October 12, 2010
A 21st Century Epidemic: Cyber Bullying
The Internet has a lot to offer: immediate answers, endless research, and easy communication with people all over the world. These were the intentions of the people who invented this product. America focused on the invention of the Internet and all its glory, but forgot to think about the evil that could come of it. It is generally known that with any great invention there are usually some potential negatives that absolutely must be considered. Cyber bullying is the most important aspect of the Internet that teachers, lawmakers, school administration, parents, and rising adults need to pay more close attention to. With developments like AOL Instant messenger (1997), MySpace (2001), and Facebook (2004), teens everywhere flocked to the idea of having a more private means of communication away from the school grounds and teachers. Above it all, students loved the idea of “not getting caught,” the ability to stay anonymous. (BizTech) For bullies, it was a way to bring that hurt and pain virtually anywhere the victim has access to media (cell phones, computers). Out of 2000 randomly selected middle-schoolers, 20% said they had at one point seriously thought about committing suicide and 19% had actually attempted it. (Cyber bullying Research Center) How many more children will die before the United States realizes that there is so much more they can do to put a damper on this online hate cycle? America needs to take affirmative action in the prevention of cyber bullying and not ignore that fact that is a strong contributor to teenage suicide rates. In Missouri, cyber bully victim Megan Meier hung herself in her bedroom at the young age of thirteen. She had been in an online relationship with who she thought was a sixteen-year-old Josh Evans who had a crush on her. Josh had enticed her into sexual conversation, confusing her when he asked about how he had heard of her rude behavior towards her friends, which she denied. After six weeks, she had hoped he would come to her upcoming birthday party, but instead, she received a final wall post, “I hope you have a shitty life. The world be a better place without you in it” (Sydney Morning Herald).” However, post suicide investigations lead to discover that “Josh Evans” was really Lori Drew, the mother of a girl whom Megan had allegedly had a back and forth friendship with her daughter, Sarah. It is sickening to know that a fully-grown adult whose job it is to raise her daughter and teach her right from wrong did such an awful thing to an undeserving child. Fifteen-year-old Phoebe Prince was another victim of both cyber bullying and bullying on school grounds. In her Massachusetts hometown, she had allegedly had a relationship and sexual relations with a seventeen-year-old jock in addition to another upperclassman. The older girls resented her popularity and good looks and berated her with rude comments. Her daily school encounters were never without a rude comment, like “Irish Slut” or “Whore,” thrown her way. (www.masslive.com) With absolutely no relief given by her school administration, she was not only berated at school, but online too. One day on her way home from school, an alleged bully threw an energy drink at Phoebe. Little did the bullies know that Phoebe would hang herself in herself in her stairwell that same day, only to be found a few hours later by her twelve-year-old sister. Tyler Clemente, A freshman at Rutgers, was secretly videotaped while having two sexual encounters with a male. His roommate, Dharun Ravi, who is responsible for the hidden camera, posted these tapes online over a course of three days. The Internet is viral and permanent, so naturally these videos were accessible my millions in mere seconds. Tyler was not open about his sexuality and had chosen not to share it with his family just yet. Feeling violated and embarrassed, he posted on his Facebook “jumping off the gw bridge sorry,” and then did it. (goarticles.com) His body was recovered a few days later. The fact that Dharun Ravi didn’t know better is sickening and its America’s responsibility to direct people away from cyber bullying at an early age in order to prevent it, even as people get older. Clearly common sense doesn’t reach all people equally. Megan Meier, Phoebe Prince, and Tyler Clemente: a charming girl, an Irish sweetheart, and a talented violinist. These cases brought attention to the fact that cyber bullies are legally getting away with driving teens to their deaths, and finally people are speaking up. In Megan Meier’s Case, police weren’t able to prosecute Lori for cyber bullying or computer harassment which led to the state of Missouri to finally take action in recognize that this is simply not OK. A Los Angeles court did manage to convict her of MySpace fraud on the grounds that the headquarters were based in LA, but that’s simply not the justice America boasts about. Megan’s case lead Missouri to revise harassment laws in response the Meier case. According to the St. Louis Daily Record, the "new language expands the definition of the crime of 'harassment' to include knowingly intimidating or causing emotional distress anonymously, either by phone or electronically, or causing distress to a child." (Wikipedia) It also "increases the penalty for harassment from a misdemeanor to a felony, carrying up to four years in prison, if it’s committed by an adult against someone 17 or younger, or if the criminal has previously been convicted of harassment." These are the types of laws that all states need to be making. Phoebe Prince’s six accused bullies, who dared to continue the bullying on online Phoebe fan sites and in school corridors, were indicted as adults on charges of everything from statutory rape to violation of civil rights, criminal harassment, disturbance of a school assembly, and stalking. Because of privacy laws, the outcomes of the trials are not revealed. We do know that some of the accused are being home-schooled and one has transferred to another school. Tyler Clemente’s family has yet to receive justice with his roommate. What a shame that Dharun Ravi didn’t have the incentive to take just a second to think about what could possibly happen to him if Tyler committed suicide, but why would he? There’s no punishment unless he directly murdered him. He’s currently being charged with violation of privacy and sexual exploitation. If in a decade from now, more laws have not been passed to help direct school action in respect to cyber bullying, we’ve got a huge problem. Ravi’s behavior shows that there is a flaw in our middle school system: cyber bullying wasn’t emphasized enough when he was younger. Due to the increase in recent cyber bullying related suicides, America is slowly becoming more aware, but some are still being blatantly ignorant of the grand effects of cyber bullying. In this year, 2010, it is no longer safe to have unlimited free speech. Free speech is what makes America both wonderful and unique to many other countries; however, is it really of the utmost importance that we protect cyber bullies, too? Absolutely not. We need limitations, restrictions, and America needs to make us scared. Many schools already have school wide assemblies that focus on bullying, but since when do a bunch of adults talking at teenagers ever really make a difference? First, these assemblies need to be state mandated. Second, during these assemblies they need to be shown how much potential harm their ‘harmless’ bullying carries. Show them something they’ll never forget, scar them. Show them the autopsy photos of these young adults with rope marks around their necks and blank, lifeless expressions on their faces. Show them a postmortem photo of Megan Meier still hanging in her closet, or Tyler Clemente’s waterlogged body as they pulled it from the river. These children will feel compassionate, scared, and hopefully develop resentment for those bullies responsible for their victims deaths; they’ll never forget what they see. As of now, states have acknowledged that cyber bullying is wrong but have left it up to schools to deal with it. Legislature needs to declare that cyber-bullying illegal and that should it lead to death, the bullies will be charged with murder. This is one of the best ways we can make cyber bullying minimal at the very least. But how can schools deal with it when they know there aren’t any laws that will uphold their case in court should they get sued for unlawful involvement? Only 12 out of 50 states have made laws stating that schools have the right to take action against off campus cyber bullying. We can’t wait for suicides in the other 38 states to start making laws change. The Federal Government needs to step in and make it national law that schools have the ability to reach out and stop the bullying. With so many schools ignorant of the bullying going on off campus, schools need to develop a way to make kids more comfortable sharing their troubles. Each child should be appointed an advisor that he/she is allowed to talk to at any time. A general school councilor isn’t going to cute it; they need someone they can trust and build a close bond with. If every teacher acted as an advisor to just a handful of children, they would be able to develop a close enough relationship with them to dive into worries and troubles both on campus and at home. Advisors would be able to identify and stop the problem before it escalades into something they wish they had stopped long before. Thanks to the First Amendment, cyber bullying is yet another perk that comes with being an American that allows people to express their opinions, despite how hurtful and injurious they may be. I’d like to hear what a “First Amendment Junky” has to say when he finds his daughter hanging by a noose in her bedroom closet. Perspectives and opinions change when they hit closer to home, but we can’t afford to wait because soon it’ll be too late. We live in a world that has technology surpassing our legislature and common sense. We need to catch up, and fast.
Thank you for voting.
If proven, should the pair accused of broadcasting Tyler Clementi's sex life be held criminally accountable? Yes, they violated his privacy and drove him to suicide.| 37%| | No, they should receive punishment for taping him, but they didn't kill him.| 62%| | I don't know.| 1%| |
"Is Cyber-bullying a Crime? - BizTech - Technology - Smh.com.au." Sydney Morning Herald - Business & World News Australia | Smh.com.au. 21 May 2009. Web. 1 Oct. 2010. <http://www.smh.com.au/news/technology/biztech/is-cyberbullying-a-crime/2009/05/21/1242498854929.html>.
That, By. Cyberbullying Research Center - Findings, Stories, Cases, Downloads, Fact Sheets, Tips and Strategies, News Headlines, a Blog, and Other Helpful Resources. Web. 3 Oct. 2010. <http://www.cyberbullying.us/>.
"Suicide of Megan Meier." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 5 Oct. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_of_Megan_Meier>.
"How Lori Drew Became America's Most Reviled Mother." Sydney Morning Herald - Business & World News Australia | Smh.com.au. 16 May 2008. Web. 29 Sept. 2010. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2008/05/16/1210765091402.html
"Court Documents Detail Hurtful Interactions between Alleged Bullies and