Cease-fire from cyberbullying

Bullying occurs in schools everyday. More popular kids consistently pick on less popular kids. I’m not validating bullying, I’m just recognizing that it happens on a daily basis in schools and campuses across the country.

However, the recent spike in bullying, and subsequent suicide is too much for me to ignore.

On Sept. 22, Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington bridge after discovering that his roommate Dharun Ravi and friend Molly Wei had allegedly taped him having sexual encounters with another male student and broadcast it over the Internet.

This is one of five suicides that have occurred in the past three weeks due to students being bullied.

Clementi’s story is just one of the hundreds of cases of students who have committed suicide after being bullied in school and online.

Cyberbulling is a disturbing trend in our country.

It is hurtful, threatening and highly effective: shown  in the alarming number of students ending their lives over comments made on Facebook.

This unique form of bullying is almost more dangerous than the bullying that most students encounter at school because these bullies follow their victims home.

They get the opportunity to come into their victims’ homes and terrorize them in a new way.

Cyberbulling is causing the spike in suicides because victims feel like they have nowhere to turn.

They are attacked at school, attacked at home, and to them, there is no escape. Clementi is not the only adolescent who has committed suicide due to cyberbullying.

On Jan. 14, Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old student in South Hadley, Mass., hung herself in her home after months of torment via Facebook from her peers at South Hadley High School.

So why are we letting cyber-bullying continue?

According to ABC News, “41 states and the District of Columbia have anti-bullying measures and 23 have statutes against cyberbullying. Massachusetts is not one of them.”

The lack of statutes against cyberbullying within schools is what frustrates me the most.

Every parent, school administrator, guidance counselor and teacher needs to realize the damage and terror that cyberbullying inflicts on the youth of this country.

It is awful that children are committing suicide in an attempt to escape it.

In the past three weeks, there have been five suicides, with victims, like 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, taking their lives as a result of relentless bullying.

According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, of the 20.8 percent of children who say that they have been bullied, 17 percent claim that they have been victims of cyberbullying at least two times or more.

These statistics show that every state needs to have a firm, zero tolerance law in place for cyber-bullying. It has become an epidemic in our country, driving children to suicide because they think there is no other way out.

According to thethinkingstick.com, the most accessible outlets for cyberbullies are Facebook and cell phones.

The use of Facebook and cell phones at increasingly younger ages gives bullies the two perfect outlets to target their victims effectively.

It is easy to create a Facebook page for another person and even simpler to navigate the site.

In February 2010 in Newburyport, Mass., high school bullies created a fake Facebook page about another boy and then posted numerous disparaging comments about him.

Although the boy thankfully did not commit suicide, the other boys were accused by police of cyberbullying the victim.

Another component of cyberbullying rests on the shoulders of Web sites such as Facebook.

How much social networking sites like Facebook can really be held accountable for, especially when taunting through their websites causes children to take their lives.

In an article by readwriteweb.com contributor Sarah Perez, “In December, Facebook began a major push to open up people’s profiles and make the network more public.”

These new changes on Facebook make it much easier for others to see what the rest of their friends are doing, “liking,” posting, adding and “tagging.”

Bullies can now see more of their peers’ profiles, giving them more at which to pick.

Facebook is essentially creating a bully-friendly environment, whether they realize it or not.

College students and young adults are not the only users on Facebook.

There are millions of tweens who are navigating the site as well, and with Facebook privacy settings being more open, kids are more likely to be  possible victims of cyber-bullying.

While Facebook is generally the first thing that I open in my browser, it has become a terrifying Web site for children who are being cyber-bullied. Only awareness of schools and parents can help end this vicious cycle of violence and make the internet safe for our youth.


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