By Whitney Leggett, CV&T Editor
I’m pretty sure that not too many young and fun teenagers are very interested in reading what I have to say about life each week. Granted, they are probably closer to my age than many of my readers. Most of my readers are probably significantly older than me but, I find it difficult not to discuss things that in some way relate to people my age. The good thing about my topic this week is that even though it may not directly relate to many of my older readers, they can be helpful.
As a young kid I remember witnessing bullying in school, at lunch and on the playground. Although I have never felt that I was the victim of bullying, I was subjected to some mean comments from other kids. In high school it wasn’t so much about how you looked anymore. Young girls were made fun of for dating around and other girls can be viscious with their name-calling at that age.
However, these days, a whole new form of bullying has come about and it seems to have caused more harm that the typical playground bullying of the past. Cyberbullying has caused several young adults and teenagers to resort to suicide over the last decade.
According to stopcyberbullying.org, “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. It has to have a minor on both sides, or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor.”
The statistics surrounding the trend are alarming.
According to recent surveys, 33 percent of children will be subjected to bullying over the internet or through text messaging. This means that one of every three kids will fall victim to cyberbullying.
Even more alarming is that 41 percent of kids who were victims of cyberbullying never told a parent, teacher, relative, or authority figure about it.
This makes it increasingly difficult for parents to protect their children from bullies because there is a good chance if their child is a victim they will never even know it.
I never really considered how detrimental cyberbullying could be until just the last few years. There have been several reports of cyberbullying that have pushed young people over the edge. What particularly has this topic on my mind now is a film that ABC Family showed Sunday evening.
Simply titled Cyberbully, the film tells the story of a young girl with her first social networking site. The site, similar to Facebook, allows uploads of photos, videos and status updates. Other users can comment on anything that the person posts.
This young girls classmates begin harrassing her online calling her horrible names, making false claims about her character and eventually pushing her to the point of total alienation. She tries to commit suicide at the peak of the harassment but, is saved by a friend and her mother.
The rest of the movie documents her recovery and her efforts to pass legislation against cyberbullying. Many states, including Kentucky, have passed laws against cyberbullying and other harassing communications.
KRS 525.80 specifically defines harassing communications and the definition includes student enrolled in public schools who use the internet to target other students. In Kentucky harassing communications is a Class B misdemeanor.
The sad truth is that in our technology-dependent society students can no longer go home and be free of bullying. Home is not a safe haven for students who are victimized at school. The bullying follows them and pushes them to measures that are irreversible and devastating.
This new trend is one that needs to be stopped. I don’t know if there is an end to cyberbullying in sight. But, I know that celebrities, authors and lawmakers are doing their part to stop it.
If you are reading this and you are or have been the victim of cyberbullying, don’t be afraid to tell someone. If you are a cyberbully, please consider the consequences. To parents, grandparents and guardians: talk to teens and young children who are using the internet. Teach them about safety and about the devastating toll that cyberbullying is taking on the young people in America.
For more information about cyberbullying and prevention, visit www.stopcyberbullying.org.