“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but texts/IMs/e-mails can never hurt me.”
The news is picking up on more and more cases of cyber bullying, talk show hosts clamoring about what “needs to be done to stop it”, and legislation is piling up to invade the anarchic realm of the internet with government watch dogs. October has even been deemed as “National Cyber Bullying Awareness Month.” Through all this frenzy, one may begin to question why cyber-bullying is any different from regular harassment that takes place in schools today.
I can think of a few legitimate ways it is different, having grown up on the internet and been through high school in the age of Myspace and the beginnings of Facebook, and dealt with my own fair share of this phenomenon. First off, the internet has no boundaries. If you want, you can bully anonymously and not get repremanded — if you leave no evidence of your identity behind. Secondly, there is a lack of face-to-face contact. It is a known fact that a person can “run their mouth off” on the internet and even say things they wouldn’t in real life. Third, the internet is very dynamic — right in front of your very eyes can be pictures, video, and text — certainly the perfect setting for a school bully to get creative and make an attack in every way possible. These factors in combination can result in online trickery, the spreading of lies, the posting of private information, hateful content and more — all with little to no consequences.
Certainly there are many ways to prevent cyber bullying without introducing legislation, including the following tips that advocate personal responsibility and online safety:
- Never post or share your personal information online (this includes your full name, address, telephone number, school name, parents’ names, credit card number, or Social Security number) or your friends’ personal information.
- Never share your Internet passwords with anyone, except your parents.
- Never meet anyone face-to-face whom you only know online.
- Talk to your parents about what you do online
- Refuse to pass along cyberbullying messages
- Tell friends to stop cyberbullying
- Block communication with cyberbullies
- Report cyberbullying to a trusted adult
While cyberbullying is a fairly new trend and can have extreme consequences, this does not mean that there needs to be a “war on the internet” and teenagers should not be granted access. There are many resources available for prevention and awareness and these should be utilized as much as possible. Just like whenever a few cases spring up around one certain hot-button issue, Senators are attempting to pass scary legislation involving cyberbullying disguised as beneficial to all, but ultimately harmful for our freedoms.