With the advent of the Internet, the world became a global village and it has created an entirely different world of social communications especially for young people. Young and old people alike can stay in touch with just about everyone – family, friends and classmates by using email, SMS text messaging, or chat rooms. Although most of these interactions are positive and friendly, there are some instances that these tools are used to antagonize, torment and intimidate others especially children. Such action is considered cyber bullying. The Internet can easily provide anonymity in terms of bullying others where in a face-to-face scenario one may hesitate to do so for fear of repercussions and punishment from the authorities. Whereas before, child bullies can only torment other kids within the confines of school. As soon as the tormented kid gets home, he can seek refuge in his home. But this is not the case nowadays.
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The Internet has provided another avenue for bullies to intimidate and torment kids away from adult supervision and punishment. It has become the perfect tool to reach out anonymously to just about anybody, at anytime and anyplace. The home which was once a refuge to those tormented kids has been broken from the pressures of peers and bullies. Because of the anonymity afforded by online communication, children feel free to do anything that they would not normally do in the real world. Thus, they feel that they can torment and antagonize just about everybody because of this anonymity without worrying that they will be identified and punished for their actions.
There are several ways in which young people bully others through the Internet. They send e-mails or instant messages containing insults or threats directly to a person. They may also spread hateful comments about a person through e-mail, instant messaging or postings on Web sites and online diaries (Media Awareness Network). Cyber bullying is admittedly challenging adult authority because of their failure to monitor and guide children more so with those using mobile phones that are web-enabled. Hence, victims get harassed both in school and at home because of its accessibility.
Because of the rising cases of cyber bullying, more and more people are getting concerned, especially parents of the victims of cyber bullies. According to a recent survey of 1,000 youth commissioned by the organization, one in three teenagers ages 12 to 17 and one in six children ages 6 to 11 have found themselves victims of cyberbullying--translating to about 13 million youth nationwide. (Anne Broache). Hence, anticrime groups and citizens are urging lawmakers to pass new laws that would specifically target cyber bullying.
However, such endeavor is met with strong oppositions coming from advocates of free speech. According to them, if such law against cyber bullying is passed, it would ultimately be tantamount to the curtailment of the freedom of expression and speech. Parents of the victims of cyber bullies on the other hand disagree. The emotional abuse is more difficult compared with the physical one. While physical scars heal for a short period of time, emotional scars are difficult to hear and likely to last a lifetime.
In the absence of specific laws against cyber bullying, parents and anticrime groups have found alternative ways to combat this new threat. Although some acts of cyber bullying are considered criminal acts because of its libelous and defamatory character, it is impossible to find the culprits behind such acts because of the nature of the Internet. Hence, there have been various ways in which authorities, parents, schools and the general public are addressing this new threat.
The first call is on the Internet Service Providers (ISP) and cellphone service providers to take a definite action on the problem. Since they are primarily responsible for giving access to Internet and phone use, they are urged to clearly define their Acceptable Use Policies (AUP) so that it will be made clear as to what are the guidelines and privileges in using their services. Failure to comply with such policies would mean appropriate punishment or actions against the violators.
A pro-active response is also encouraged among parents, schools and the public against cyber bullying. Parents are specifically encouraged to become more knowledgeable with the Internet and as much as possible be aware of what their children are doing while online. Communication is among the best tool to combat this threat. Parents are pushed to talk with their children and constantly have an open communication. It must be noted that cyber bullying occurs most of the time at home because of the lack of Internet restrictions unlike in schools where teachers and school authorities can monitor internet activities of kids.
On the other hand, schools are slowly getting active against cyber bullying and have already erected measures that will combat cyber bullying.
Aside from restricting Internet access such as chatrooms and forums, schools such as those in South Carolina are required by law to define bullying and outlining policies as well as repercussions for such behaviors including cyber bullying. Some schools have made it their policy that anyone caught of bullying and cyber bullying will be given punishments ranging from warnings to expulsions. Since the proposed bill against cyber bullying has been remanded back in Oregon, others schools have not waited for its approval to be passed and effected as a law and took actions themselves. The Sisters school district in Central Oregon adopted rules that allow it to revoke school Internet privileges from cyber bullies, or even expel a student in egregious cases. (Justin Norton).
Nonetheless, there is still a concern that despite having a law against cyber bullying, it does not ensure that cases of cyber bullying will stop. If cyber bullying is to be compared to rules on speed limit, there are already various laws on speed limit and yet, there are still many people who do not follow it. This is the same with cyber bullying. Even if there is already a law, some people will not still follow it.
Thus, anticrime organizations are advocating that authorities hold internet companies responsible for materials used for bullying which are posted and placed at their sites. Instead of deleting such materials, internet companies should be forced to keep bullying materials which will be used against bullies in case victims want to prosecute and use them as evidence.
Meanwhile, law enforcement authorities’ hands are tied up in the absence of pertinent laws regarding cyber bullying. They have a hard time finding culprits of cyber bullying who might as well be guilty of committing libellous and defamatory acts because of the apparent hesitance of ISPs to get involved. Also, because the culprits are using anonymous accounts and aliases, it is nearly impossible to track them and exactly pinpoint them as the perpetrators. But in fairness to lawmakers, they have unanimously approved a bill that would effectively require that chat rooms and social networking sites be restricted to minors in schools and libraries that receive federal budget subsidiaries despite staunch opposition from advocates of civil liberties and librarians.
But the only possible and real way to counter cyber bullying is for the victims to come forward and report it to adult authorities such as their parents, teachers and counsellors in order for them to take the necessary steps and actions against those cyber bullies. Victims of cyber bullying are urged to save and document those harassing messages and forward them to their ISPs which will take the necessary sanction against these cyber bullies or those who harass other people, even if they are kids. If worse comes to worse and children are threatened with their lives, they are advised to report it to the police at once. Indeed cyber bullying is a new threat that has proved difficult to counter and prevent. But like any other threats in society, it can be prevented and curtailed as long as each individual know his or her moral obligation and authorities are firm in their resolve that those found guilty of such act will not go unpunished and will be given sanction to the fullest extent of the law.
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