Center Spread - December 2011 Content and Design by Emily Yip
Cyberbullying includes the transm ing of harassing messages, direct threats, o images on the Internet, social networking s using a telephone, computer, or any wireles bullying also includes breaking into anothe assuming that person’s identity in order to
Social networking sites, like Facebook and MySpace, are common sources of
cyberbullying. On April 28, 2011, the Los Gatos Patch reported that 25% of students aged 11-18 have been cyberbullied. One reason for the increase in cyberbullied social networking users is the ease with which perpetrators can post anonymously or under a alias. Sites like Formspring were originally created to allow for users to ask questions and receive “honest” answers. However, the power of anonymity was soon abused as users began to post degrading comments on other people’s pages. Even on more open sites like Facebook, cyberbullying still occurs, often through creation of pages that contain disparaging posts and humiliating photos. Furthermore, sites like Youtube feature a dislike button, which creates yet another simple method to cyberbully. Even though one single dislike may not seem like a soul crusher, an accumulated number of these “thumbs down” can easily lead people to hop on the bandwagon to target certain people or groups. Social networking sites also potentially allow for more damaging cyberbullying as personal information on facebook walls or various profiles are available for a many to see, even non-friends. With the advent of social networking sites, cyberbullying has become more popular, with 1 in 5 teenagers admitting to having cyberbullied before.
Severe cyberbullying is easy to identify--people recognize it when they see
it. Mild cyberbullying, on the other hand, can be difficult to distinguish due to similarities with teasing and trolling for fun. What may be teasing for one person could be cyberbullying for another.
An issue with teasing online is that the teaser may think they are just troll-
ing or having fun but the one being teased may interpret it differently. Cyberbullying has a natural tendency to only become more severe; rarely does cyberbullying lessen in intensity. Thus, sometimes people don’t realize that they have crossed the boundary between having fun and cyberbullying.
Emotional Disconnectio Because of the nature of a delayed response in cyberbu attachment in cyberbullying. Senior Alice Zheng says communication, there is a disregard to emotional feeli emotional ties.” Freshmen Oma Skyrus says “Since [cy face to face [they] are able to say more things without Without seeing the pain of the victim, cyberbullies les Anyone Can Be a Cyberbu While old-fashioned bullying was usually carried out b kids with more power, cyberbullies can be anyone. “In playing field for all perpetrators and victims of cyberb be anyone,” says Skyrus.
The Media of Text While verbal communication carries inflection, inflect another issue of cyber-communication is the transfer through text. Although some things said in text may b sage may not carry the sarcastic connotation through fine line between joking and bullying is blurred even m
Publicity and Anonymit Looking at the lack of privacy associated with cyberbu ling says, “Cyberbullying is inescapable. Whereas conv it rarely is intrusive into one’s life outside of school. W working sites, like Facebook, cyberbullying is also far bullying. Finally, cyberbullying can often be done mor passive-aggressively than typical bullying.” Junior James Garcia agrees, simply adding, “Everyone [cyberbullying] online.” Closely with this is the fact that cyberbullying gives pe anonymously. “Cyberbullying can be anonymous, so i Katie Barnes. In many cases of cyberbullying such as t face of Formspring, cyberbullies do not need to be nam Percentage of Students who claimed to have cyberbullied
Strongly Disagree 80
Student opinions on how well Aragon Administration responds to cyberbullying.
50 40 30 20
ly h ng ug tral ly o r o g t t n S u on ta tE Ne Str Very No No all
Agree Strongly Agree
To what extent do Aragon students agree with the statement that, “There is an increase of cyberbullying and a decrease of old-fashion bullying.”
20 boys and 33 g cyberbullied out dents that respon
mission of communications, postor other harmful texts, sounds, or sites, or other digital technologies ss communication device. Cyberer person’s electronic account and damage that person’s reputation.
on ullying, there is less emotional “Today with new forms of ings. There is a severing of yberbullies] are not talking an immediate response.” ss restricted in their actions. ully by majority groups or by the n a sense, the internet levels the bullying. “The perpetrators can
tion is lost in online text. Thus of sarcasm or connotation be intended as a joke, the mesto the reader. Therefore the more online.
ty ullying, junior Andrew Schilventional bullying is hurtful, With the advent of social netmore public than traditional re anonymously or more
e and their brother can see
erpetrators the chance to act it’s more cowardly,” says junior the anonymous question intermed.
Would outlawing cyberbullying be a violation of the first amendment? In 2008, California was one of the first states to pass legislature aimed directly against cyberbullying; it gave school authorities the power to discipline students for online bullying. However, such specific action has yet to be taken at a federal level. The Federal Anti-Cyber-Stalking Act of 2008 prompted support for legislation aimed more precisely at cyberbullying, and the same year, Congresswoman Linda Sanchez of California proposed the “Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act,” which would criminalize the use of electronic communication to harass, intimidate, or cause substantial distress in the United States. However, the bill has received criticism from many who believe it would violate the First Amendment. The First Amendment establishes the constitutional right of the freedom of speech, but the difference between online speech and hate crimes has yet to be federally determined. In March of 2010, a California appeals court was faced with this fundamental distinction. A 15-yearold student of Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles had created a website to promote his dream of becoming an actor and singer. Many other students of the private high school mocked his perceived sexual orientation and posted hurtful comments. The local police determined that the students could not be criminally prosecuted because they were entitled to free speech under the First Amendment. The father of the bullied student then sued six students for hate crimes, defamation, and intentional emotional harassment. In court, one defendant stated that his comments were “jocular” and should be treated as protected speech. Directly addressing this issue, the California court ruled that threatening posts or harmful comments posted online are not protected speech. In order for the “Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention” bill to become federal law, Congress would likely have to come to the same conclusion. Even if cyberbullying is determined to be unprotected by the First Amendment, the concept of cyberbullying may prove difficult to define. The vague language of the bill only hints at issues that would undoubtedly arise; if causing “substanial distress” is a criminal act, the gravity of any given “distress” must be determined and addressed according to law. Would all citizens suddenly be entitled to the right to not be offended? State laws have encountered all of these issues. In response to tragedy, many states have passed laws that criminalize cyberbullying, but the ambiguity of the legislation has led to even more difficulty in the process of addressing this issue. In 2010, the state of New Jersey passed the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights,” a law spearheaded by the bullying and suicide of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi. In addition to requiring school district education on cyberbullying prevention methods and reinforcing the suspension or expulsion of bullies, the law also extended schools’ responsibility to address cyerbullying that occurs off campus. Although students do not have the full liberty of free speech while at school, the First Amendment--as it stands now--does protect the speech of the general public. Many are concerned that the extent of New Jersey’s “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” has overstepped this constitutional propriety. Not only are administrators wary of restricting these rights, but many executives of New Jersey Schools are also concerned by the amount of time and resources needed to fulfill the law’s requirements of constant monitoring. A similar law in New York was deemed “the toughest cyberbullying law in the country” for the sheer severity of its consequences. Under this anti-cyberbullying legislation, any person who knowingly participates in cyberbullying has committed a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1000 and/or a year in jail--a penalty equal to that of a DUI offense. Although the concern over state laws indicates that a Constitutional amendment seems implausible, the issue of cyberbullying cannot be ignored. With the media age, an unprecedented source of conflict has appeared, and the law must adapt. Many foundations in the United States, including those in honor of Phoebe Prince and Megan Meier, have pledged to continue the support of a federal anti-cyberbullying law. In the UK, all state schools have been required to address cyberbullying since the School Standards and Framework Act of 1998, and with their Communications Act of 2003, cyberbullying was officially criminalized. However, these examples have received just as much criticism as stateside attempts. The question remains in how this issue will be addressed in the future.
- OLIVIA MARCUS
How big of a problem do you think cyberbullying is?
ot at all Small Medium Large
girls have been of the 53 stunded “yes.”
Percentage of Aragon students who have been cyberbullied
Phoebe Prince Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old Irish immigrant and freshman at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts, was bullied relentlessly through Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, and Formspring. On January 14, 2010, Prince committed suicide. Her death spurred an investigation of cyberbullying as a criminal offense, and nine South Hadley students were indicted as adults on felony charges. On May 3, 2010, the state of Massachusetts passed new anti-bullying legislature which defines cyberbullying as hostile behavior that disrupts life at school or at home and requires schools to provide plans for prevention and intervention. The Cyber Hoax, Megan Meier On October 16, 2006, a 13-year-old girl by the name of Megan Meier committed suicide in Missouri. Lori Drew, the mother of Meier’s former friend, had created a false MySpace profile and fabricated a potential crush in order to befriend and then humiliate Meier for spreading gossip about her daughter. The last message Meier received before hanging herself read “the world would be a better place without you.” The case sparked support for legislation against internet harassment, and in 2008, Missouri passed the “Cyber Harassment” law, extending the crime of harassment to include bullying through computers and phones and increasing the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony.
for victims of cyberbullying The most primitive step in the prevention of cyberbullying is ensuring that one maintains self control of the things one expresses towards other people. Remaining aware of the content released can inhibit the problem of cyberbullying before it has a chance to begin. Seeking help from one’s school, counselor, or other trusted adults is important if the cyberbullying becomes severe. One should also retain all evidence involved with the cyberbullying such as dates, descriptions and screen shots. If you or somebody you know is experiencing this, listed below are some resources that can help: TEEN LINE: 310-855-HOPE(4673) or text them at, “TEEN” to 839863. STARVISTA: (650)-579-0350 // CALIFORNIA YOUTH CRISIS LINE: 1-(800)-843-5200
CENTERSPREAD BY: EMILY YIP & EDITORS
Copyright 2011 The Aragon Outlook. All rights reserved. All content belongs to their respective owners.