One incident was filmed live while another was posted throughout the internet. Clementi couldn’t face the humiliation that came from the video or explaining his sexual orientation to his family. Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei (classmates of Clementi) are being tried for invasion of privacy and distributing nudity which, if held to the maximum sentence, will cost them five years in prison. Five years for one life hardly seems just for destroying the life of a talented musician.

Even though there are cases where school systems have failed, there are organizations working diligently to put an end to cyber bullying. StopCyberBullying.org discusses preventions and ways to discuss this important issue with children, parents, adults, and school administrators. There is no one way to get rid of cyber bullying because every case is an individual situation, but being aware of how to protect yourself and loved ones is key. Prevention websites talk about only allowing children to visit trusted cites, and to monitor what it is they are getting into on the internet. It is also important to stress in schools how to treat others, what behavior is ok, and what behavior is unacceptable at an early age.

Research is continuously being developed to aid in cyber bullying prevention. One Stanford University student, Debbie Heimowitz, created a film to teach 9-15 year olds the damages of cyber bullying using real life scenarios. The film, “Adina’s Deck”, shows how harassment can exist at school, and how students can act to remove bullying from school systems. The hometown of Megan Meier has used the film to reportedly fix their issues that have existed since Megan’s death.

I-Safe.org did a survey in 2004 showing that 42% of children online have been victims to cyber bullying, 35% have been threatened online, and 58% admitted to hurtful things being said about them or to them online. This kind of research has been used to open the eyes of the public as to just how serious this issue truly is.

As far regulation, the law should be able to protect those that feel they are experiencing psychological distress, harm, or fear of endangerment. In 2007, seven states in the U.S. passed laws against digital harrassment. In 2009, California legislature put into effect the  Assembly Bill 86 2008 giving school administrators the power to reprimand students for harrassing other students offline or online.Lawmakers are trying to solve cyber-bullying with new legislation but there aren’t any specific laws on the matter.

It is not ok for others to single out individuals making them feel unsafe in the real world let alone on the internet which was initially designed to connect one another not increase the crime that exists globally.Changing society is the next step in fixing the cyber bullying epidemic. Where websites that allow bullying or jokes to appear as seemingly innocent, like those dedicated to making fun of celebrities, society makes it ok to make fun of each other. A great example is Perez Hilton’s website created to poke fun at multiple stars. Celebrity photos are marked on, and hurtful comments flood the website to get a few laughs out of viewers.

      Before we can change the internet and get rid of cyber bullying, we must get rid of bullying in our society. We must make it aware to the public that it is not ok to treat others poorly, and realize that what may sometimes seem innocent, could destroy lives.

 For additional information please visit:

Tips on Cyber Bullying prevention

http://www.ncpc.org/cyberbullying

 Cyber Bullying Stories

http://www.netsmartz.org/resources/reallife.htm

 Cyber Bullying Statistics 2010

http://www.cyberbullying.us/

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