Social media has become a staple of our culture.
Sites like Myspace and Twitter have become rapidly popular. Facebook has become the most popular site and has even had a movie made about its creation. “The Social Network,” which was released on Oct. 1, details the lives of the men who created and shaped Facebook into what it is today.
With sites such as these, there are also hidden dangers like giving out too much information that can lead to identity theft and a more common problem: cyber bullying.
There have been many re- ports of online harassment and damage from online bullying on these social network sites. Phoebe Price was a 15-year-old student who had just immigrated to the United States from a small village in Ireland. She had problems adjusting to her new school and was incessantly harassed through Facebook by some of her classmates. On Jan. 14, she committed suicide. Her classmates just couldn’t stop teasing her and saying mean things to her just because she came from Ireland. Is it really fair to bully someone because of where they come from?
However, this is not uncom- mon. According to a 2010 survey by the Cyber Bullying Research Center, 20 percent of all 11 to 18-year-olds have been victims of cyber bullying. That’s two out of every 10 middle school and high school students in the country.
The survey went on to state that out of this percentage 20 percent of these students thought about suicide while 19 percent attempted suicide.
For a long time many re- searchers thought this was just a problem with middle school and high school students, but this problem is starting to expand into the collegiate environment.
Recently, Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, jumped off the George Washington Bridge to his death after being humiliated, taunted and teased via the Internet. Clementi’s roommate Dharun Ravi streamed video of Clementi during an intimate encounter with a young man in the dorm room they shared. Ravi not only streamed video on the Internet but also broadcast it to the world via his Twitter account. This was not the only time he did this. He also tried to show a broadcast of his roommate two days before he committed suicide. Ravi has been charged with invading Clementi’s privacy. In a way, Ravi could be accused of triggering Clementi’s suicide. He harassed him, humiliated him and broadcast his personal life for all the world to see.
Congress has started to take notice and a bill has already been put in motion to help prevent future cyber bullying. Representatives Linda Sanchez (D-CA) and Kenny Hulshof (R-MO) introduced the Megan Meier Cyber Bullying Prevention Act into the House on May 22, 2008. The bill states that any sort of electronic communication with the intent to harass or harm another person will be made a federal crime, which is punishable by a fine and/or two years in prison. This bill is already under fire because some say the bill in unconstitutional. The Internet is already unregulated so government interference is redundant due to lack of control.
Some might wonder who Megan Meier even was and what prompted this bill. Meier was a 13-year-old girl from Dardenne Prairie, MO. who thought she was becoming friends with a 15-year-old boy from Myspace when in reality it was her 50-year-old neighbor Lori Drew. Drew became Meier’s friend to gain information about her, which she then used against her. Drew stated she did this to get back at Meier for spreading rumors about her daughter. The “boy” persona from Myspace that Drew created began to harass Meier and allegedly drove her to suicide. Drew has since been indicted by a Federal Grand Jury and the city has passed an ordinance making online harassment a crime that is punishable by a $500 fine and 90 days in jail.
Cases like these could have been prevented. Bullying is a growing problem in today’s society. Why can’t everyone just be nice to each other and get along? No one gets along with every person but everyone deserves courtesy and respect. Hopefully by taking measures like these, bullying will become less of a problem. Just remember sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can definitely hurt too.