By Jessica Weinberger, CFCC Student Fellow 2010-2011
Due to the rise in popularity of social networks over the past ten years, cyber-bullying has been on the increase, and some social scientists believe bullying may be one of the most prevalent causes of teen suicide. As a result of cyber-bullying, teens’ personal, private situations are becoming public for the world to see, and some teens see no other way out.
Imagine being fifteen years old and your friends have been collecting pictures of you on the weekends. One evening the pictures are posted to Facebook and every picture displays you making intimate physical contact with male classmates. Each friend comments under the pictures making references about your sexual reputation. At fifteen this would be extremely embarrassing. The thought of showing your face in school Monday morning would be impossible. Your private, extra-curricular conduct is now the talk of the school. Seemingly, the only way out at such a vulnerable age is suicide.
Recently, Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, took his own life after his roommate streamed a video on the internet revealing an intimate encounter between Tyler and another man. As a result of the video being leaked onto the internet, Clementi took his own life by jumping off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River. This story, sadly, is one of many.
In a recent class discussion, one of the CFCC Student Fellows mentioned that one of the Truancy Court Program participants was being bullied by her fellow peers, and the school seemed to brush off the situation. When situations like this occur, the school needs to play an active role in extinguishing the problem as soon as it is presented. The bully needs to be reprimanded for his or her actions, because if the problem persists, the bully will soon realize he or she can continue to bully his or her peers, fulfilling a sense of power and entitlement.
Bullying has been around for ages. It is nothing new; however, with the rise of social networks, the scope of bullying has broadened from merely in-school, to out of school, and children and young adults are being affected in a whole new way. This reaction may be due to a lag between school policies and new technology. Education begins with the students. Teens need to be educated on what is and what is not appropriate for the internet. The internet is a very powerful tool. Teen girls might not think the consequences a Myspace hoax played on their thirteen year old friend would ultimately lead to her taking her own life. Teenagers need to be supervised both at home, in the neighborhood, and at school. Parents need to get involved and speak to their children about both how to deal with a bully and the consequences of bullying. Schools need to implement strict policies on how to deal with bullying, including counseling sessions, providing protection for the victims of bullying, and providing for sanctions for bullies, whether or not their conduct falls within the scope of their education.