The rise of the Internet has led to amazing improvements in communication. Unfortunately, it also has its downsides. One is cyberbullying, which is on the rise in the sometimes anonymous environs of the World Wide Web. Internetserviceproviders.com describes how the adoption of mobile devices has led to better access to would-be victims by bullies. These digital interactions have real-world consequences for everyone involved, namely the kids exposed to hate an verbal abuse through their electronic devices.
Parents used to have an easier time protecting their children from bullies, but this new trend in digital assault tests relational limits. As officials across the country scramble to establish cyberbullying laws, parents need to be proactive about their children’s online activity.
flickr image by Matt Anderson
The Consequences of Cyberbullying
Digital assaults have serious real-world consequences. Kids and young adults have taken their own lives after being bullied electronically. Vicious rumors spread via picture messages or Facebook groups are as hurtful as words spoken to someone’s face. In the aftermath of a reaction to cyberbullying, the victim’s family might feel anger, frustration and confusion. Often, this sort of bullying goes on under the radar, and parents find themselves feeling as though they could have done more to protect their children.
Bullies often don’t realize the consequences of their actions until after tragedy strikes. Similarly, their parents feel the weight of failure at the thought that their son or daughter could treat another person in such a manner.
Complicated in the Eyes of the Law
The ramifications of cyberbullying extend beyond those who are immediately involved. Law enforcement has struggled to keep up with these fast-evolving crimes. While politicians are quick to take a stand against online bullying, it raises questions:
- How culpable are parents and schools?
- Should schools ban social network usage?
- When does cyber bullying become a crime?
- Do hate crime laws cover Internet bullying?
- How should law enforcement address cases that happen outside of school property and hours?
Lawmakers also have a difficult a time when it comes to protecting potential victims. Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa of New Jersey stated the problem eloquently when he said, “You want policies that will protect children, but also will survive the (legal) scrutiny that it will inevitably be exposed to.” He went on to state that no matter where the law draws the line, someone will have a problem with it, NJ.com reported. Perhaps that’s why getting any laws set in stone has been so difficult thus far.
Current hate-crime laws cover some of the issues that arise from cyberbullying. In New York, Dharun Ravi received a 30-day sentence for terrorizing a fellow Rutgers student online, but current laws aren’t enough, Thomson Reuters reported. In Florida, the Senate Rules Committe gave the go-ahead to bill SB 626, which directly deals with cyberbullying and the House has already passed, according to CBS Miami. The bill gives schools the right to discipline students for actions of cyberbullying.
The United States isn’t the only country to deal with the recent increase — up to 50% in the past year, according to NJ.com — of bullying via the Internet. Novia Scotia, Canada is also enacting laws to protect victims of this type of bullying. The Cyber-Safety Act establishes a department to specifically investigate crimes of this kind. Like the Florida bill, this act gives schools the right to discipline bullies, and penalties include fines up to $5,000 or six months jail time, reported CTV News.