Do you find this image disturbing? You better because it's happening to young people all over the country and we need to put a stop to it as quickly as possible.
The latest case is that of Tyler Clementi. He was an 18 y.o. student in his first year at Rutgers University. His roommate suspected Tyler of being gay and set up a discreet video cam in the dorm room. Ultimately Tyler was recorded engaging in intimate encounters with another man. This roommate posted the intimate encounter to the Internet for all to see. 18 y.o. Tyler Clementi subsequently took his own life by jumping from the George Washington Bridge in NYC. The individual that posted the webcam was recently sentenced to a paltry 30 days in jail.
Article after article discuss how further education and training and new legislation can put a stop to cyber bullying. The articles are right to a degree. It is clear that training, education and legislation have reduced regular bullying, smoking, drinking and driving and many more. But it is my contention that education, training and new legislation are effective over the long haul but do not move fast enough to save lives now.
Parents (with younger children) must, and I mean MUST, be involved with their kids' lives. Money, career, fancy cars, homes etc., it's really all meaningless if your child is dead. Who are your child's friends? Who is in the back of the bus with them? What are they learning in school? What are they watching on YouTube? Did you know YouTube has a safe mode setting? Facebook, ok so you friended your child, have you read all of the posts to see who their talking to and what is being said? Twitter? Do you even know how that works? Sell the boat and the BMW and get involved. Learn to live with less money and more love. Is this extreme? Maybe, but it makes a point.
Much of the following are excerpts from a very excellent NY Times article published on 12/04/10 and written by JAN HOFFMAN, the article is titled “As Bullies Go Digital, Parents Play Catch-Up” (I am aware that this is not proper MLA referencing format).
A link to the entire article is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/05/us/05bully.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1
But online bullying can be more psychologically savage than schoolyard bullying. The Internet erases inhibitions, with adolescents often going further with slights online than in person.
Ninth grade was supposed to be a fresh start for Marie’s son: new school, new children. Yet by last October, he had become withdrawn. Marie prodded. And prodded again. Finally, he told her.
“The kids say I’m saying all these nasty things about them on facebook ,” he said. “They don’t believe me when I tell them I’m not on Facebook.”
Someone had forged his identity online and was bullying others in his name. Everybody had stopped talking to him, others were threatening to hurt him. It took the case detective months and months of casework and investigation in sending subpoenas to Facebook and Comcast to finally discover that it was a 14 y.o. and a 13 y.o who had created a fraudulent Facebook identity in this other kids name and was broadcasting awful things about people. The 14 y.o and 13 y.o. are being prosecuted as juveniles.
One afternoon last spring, Parry Aftab, a lawyer and expert on cyberbullying, addressed seventh graders at George Washington Middle School in Ridgewood, N.J.
“How many of you have ever been cyberbullied?” she asked.
The hands crept up, first a scattering, then a thicket. Of 150 students, 68 raised their hands. They came forward to offer rough tales from social networking sites, instant messaging and texting. Ms. Aftab stopped them at the 20th example.
Then she asked: How many of your parents know how to help you?
A scant three or four hands went up.
Maj. Glenn Woodson’s daughter, Sierra, has a shortened leg because of a congenital condition. One night, when she was in sixth grade, she received a text message showing a stick figure of her lying prostrate, eyes crossed out, another girl holding a bloody blade over the body. It had been sent by three girls in Sierra’s grade.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, a mother of a 12 year old girl reported that a classmate had e-mailed the child links to pornography sites.
In a small Western resort town, Gerrie’s daughter, Michaela, 14, received an obscene, threatening text from a boy who was the star of her ski team. He accused Michaela of having told his girlfriend that he was secretly dating someone else and vowed to ruin Michaela’s life.
Michaela stared at the cellphone, tears rolling down her face. She had not informed on him.
Gerrie’s husband called the boy’s mother. After seeing the corrosive text, the mother took away her son’s cellphone for a week.
The boy made good on his threat. He spread a false rumor that his mother wouldn’t allow him to race, and that Michaela’s snitching was to blame. The news erupted on Facebook.
Ski team members ostracized Michaela. She rode the lifts by herself. Before team practices, she would quake and vomit.
“I did what I thought was right to help my daughter,” said Gerrie, an art teacher, “and I only ended up making it worse. But when your kid gets a text like that, what are you supposed to do?”
The 14-year-old daughter of Rolin, a Nashville musician, began a relationship with a boy in her church group. But soon his texts and Facebook comments turned sexually graphic and coercive. When she backed away, he tried to isolate her. At a church retreat, he surreptitiously sent texts from her phone to three of her friends, all boys, saying she didn’t want to see them again.
Familiarize yourself with the social media and methods of cyber bullying:
Cyber bullying – Electronic communication between or pertaining to minors and involves one being tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by the other using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.
Cyber bullying only occurs between minors. If the perpetrators are 16 or older the becomes criminal in the form of Aggravated Harassment, Cyber-harassment or Cyber-Stalking.
If you get that strange feeling in the pit of your stomach, its probably Cyber bullying and you should take action promptly.
Cyber bullying can occur on Facebook, Twitter, blog sites, YouTube or any other social media venue on the internet or through cell phones, texting, etc.
Be proactive when it comes to cyber bullying.
Buddy lists, social networking profiles, blogs should be with trusted friends not just anyone. Limit the amount of information you provide about yourself. The internet does not need to know that you are 14 years old and that your parents do not arrive home from work until 5:00. Do not put your cell phone # out there, if you did get a new phone.
Even though their not full proof set filters on all media such as E-mail, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and everything else. In addition, set filters high on email, and avoid community chat locations without some sort of security in place. Exposing yourself, and making yourself vulnerable makes you a target for cyber bullies. Do not give your mobile number out to people who aren’t your friends. The more you protect yourself, the easier it is to prevent cyber bullying, and stop it if it starts.
Third, teach your kids to stand up for themselves and to do the right thing always. If they receive some menacing or uncomfortable communication they should immediately bring it to the attention of an adult. They have to be reminded of this so tell them every week to make sure they tell you what's up. They should also be reminded that if it happens to one of their friends they should encourage the friend to come forward immediately.
If you start getting bullied, block the person, and inform the site administrator of what is happening so that they can remove the person’s profile.
Raise hell and threaten action. Call the parents, the school administrators, the county government if necessary. You can and will involve law enforcement but before you do make sure you obtain proof. Document, document, document. Keep a record of the cyber bullying saved on your computer and create a backup. Make note of who you talked to and when. Set up a voice recording mechanism if necessary. If the threats are specific you have significantly more leeway.
Now your child may face scrutiny in school over an ordeal like this but if the alternative is continued cyber bulling what choice do you have? But proceed with much caution as parent-to-parent confrontations can be very difficult for a child as could the whistle blowing aspect of something like this. You must proceed cautiously.
The very best thing that one can do is avoid cyber-bullying in its entirety. Be proactive. Put protective measures in place with safe setting and blocking mechanisms. Monitor the child's communications. The fact that you pay for the communication gives you monitoring rights period. Ask questions, go to events, be nosey and direct. If something tragic happens you'll be filled with regret.
You could take several other unconventional measures such as setting up a keystroke program on the childs computer to see what has been typed. You could go into the social media site and save chat sessions, get copies of e-mails by auto fowarding a copy to another site, set up video recording devices, cell phone trackers, audio recorders, etc.
Should you require any assistance with any of these matters please do not hesitate to contact me.