Cyberbullying definition is important to understand. It is an issue that has come up recently with school kids which schools sometimes feel helpless to deal with. The reason is that there is very little legislation which provides for penalties for cyberbullying when students are being harassed or ridiculed in online environments. The general consensus seems to be that if students or kids are being harassed in an online situation, then they got themselves into it because they did not have to be online. This is preposterous. That is like saying that a kid chose to come to school so it’s their fault they are being bullied. One must understand it first before stopping cyberbullying.
For Stopping Cyberbullying, one must define it first! Many of the school shooting incidences have occurred at the hands of kids who were bullied as children. While it will never excuse their actions, it is a wake-up call for us, to realize that kids who are victims in youth may come back to seek vengeance when they are older, especially in cases where nothing was done about their maltreatment, and they felt helpless in defending themselves and didn’t and still don’t know ways to stop cyberbullying.
It is reported that 43% of kids online have experienced cyberbullying at some point recently. (DoSomething.org, 2013)About 70% of kids under 18 reported seeing some form of bullying occurring online, even if they were not directly involved. (Bullying Statistics, 2013)
As long as local governments and law enforcement agencies take this stance, cyberbullying will continue. It draws its power from the fact that often the bullying is anonymous and can remain anonymous throughout the entire process. The bullying person can easily hide behind a pseudonym, false credentials, pictures, and other identity features, and be whoever they want to be. This allows the bully to continue with their attacks on someone by continuing to cause fear and dismay toward the person being bullied, and this results in a feeling of powerlessness.
Stricter laws must be enforced, in order to create a feeling of safety again in the lives of the victims. Bullying is not a victimless crime. A young man who was bullied shamelessly after an internet video ruined his reputation jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge to his death, after leaving a note that bullying had driven him to it.
A movie based on a true story called, “Cyberbullying,” released in the year 2010 (NETFLIX), depicted a young lady who was the victim of vicious gossip and bullying online to the point that it drove her to attempt suicide. Once it was finally investigated by police, it was discovered that the bully was none other than the girl’s “best friend,” who had posed as a young man who supposedly was interested in her, under a false identity. The girl had later said that it had started out as a joke but got out of hand later, and she didn’t know how to stop it.
The girl had assumed the identity of this young man because she was jealous of her friend, who was liked by a boy she also liked, and she wanted to draw her attention away from the guy she wanted, and to someone else. She had the fake person write her friend romantic poetry, send her flowers, and created an entire pseudo identity around the made-up person, which her friend fell for. Eventually, the situation turned mean and vindictive, when she put up on the internet and various social media sites that the girl had given the fictional boy STDs. This situation caused such embarrassment and ridicule on the part of the victim that she decided to take her own life.
Ironically, it was the “friend” that had created the problem that saved her life in the end, by reporting the situation to the police and the girl’s mother. Once it was discovered that the “friend” had caused the issues, the victim was, of course, devastated with the realization that not only was she bullied, but bullied by someone she thought she could trust among all others.
Later, the two girls were able to make up and save their friendship and start binding together to fight to bully wherever it occurred. This is a heart-warming story due to the good ending, but the messages before this hit us hard. It has become too easy nowadays to have access to private accounts, personal information, and other factors that can create situations where trust is so easily violated.
These senseless acts will continue unless a number of things happen that cause people to sit up and take notice.
1) Local police need to take a stand on cyberbullying and find a way to punish offenders who cause a person to be driven to suicide or desperation. While some may believe that it is not something police can punish and that no one is hurt, nothing could be further from the truth.
2) New state legislation must occur to prevent these types of situations from occurring in the future. People should write to their legislators and government officials and plead for better laws that will provide for harsher punishments for perpetrators of cyberbullying. These incidences of cyberbullying must be taken the same way in the eyes of the law, as bullying in real life. Until these laws are changed, these senseless incidents will continue.
3) Educate parents on how to deal with this type of bullying when it occurs so more prevention can be put into place that empowers both parents and educators to stop bullying in its tracks before it gets out of hand. Creating a parent/teacher advocacy group on this type of issue may go a long way to ensuring that fewer of these offences go unchecked.
4) Educate students about the consequences of bullying and draw no lines of distinction between regular bullying in the real world, and cyberbullying. If we are ever to communicate with kids about the seriousness of the offence, we must start by educating them about how these actions are harassment, and therefore, a crime.
5) School counsellors should take an active part in getting information out to staff members, as well as parents and others involved in these situations so that they will take an active stance against bullying in any form, whether it is offline or online.
Finally, if parents, teachers, counsellors, administrators, and kids do what the young people did at the end of the movie “Cyberbullying,” we may be on the way to a solution. In the final scene, one of the girls who had helped create the problem tried to bully the young girl again, and her friends and others all stood up in the cafeteria and said, “We are not going to take it anymore!” Prevention is the key.
One thing is for sure, the safety of kids is critical. If action is not taken, these tragedies will continue. The self-esteem and future of our children are in our hands. To quote Harry Reasoner, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”