In our tech-savvy society, cyber-bullying has become a rampant problem. Instead of pushing and shoving on the playground, bullies now harass on the internet, hiding safely behind an anonymous veil.
Cyber-bullying is the repeated harassment of a person through an electronic medium, such as e-mail, text messaging, or social networking sites (Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, etc.). It is most common among children and teenagers who have easy access to these modes of communication at incredibly young ages. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, 43% of teenagers report that they have, at one point, been victims of cyber-bullying and 20.1 percent of reported that they were affected by online rumors. This demonstrates how serious cyber-bullying is becoming. If you’re interested in even more statistics around cyber-bullying, check out BroadbandSearch and their articles on the subject.
There are several forms of cyber-bullying. The first, and most common, is when a cyber-bully harasses a person via degrading texts, e-mails, or other electronic messages. Another type occurs when a cyber-bully steals a person’s identity (i.e. their Facebook or Myspace profile) and defames their character by acting inappropriately in the social media sphere. All forms of cyber-bullying are dangerous and detrimental to a person’s mental and emotional health. There are ways in which you can fight back, such as keeping evidence of any posts created to harm you. For example, this instagram story viewer allows you to save stories to your own device.
Since it is still in its infancy, lawmakers are now struggling to pass effective legislation that prohibits cyber-bullying. Only a handful of states have passed laws that deal directly with cyber-bullying. Most states merely categorize it under existing harassment laws.
Minnesota law states that “Each school board shall adopt a written policy prohibiting intimidation and bullying of any student. The policy shall address intimidation and bullying in all forms, including, but not limited to, electronic forms and forms involving Internet use” (revisor.mn.gov).
This statute is well-intentioned but not very effective. Less than half of Minneapolis Public Schools currently have a written policy on cyber-bullying. Schools also refuse to get involved in incidents that occur after school hours, which is when most kids spend time online. Even when an incident is investigated, it is nearly impossible for school administrators and police to keep track of a student’s online activities because of the anonymity the internet provides.
“Our current laws are extremely insufficient regarding this issue in that they don’t deal specifically with cyber-bullying,” says Criminal Defense Attorney, Avery Appelman. “Lawmakers are doing our children a disservice by not including specific cyber-bullying laws in the legislature.”