In the United States the second leading cause of teenage death is suicide. Laws that promote awareness and education about Cyber-Bullying are needed to help prevent more situations like that. Due to the growth of technology in the American society, younger generations are adapting to the excessive use of computers, cell phones, and social media. According to a study done by Amanda Lenhart, 87% of children who are between the ages of 12 and 17 are using the internet on a daily basis (Trolley, Shields, and Hanel, “Demystifying and Deescalating Cyber Bullying in the Schools”). Numbers of children are being harassed through technology and these numbers are increasing across the nation day by day. “Cyber Bullycide” is defined as the relationship between cyber bullying and teenage suicide has been named. Studies show that 1/3 of teenagers who have used the internet have stated that they have received threatening or offensive messages either through e-mail, text social media, Instant massages, and other forms of technology related programs. In 2007 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially labeled “electronic aggression” also known as cyber bullying as an “emerging public health problem” (Billitteri 387).
Physical bullying that used to occur mainly at school, has now been over powered by harassment through the Internet and other technologic resources. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary “cyber bullying” is defined as the electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person (such as a student) often done anonymously. Many believe that in some cases cyber bullying is a new “manifestation” of what used to occur as traditional bullying (Billitteri 387). Middle school students are a specific age group/grade that are involved with this trend because their prime means of communicating with one another involve chat rooms, Instant messages, and E-mail. Cyber bullying is mainly seen through cell phones, personal websites or Social- media websites, E-mails, personal polling websites, and chat rooms. Many adolescents feel more comfortable, confident and powerful behind a computer screen hiding themselves from doing such an act in person at school. Written in an article by Robin M. Kowalski, between 49% and 70% of victims do not know who is virtually bullying them making the perpetrator ultimately anonymous (Robin M. Kowalski, “Cyber Bullying”). The Perpetrator often wants to remain incognito because of the fear the fear of getting caught by an authority figure thus, resulting in the removal of their electronics, outings etc. Another reason could be because they feel more powerful and useful behind the scenes due to an underlying reason at home. There are a variety of factors that motivate and contribute to a person to target someone through cyber bullying. The most common reason is that many feel the need to bully in retaliation for being a victim through the traditional form of bullying. Another reason that a person may engage in cyber bullying is to gain a feeling of power and have control over other individuals making them feel better about themselves. Lastly, unfortunately many adolescents do it simply because of their boredom and as a form of having fun.
Even though cyber bullying is more common in the younger age group, it can affect adults as well. Proof of this is viewed through blogs, online postings and anonymous columns on newspaper websites. Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group in New York, wrote “A number of sex offenders have been targets of violence from strangers who take it upon themselves to ‘eliminate’ sex offenders from communities,” proving that cyber bullying can happen to anyone (Billitteri 396).
As cyber bullying increases, Congress along with schools nationwide are taking action aiming to improve online safety. As technology in the 21st Century grew and continues to grow in the American society. The year of 1997 marked the first year of research interested in Internet crimes committed against youth online. The National Youth Internet Survey found that 1 out of 17 kids were harassed or threatened through the Internet. In 2000, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act came in place, giving parent’s the power to decide what information could be collected or used online for children under 13 (Billitteri 399) . The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program founded by Dan Olweus, has been given high praise for its efforts in educating students about cyber bullying this is in attempts of reducing this issue. Olweus’s program, which is currently being used by 2,000 elementary and middle schools in the United States, consists of classroom discussions, surveys of students and training programs for teachers and administrators. The Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use has also reached out to the efforts in promoting awareness to cyber bullying (Billitteri 399).
Solutions to cyber bullying are continuing to be researched by anti-bullying/anti suicide advocates and researchers. One solution according to an article written by Thomas J. Billitteri would be to encourage adolescents to “police” themselves from any signs of cyber bullying (Billitteri 398). According to the research guide done by Dr. Barbara Trolley, Constance Hanel, and Linda Shields to aid teachers in handling cyber bullying the four solutions include focusing on values of kindness and respectful human relations, enhancement of empathic awareness, development of effective solving skills, and empowerment of bystanders (Trolley, Shields, and Hanel, “Demystifying and Deescalating Cyber Bullying in the Schools”). Social-networking sites now offer safety tips, settings to block unwanted users, the advantage of reporting harassment and overall protection & privacy. In 2007, the well-known social networking website, MySpace, agreed to provide state officials the names, addresses, and online profiles of thousands of known sex offenders’ accounts in efforts to deleting their online profiles. A year later the site also agreed to develop technology and work with law enforcement officials to improve children’s protection allowing parents to submit their child’s email addresses to block them from creating a profile.
Similar to other programs throughout the nation this bill will promote and further educate others on the effects of cyber bullying as it poses to be a threat in the future generation of adolescents growing up in America. The bill will implement a program called “The Cyber Bullying Protection Program” which will consist of a four-week curriculum in the classrooms of high schools. Although middle schools are mainly associated with cyber bullying many teenagers seem to carry these habits onto the first years of high school. The curriculum will be taught in health classes by teachers who will undergo training in how to react or aid a victim or perpetrator of cyber bullying. The training will also educate the teachers in the types of cyber bullying and creative solutions that can solve issues within their schools. The teachers will be able to help mediate and counsel any student that is involved with a cyber bullying case as well as teaching the course to the class. The United States Department of Education will implement this bill into the schools and fund the month curriculum by granting $10,000 to each state that chooses to participate in the act. The money will help fund Visuals, Training, and Lesson Materials such as paper and pamphlets that are centered on the curriculum. The program will receive contributions from the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use that will help provide safe and sensible tips and information to the students participating in the program. The states that choose not to participate in the program won’t suffer any consequences, yet the adolescents will not be further educated on this major public-health issue. This bill will be successful because the program will focus on all the aspects that contribute to cyber bullying which is mainly associated with the Internet, yet other technology related devices such as cell-phones are involved as well. Eliminating cyber bullying as a whole seems unrealistic, but educating and promoting awareness towards the issue will help decreases its chances of normalcy in American society.
Cyber bullying is an issue that is growing everyday within our communities and continues to rise every year. As each generation of adolescents become more technologically advanced, an increase in online harassment is been seen through what is posted on social-networking sites to text messages on cellular devices. Researchers are revealing that these habits are being transferred on to the college grades where teenagers are more likely to commit suicide due to the stress of school and their surroundings. Cyber bullying is only expected to become worse among adolescents because the amount of stress that has to been put on them related to a stressful economy all during while being so young. Since Teen Suicide is the second leading cause of teen death in the United States, a need for legislation that promotes awareness and education about Cyber-Bullying must be put in place for prevention. A solution to this plague is to promote more education and awareness of this issue by educating the future generations about the warning signs to cyber bullying and ways to receive help rather than retaliating. More attention will continue to be devoted to cyber bullying leading to legislations taking stances on this public issue not only in the United States, but internationally as well.