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“Cyberbullying is bullying through e-mail, instant messaging, in a chat room, on a Web site, or through messages or photos sent on a cellular phone” (Allman 44). Although many people know how to ignore people who bully over the internet, teens should still report cyberbullying if they see it. Many people are hurt by what people say over Facebook and Twitter. Some have even committed suicide. Because cyber bullying has been the cause of so many lives taken, people should know what cyber bullying is, understand the effects, be familiar with the law, and prevent cyber bullying from continuing.
The Internet has taken over the world. Instead of calling someone for a conversation, people text each other. To catch up on old friends, people use Facebook and Twitter. Networks like Facebook and Twitter have millions of users online daily. Social media has changed the face of the Internet. People are now connecting, sharing, reuniting, and making new friends. People also use social media to promote their music, and potentially be discovered. In this modern time, your whole life can be stored on a smart phone. It carries your files, media, music, email, and your social life. However, with all these benefits, when does technology have its bad affects?
Cyberbullying affects people in many ways. For the bully and the victim, cyberbullying can affect your reputation. You can even be rejected from your dream school. Cyberbullying also causes stress, depression and thoughts of suicide (Stop Cyberbullying). Cyberbullying can kill. Sending hate messages via Internet could end someone’s life. “Take 13-year-old Hope Witsell. Last year, the Ruskin, Fla., middle schooler sent a photo of her breasts to a boy she liked. Another student got hold of it and it went viral. In Hope’s case, it worked with devastating effect. On Sept. 12, 2009, she took her own life. Hope’s death is part of a disturbing trend – teens who commit suicide in the face of merciless bullying, often online” (Hunter).
Another example of cyberbullying was a teenager named Jamey who was bullied because he was gay. “Police have opened a criminal investigation in the suicide death of Buffalo, N.Y., 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer, who was bullied online with gay slurs for more than a year. The teen’s parents, friends and even Lady Gaga, who was his idol, have expressed outrage about what they say was relentless torment on social networking websites. Jamey had just started his freshman year at Williamsville North High School. But the bullying had begun during middle school, according to his parents. He had told family and friends that he had endured hateful comments in school and online, mostly related to his sexual orientation” (James). This proves that tormenting someone on a social network is not a game to play. Many people believe that people don’t take things seriously, that they’re as tough as they portray themselves to be. Someone online can never tell if the jokes and threats being typed could actually contemplate death. Most people do not take people’s emotions seriously and what they could do to themselves. Everyone takes things and copes in a different way. Some may drop it because it’s “Just the Internet.” However, some may take things more seriously and to the heart.
So if there are so many affects of cyberbullying, how does someone know if they’re a bully too? Some questions to be asked are, “Have I ever signed in on someone else’s screen name to get information?” “Have I frightened or threatened someone in an email or tweet?” “Have I used profanity online?” If so, that person could be hurting someone right now without realizing what they’re doing. (Stop Cyberbullying)
What should teens do when cyberbullying happens? Well, silence is not an option. If everyone is educated on how to not respond to someone online inappropriately, there wouldn’t be victims being scared of going to school or having their self esteemed shattered by a status. Kids should be encouraged to calm down if they get upset. This includes logging off from the computer and trying other stress relieving ways to cope without using profanity and threats over the internet to one of their peers to calm them down. This includes going to a friend’s house, playing a sport, cooking, etc. Also, kids can talk to the school administration and their parents and ask to be anonymous. If this is done, there can be fewer victims over the web and end cyber bullying all together.
Since this kind of bullying has taken so many young lives, is there a law for people who find entertainment in tormenting people over the internet? Well, there is. And people do get locked up for it. “In libel cases, the target can lay a suit against the person making the statement. If the suit is successful, the person making the statement will have to pay damages (money) to the target.” (Media Awareness Network) Not only does the bully have to pay, but also the school they attend. “A school or workplace that does not do everything it can to provide a safe environment can be sued by the target(s). Even if a statement is not libelous, spreading it around might still create an unsafe environment.” (Media Awareness Network)
In the past, there have been serious consequences for high school students when their victim takes their own life. But what is the law? When does your right of freedom of speech end for you and could get you arrested? For example, “Nine Massachusetts teenagers have been charged with involvement in a months-long campaign of bullying that led to the suicide in January of a 15-year-old girl, a prosecutor said Monday. “It appears that Phoebe’s death on January 14 followed a torturous day for her when she was subjected to verbal harassment and physical abuse,” she said.” (CNN) Or another example,”16-year-old female student at Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas, Va., is accused in a police affidavit of creating a Facebook page called “Stonewall hoes” and posting pictures of nine other students at the school with lewd captions beneath each.” (Gordon) Many people could argue that the girl, and ever other son or daughter who exiled themselves over a tweet or text, were just too sensitive. That it was their fault for taking comments so seriously. However, it is never okay to humiliate and hurt someone. Not only can it cause depression but it is also against the law.
“Cyberbullying laws already exist in some states. These include Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont, and Washington. Other states including New York and Rhode Island, are considering such laws” (Allman 29) Many states are taking a stand against cyberbullying. Virginia calls it Harassment by Computer. Punishments can be up to a year in jail and also fines (Allman 30). Before a person thinks of trying to threat someone via internet or text message, they should think of the laws. How would it affect their family? How would it affect the rest of their lives when they’re adults? “In Virginia, for example, Chad ended up in juvenile court. He had IMed his buddies with threats against a former girlfriend. Chad got nailed because Virginia makes cyberbullying a criminal act when it involves a threat” (Allman 29).
However, how is cyberbullying being prevented? How is the government handling the bullying before it kills another teenager? “Many states have taken the easy way out by simply passing laws saying effectively “schools need to deal with this.” Not only have they stopped short in terms of providing specific instructions or even a framework from which schools can evaluate their role, but they have not provided any resources to address these issues” (Cyberbullying Research Center). Yes, teaching students about how to handle cyberbullying and ways to control their emotions is a way to do it, but who knows if each teacher is as informed about cyberbullying as they should be?
Just as in reading, writing, and other subjects, some teachers are masters in their field. They’ve been trained and have gone to school to teach that specific subject. However, when the government suddenly places it in the teachers hands, they’re not experts in the cyberbullying field. So for the government to put the responsibility on the schools is not always the most best idea. Some students could possibly not get the same cyberbullying education as others, and also they could learn the wrong information, like a way teenagers can cope when they see something on the internet that makes them mad and upset. The teachers can tell the children to respond without cursing and threats, but still in an assertive way to still get their point across, and that might not always be the greatest idea.
Cyberbullying is the reason why so many teenage lives were stolen, but could’ve easily been prevented. It is important to remember that when on your e-mail, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, etc., that we learn to how to not send hate messages, and if you do receive them, to not express anger and write and even more hateful reply. It is also important to remember that when we see cyberbullying, silence is not golden and we should not help the bully by joining in on the tormenting. Tell someone and report it because it could prevent a suicide. Also, we need to learn the laws of cyberbullying so people can understand how important it really is. Cyber bullying is a real murderer. Murder is a real crime.
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