Parents and lawmakers alike have begun the search for solutions to what is a slowly growing problem among our kids. While cyberbullying numbers are still low, there is a growing movement to start using legislation to hold children accountable, and more importantly raise awareness that there are consequences for bullying.
Though no law exists at the federal level yet, over half of the states in the US have included language in their laws on bullying to include cyber bullying, in light of the growing concern among parents. The basic components of these laws remain the same, in that any persistent demeaning, defamatory, or aggressive behavior towards a peer will be met with the juvenile justice system.
However, since we’re dealing with cyber bullying, there are also a few different components to these laws. For one thing, under much of this legislation, even spreading defamatory content produced by someone else (sharing) is still considered bullying, and the perpetrator will be held to the same standards as if they had produced it themselves.
One thing that’s really important to note with anti-bullying legislation in general is that it holds teachers and schools accountable for reporting and acting in case of it – and that includes cyber bullying. In states with these laws in place, schools are compelled by law to take action to correct the behavior, or face legal ramifications.
So laws are in place all around the country, but here’s the real question: Are they doing anything to put a stop to cyber bullying? The answer appears to be a bit mixed.
On the one hand, cyber bullying rates are actually down – it doesn’t happen nearly as often as what most people think, and even kids are becoming more and more vigilant in curbing the problem. It appears to the biggest help to the cause is simply raising awareness, and creating a positive, helping culture in general for kids to interact in.
School functions and materials with an emphasis on putting a stop to cyber bullying have definitely helped strengthen comradery and respect among students, and it’s becoming more and more “uncool” to pick on the little guy. Kids are stepping up to the plate, standing up for each other, and generally saying they’re not gonna take it anymore.
As tragic news stories of teens whose cyber bullying problems led to problems like extreme anxiety, depression, and even suicide surface, more and more lawmakers are feeling the social pressure to act.
While these laws may not do much harm, I think it’s important to realize their most important function: holding educational institutions accountable. It can be so hard to know what’s really going on at our kids’ schools, and even more difficult to know whether they’re dealing with bullying on a digital level from a peer.
All too often we see schools that can’t be bothered to act, and we see students paying the price. These laws don’t just spread awareness and provide legal consequences to the more serious cases, but motivate schools and institutions to think proactively when it comes to cyber bullying.
Surveys have shown that when it comes to how parents feel about punishing bullies, the majority of them believe that if it happens between classmates, it should be handled by the school via a suspension or detention – most parents agree that only extreme cases should be handled by juvenile law.
It’s been shown time and time again that punishment in the penal system is not an adequate deterrent for crime, and it stands to reason that the problem with cyber bullying is similar – the bullies aren’t usually too concerned with the consequences of getting caught. In this way, these laws may do little to actually prevent the occurrence, but at least ensure that there are consequences.
Ultimately, preventing cyber bullying is up to students and their parents. Laws can only do so much to protect our kids from the unpleasant encounters they’re going to have to deal with – it’s up to us to prepare them to handle these difficult social situations, and to empower them to seek help and take action.
The online world of social media has transformed the new generations social problems into ones that get complicated fast. These settings foster pack mentalities, and can quickly go ‘viral’, overwhelming the victim with the sheer number of predators at play in a given scenario.
Cyber bullying is a lot worse than the typical face to face bullying, because it just never lets up. There is no going home to get away, there is no getting to your next class to catch a break – it’s relentless messaging, liking, and sharing that’s enough to make anyone a nervous wreck, least of all a stressed out and hormonal teenager.
These problems have gotten a lot more complicated, but the basics stand true – teach your children to be proud and confident in the skin they’re in, and to never be afraid to be a strong voice for another that’s fallen victim to cyber bullying.
Ultimately, cyber bullying law should be regarded solely as a way to handle extreme cases, and ensure that schools are doing their part to curb hurtful and disruptive behavior – the rest starts with you and your child.