Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cyberbullying

Turn on a TV or read any major newspaper and you're likely to come upon a story about cyberbullying. StopCyberbullying.org defines cyberbullying as "when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones."

Some teens are so affected by the actions of cyberbullies that they have committed suicide.

A News & Observer story about a victim of cyberbullying told of a victimized student:

Gale McKoy Wilkins

The incident involved his best friend and a group of bullies. The bullies planned to teach this young man a lesson on "disrespect," so they beat him after school at an off-campus location. An audience of peers watched and captured the entire altercation on a cell-phone camera. Before the victim could find his six missing teeth in the gravel and dirt, the fight appeared on Facebook, MySpace and YouTube, all before his parents, dentist and school administrators knew what had taken place. That is the instant wrath of cyberbullying.

Matt Ivester, a 2005 graduate of Duke University and founder of JuicyCampus.com had this to say when asked if sites such as JuicyCampus perpetuate online cruelty:

This is the same gossip that happens offline everyday anyhow. With JuicyCampus, though, people have the opportunity to read the gossip that would otherwise be told behind their backs. And if they don't want to know, they don't have to visit the site.
(For another example of the fallacy of such logic, go here.)

Four popular views on the subject of cyberbullying are:
  1. Enact laws against it.
  2. Let the schools deal with it.
  3. Let the parents deal with it.
  4. Leave it alone - after all, it's protected speech.
Each view has its pros and cons, and each has its supporters and detractors.


Another view

It's interesting that we require kids to be at least a certain age and to pass a test before we allow them to drive, yet we give them free reign to post anything they want to the roughly 1.4 billion worldwide Internet users. Can we honestly expect a thirteen year old to grasp the concept of such a potential audience?

In the days of yore, kids who found themselves victims of bullying may have brought threatening notes they've received home to Mom and Dad, who then might have had a phone conversation with the parents of the harasser in order to "chat" about the behavior. Then the bully's parents laid into him/her, hopefully bringing to an end the improper actions.

One problem with cyberbullying, however, is the issue of the anonymity of the harassers. (But posts published in cyberspace may not be as anonymous as you might think.) In a modern adaptation of the way bullying was handled in the past, perhaps the parents, friends and educators of the victim, or maybe the victim him/herself may collect an electronic "paper trail" (e-trail) of the offensive material in order to present via some means, including the police if necessary, to the parents of the evil-doers with hopes that they will act upon such offensive behavior.

Yes, granted the evidence may not be as damning as the victim would hope, but when presented with material implicating one's offspring, it would be hoped that those parents would look more critically at the availability of the electronic commerce they've granted their kids.

Cyberbullying is an unacceptable practice which can be reduced if parents and educators would be willing to keep a closer eye on the means by which our children communicate with their peers.
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7 Comments:

At Sunday, July 20, 2008 12:28:00 PM, Anonymous Phantasmix said...

I agree with restricting access to a degree.

It's such a horrible situation. People who are victims of this are much more helpless than if they're physically threatened at school. At least in that case you can try and punch the people.

On the other hand, wouldn't it be funny if real school bullies became victims of cyberbullies, who are really their victims posting crap anonymously.

 
At Sunday, July 20, 2008 8:18:00 PM, Blogger The Sarcasticynic said...

I never thought of that, however I can see that as a problem, too.

Suppose Butch Bully physically torments Victor Victim. Later that evening, coincidentally Debra Dumped chooses revenge on Butch and blasts him on FaceBook. Butch sees this and assumes it was Victor. Next day poor Victor is once again harassed by Mr. Bully.

Nothing like anonymity to cause people to project their own issues onto hapless victims.

 
At Sunday, July 20, 2008 10:14:00 PM, Anonymous Phantasmix said...

Do you miss the old - simpler - times yet? :)

So many new inventions, so many ethical and other dilemmas.

 
At Monday, July 21, 2008 6:44:00 AM, Blogger The Sarcasticynic said...

Don't I ever! Please see this post for more.

 
At Tuesday, July 22, 2008 4:05:00 PM, Blogger M@ said...

As an ardent defender of the First Amendment, I'm always coming up w/ new ways to think about speech issues that take it away from speech.

For example, you might say a person is within his rights to take photographs in public--because this is America. But let's say you were part of a "conspiracy" to beat and humiliate this person (the two come together into one crime), then you might be guilty of something....

I think there are ways around this.....

 
At Wednesday, July 23, 2008 6:14:00 AM, Blogger The Sarcasticynic said...

I can sympathize with free speech to an extent, but tell that to the thirteen year old girl who found a locker room camaraphone image of her naked butt on the Internet with the caption, "Hi! I'm Amy Brown of 1822 Cleveland St, Canton Ohio, 44707. Call me at 330-555-9876 anytime. I like it in the butt," all for telling the teacher another girl was disrespectful on the bus.

 
At Thursday, July 24, 2008 2:15:00 PM, Blogger M@ said...

I can sympathize with free speech to an extent, but tell that to the thirteen year old girl who found a locker room camaraphone image of her naked butt on the Internet with the caption, "Hi! I'm Amy Brown of 1822 Cleveland St, Canton Ohio, 44707. Call me at 330-555-9876 anytime. I like it in the butt," all for telling the teacher another girl was disrespectful on the bus.

--Sarc. Easy one. That's so NOT a speech issue. That's child pornography. Interesting how high school students these days are being warned that although they can get away with having sex w/ one another (for the most part), taking images of the acts are highly illegal, even for them.

 

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