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University of Charlotte
Abstract This paper explores how cyber bullying has become a serious problem in schools of all levels. The new technologies that have grown in popularity over the past decade have enabled classroom bullying to go out of the classroom and into students¶ home lives. There have been numerous stories in the media lately that demonstrate the serious repercussions of cyber bullying. It has been a hot topic in the media lately, and there has been a lot said about the best way for parents and teachers to handle such matters. This paper investigates the ways of which cyber bullying is occurring, whom it is happening to, and what can be/is being done about it.
Cyber Bullying: The Mean Side of Media and how it is Affecting Students of All Ages Bullying has been a problem in schools since most of us can remember, but as modern technology continues to advance bullying has taken on a new guise. Children in school these days have so many more avenues of which they use to bully each other. Cyber bullying has been all over the news lately, and for good reason; technologies continue to advance, and this kind of torment continues to become increasingly prevalent. Bullying has been going on for as long as anyone can remember, and everyone has experienced it or been witness to it in one way or another. Up until pretty recently, a child dealing with a bully at school could escape it when he/she got home. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. New technologies make it possible for bullying to go beyond the classroom and into a child¶s home life. The majority of kids in middle school these days have cell phones (³Cell Phones,´ 2007), Facebook, MySpace, instant messaging, and maybe even Twitter at their disposal. As early as a decade ago, the large majority of children had never even heard of these devices. With that said, the new technologies being created aren¶t all to blame for bullying following kids home. Parents are putting cell phones into their children¶s hands at younger ages than ever before. As of 2007, twenty two percent of kids, ages 6-9, have cell phones (³Cell Phones,´ 2007). Parents want to be in constant contact with their kids, which results in fifth graders with cell phones; this has its pros and cons. Typical classroom bullying is already starting to become pretty intense at that age, and cell phones just give kids another avenue to bully one another. A common misconception about cyber bullying is that it stops after middle school, or highschool. However, stories in the media lately tell a different story. Cyber
bullying most certainly continues into high school, and in some cases even college. While the prevalence may not be as intense as it is in middle or high school, it seems clear that college students are dealing with cyber bullies as well. Up until a few years ago, it seemed that a blind eye, of sorts, was being turned to cyber bullying. The thought was that kids would be kids, and that they would ultimately get over it. It wasn¶t really acknowledged as a real problem; bullying was just one of those things that everyone experienced at some point or another, and then moved on from. It wasn¶t until it began to come to light that suicides were beginning to occur as a direct result of bullying, cyber bullying in most cases, that it was recognized as a real problem (Hinduja, & Patchin, 2010). Nowadays, when one turns on the news it¶s almost inevitable to see a story relating back to cyber bullying. In a lot of cases cyber bullying is a lot more dangerous and harmful than typical schoolyard bullying. For one, the victim can¶t just go home and get away from it; cyber bullying can happen without any face to face contact, which makes it all the more hurtful. The fact that cyber bullying occurs through technology makes it easier for someone to be more callous towards another than they usually would in person (³Cyberbullying vs. Traditional´). People are much more comfortable sending a scathing text message to someone than they are saying it to their face. It allows them to be doubly as cruel, without having to face the consequences of such words in a face-to-face conversation. There have been so many tragic stories that resulted from cyber bullying in the news lately, but there¶s two that stood out as particularly striking and noteworthy. The first is the heartrending story of Tyler Clementi, the freshman at Rutgers University who took his own life after his peers filmed him having a sexual encounter with another
male and posted it on the internet. After Clementi caught wind of the images on the Internet, he committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge (Friedman, 2010). Unfortunately, homosexuals seem to be amongst those getting the worst of the bullying. This story goes to show the serious repercussions that can result from what might seem like a joke at the time. The other story is also particularly striking and took place in 2007, the story of Megan Meier. This was one the first stories that really brought attention to cyber bullying, and how brutally harsh it can be. Megan Meier was a thirteen year old who suffered from depression and attention deficit disorder (³Cyber bullying led,´ 2010). She began corresponding with a boy named ³Josh´ on MySpace. The two spoke on MySpace for about a month, when ³Josh´ suddenly ended their friendship. Megan committed suicide the next day after Josh had told her that he no longer wanted to be her friend because he had heard she was mean and a bad friend. It was later revealed that Josh was not actually a real person, but a fake identity that had been created by a former friend of Megan¶s and the friend¶s mother (³Cyber bullying led,´ 2010). This story immediately was all over the media; it was the first time anyone had ever heard of a mother taking part in the bullying of another child in such a blatantly hurtful manner. This instance goes to show how unorthodox cyber bullying can be, its not always just text messages or Facebook posts that directly assault the victim. So what can be done about this? Or what is being done about this? No one seems to know who is responsible for handling this matter: the police, the parents, or the school (Hoffman, 2010). If there is no law prohibiting such cyber harassment, there isn¶t much the police can do. Congress is currently considering a bill intended to prevent cyber
bullying; this bill would make ³electronic communication intended to coerce, intimidate or harass a federal crime.´(Hoffman, 2010), which is a definite step in the right direction. Forty-four states already have bullying statutes, but much fewer have any type of rules intended to prevent the electronic type (Hoffman, 2010). Legally speaking, schools previously haven¶t had the jurisdiction to punish students for bullying that took place outside of school hours and off school grounds. However, courts have begun to side with principles in their decision to punish ³students who demean others online in dramatically different ways´ (Hoffman, 2010). Bernard James, an educational law scholar at Pepperdine University agrees that principals not only have the right, but the responsibility to protect students from such bullies: ³Educators are empowered to maintain safe schools. The timidity of educators in this context of emerging technology is working to the advantage of bullies´ (Hoffman, 2010). There is no doubt that the world is currently living in a context of increasingly booming technologies. As technological outlets continue to grow in quantity, it can be assumed that cyber bullying will also continue to become increasingly prominent. Small steps have been taken towards resolving this issue, but there is still much to be done in order to keep up with this growing epidemic.
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