Bullying: Emerging in Online Social Networks

Cielo, a Los Angeles dreamer, enjoys recognizing images in the occasional cumulus cloud that meanders through the California sky, documenting interesting events and quotes and observations, and learning about different cultures, customs and lifestyles.

Perhaps when many parents were growing up, “bullying” required some physical contact or threats to be considered serious. These days, bullying takes various new shapes and forms. The more recent and ever emerging form of bullying is cyberbullying.

Recently, Matt*, a student at my school shared his sentiments of disapproval regarding a girl, Carol*, through the privacy of his Facebook page. Several students commented, adding their input, sharing what irritated them about the girl. After being warned that this post could result in major consequences, Matt assured everyone that the girl was not his friend on Facebook, thus things would be fine.

When the students returned to school, Matt and several of the students who also commented on the post had to deal with the school administration. An anonymous person had printed out the Facebook post and informed the school’s administration about it. In the end, Matt was forced to remove the post and warned about any further actions.

Many may think that this is not fair. It was posted in the privacy of his Facebook page. This is a free country with freedom of speech; Matt should feel free to say what he pleases. However, due to the recent (and increasingly common) suicides of young teens and college students due to verbal bullying, these types of actions are now being considered hate crimes. A few years ago, thirteen-year old Megan Taylor Meier committed suicide after her peers messaged and flirted with her from a fabricated Myspace account. Eighteen-year old Tyler Clementi killed himself after his roomate secretly streamed an intimate video of him online. Teens need to understand that in today’s society, things that they may consider “jokes” or their excercise of their First Amendment Right may not be so frivolous when someone responds to it by taking their own life. Fortunately in the case of Matt, Carol did not tragically respond to his insulting facebook post. However, if she had committed suicide, Matt’s comments, along with those of everyone else who contributed, can be used in an investigation that may result in an offense.

Teens and Parents, please remember these things when using the Internet:

  • There is no privacy online.
  • You will be held responsible for your actions and comments.
  • Verbal and cyberbullying, though non-physical, are still forms of abuse with grand consequences.

If you or your son or daughter is a victim of cyberbullying, please contact the school administration or visit this website for tips on what to do:

http://www.stopcyberbullying.org/

*These names have been changed.

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