Is technology responsible for cyberbullying? Does cyberbullying even exist? Yes, unfortunately, cyberbullying is a real phenomenon. Cyberbullying is the new term for online bullying, i.e. writing nasty comments about someone on the various social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. It has received a lot of press lately with some high profile teen suicides being blamed on cyberbullying. But the issue of whether or not technology is responsible is murky. The problem doesnt lie with technology but instead with the cruelty of people using online methods of taunting and harassing others.
Does Cyberbullying Exist?
Is it illegal to taunt someone online? Different states have different laws or regulations about cyberbullying. Massachusetts passed legislation in May and 44 other states have some sort of legislation pending, even if only to discourage bullying at school. There is concern among lawmakers that even if passed, there will be legal challenges concerning the right to free speech.
High profile teen suicides have made big splashes in the media. Tyler Clementi, a student at Rutgers University, committed suicide when his roommate posted some very personal info on the web about Tyler. The two fellow students involved have been charged with invasion of privacy that could result in 5 years in prison. Megan Meier, a 13 year who committed suicide, was taunted by an adult neighbor, Lori Drew, who posed as a teenage boy on MySpace. Ms. Drew was convicted, but the conviction was overthrown because the laws are so vague.
Many teens live in a nave world. They dont realize that what may have started out as a joke or a flirt could end up hurting their entrance into some colleges or even their careers later on down the line. Imagine how surprised and hurt that teen will be when the photo they sent over their phone to their current sweetheart ends up on the web after a breakup. James Lipton, Inside the Actors Studio on HBO, has been instrumental in a campaign about sexting, a term coined from sex and texting. See my blog, Sexting: Give It a Ponder before you text.
What is the solution? Do you think we need laws with stiff penalties to stop this new trend of cyberbullying? Is public awareness through the press, as well as campaigns at schools against bullying the answer? Clearly something needs to happen to protect the young people. Will it take more teen suicides to make this a top priority with lawmakers? But will the laws even be effective? Whats your take? Give us a shout about your feelings.
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