Cyberbullying: The Face of 21st Century Bullying
Although bullying has been around for decades, the spectrum for bullying has reached the vast and unregulated digital domain, where people use computers and cellphones to take bullying to entirely new levels.
"Cyberbullying is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones," according to stopcyberbullying.org.
While face-to-face bullying continues to occur in traditional settings, such as on school or campus grounds, the increased numbers of teens, preteens, and children who have embraced social networking and digital devices in their everyday lives are using these technologies to harass, intimidate, embarrass, and threaten other children. In addition, the problem only appears to be getting worse.
Cyberbullying has become the most common outlet for threats and harassment endured by American teens. It effects more than half of all teens across the U.S. and every day some 160,000 teens around the country miss school because of intimidation or fears of attack, according to the National Education Association.
"Technology is what teens are doing these days. There are some kids who say things online they would never say … in the real world," co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center in Wisconsin Justin Patchin told Capital News Service.
Cyberbullying can come via emails, instant messages, text messages, chat rooms, social media websites, interaction through online games, and more.
It can be extremely dangerous and damaging to the emotional and physical development of youth and its consequences are as extreme and sometimes more extreme than traditional bullying because cyberbullying opens up students to the possibility of 24-hour torment.
Cyberbullying has been found to cause depression and anxiety among teens and has also been linked to high profile cases of teen suicide, including the 2010 suicide of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi who jumped to his death after his dorm roommate used a webcam to spy on a personal encounter between Clementi and another man.
Other high profile teen suicides linked to cyberbullying include the 2010 suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, an Irish immigrant taunted and told to go hang herself by students at her Massachusetts school, and the 2006 suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier of Missouri who was befriended than ridiculed on MySpace by a group of children and adults using a hoax account.
The issue has become so pertinent among American youth that lawmakers across several states have sought to enact cyberbullying laws to prevent and punish electronic harassment and threats endured by teens.
Lawmakers in Delaware, Indiana, Maine, Kentucky, and New York are looking to criminalize cyberbullying by including it in already existent anti-bullying laws. The laws would require schools to adopt anti-cyberbullying policies and determine how schools would be required to regulate off campus behavior without violating the First Amendment.
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