Cyber-Bullying: Old Problem in New-Age Packaging


Author: James E. Buchanan, III

CEO/Information Architect


As the physical, social, economic, political, and intellectual barriers of our planet continue to crumble into utter oblivion, new sets of challenges, pitfalls, and problems envelop the children of the next generation head-on. “Generation Next”, the tech-savvy, super-sharp products of the Baby Boomers’, have been exposed to innovations, technology, and mass information on a super scale. Taking these facts into careful account, we must consider that with more technical inventions, informational resources, and free access to the global village, via the Internet, brings with it an awesome responsibility and hefty social price tag. Hearing the excited and playfully innocent voices of children playing stick-ball in backyards, Frisbee in the state parks, and basketball on sandlots across the nation, quite miserably, is becoming a pre-historic thing that old people used to do a long time ago. With all of our pressing toward the great technological super-nova of nothingness, it seems as though we have lost out on many of our simple virtues. Making friends the old fashioned way has all but been replaced with international social networks such as, My Space, Face Book, Black Planet, Twitter; the list is almost endless it seems. While on the one hand, chatting on Instant Messenger with someone from Eastern Germany is a great thing, but missing out on healthy, rich and long-lasting social interactions with our own peers has almost cost us the social building skills of Generation Next. A brand new problem that has surfaced recently is the onslaught of cyber-bullying. This type of crime has no particular face or name; because it is all perpetrated by the extremely unhealthy use of the Internet, (mainly social networking sites such as the aforementioned.)Some of the issues that are going to be examined are the grave effects of cyber-crime, preventative measures, and also discuss some practical solutions to this slowly rising cyber-problem that is plaguing global youth. A bright and fulfilling future lies within our hands; as long as the United States continues to enact laws that reflect the ever changing face of computer technology.


Cyber-bullying: Old Problem in New-Age Packaging
Cybercrime is sort of a sick anomaly; due to the fact that it is so closely associated with the information super-highway. Cyber-bullying is just one of the multi-faceted crimes that are associated with the worldwide web. This crime is really no different than being bullied on a schoolyard playground growing up, (unless you were the bully.) The stark contrast here is that the playground is global; not just isolated to local schools or communities. One cybercrime that ended very tragically involved the crime of, “Sexting”, (sending semi-nude or nude pictures of another person by cell-phone or other handheld device without their knowledge or consent.) (PC’s N Dreams: Internet Predator Protection Since 2002 (2009)Jessica Logan, age 18, was vehemently harassed by her peers after classmates at her Ohio community high school received nude photos of her on their cell phones from her ex-boyfriend; shortly following their breakup. Due to the ever mounting harassment from her former classmates after graduating from high school and going on national television to warn others of the dangers of, “Sexting”, Jessica took her own life by hanging herself in her bedroom. (Lemondrop: Sweet. Tasty. Tart. (2008). Teen Commits Suicide – Is Texting to Blame? Mc Combs, Emily, March, 06, 2009)Needless to say, this utterly senseless crime had lasting effects on this Ohio community; as well as nationwide impact. This incident is in no way isolated either. According to PC’s N Dreams official website, 20% of all teenage children have openly admitted to posting or sending nude pictures of themselves; via cell phone or the World Wide Web. According to the same site, an equally shocking 48% of teenagers have reported receiving semi-nude or fully-nude images by computer or cell phone. (PC’s N Dreams: Internet Predator Protection Since 2002.) (2009)These startling statistics alone should be more than enough proof to show that there indeed is a slowly simmering problem with how children are utilizing the technology that has been entrusted to their hands.
Now examine some preventative measures that can and should be taken in to curb the ever growing occurrences of cyber-bullying; mainly in the United States. The Seattle Washington Public Schools District just recently launched an aggressive campaign to effectively address the broad and far reaching problems of cyber-bullying.




Some of the main features of this very vital piece of legislation include but certainly is not limited to:


1. There is a full Teacher’s Manual so that educators who are not completely comfortable with new communications technologies can successfully implement the materials.
2. The materials are built with WA State Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) and ISTE NETS standards in mind.
3. It includes a growing list of online and print resource materials.
4. The lessons are designed to be incorporated into ongoing bullying prevention program classroom meetings. However, they are flexible enough to fit nicely into existing Technology, Health and Language Arts units. They can also be used as stand-alones [sic] within an Exploratory-type setting.
5. The writing team is composed of people well-versed in bullying prevention, curriculum development, Internet safety, educational technology, the writing process, counseling, and years of classroom teaching.
6. The development of the curriculum was joint industry-education collaboration, made possible thanks to a generous grant from Qwest Communications/Qwest Foundation and the Seattle Public Schools Prevention-Intervention programs.
7. The curriculum is free and available to anyone who wants to use it.




(Washington State Legislature: Official Website (no date). RCW 28A.300.285)Underscoring some of the main dynamics of this comprehensive piece of work would certainly be to highlight the fact that the central focus of this School District legislation is to ensure the online safety of our children; while they are in class and giving them vitally necessary tools to make sure that they are safe from problems online and at home..
There are very practical solutions to deal with the problem of cyber-bullying; in all of its multi-faceted forms. One of the first, and probably the most important forms of combating this growing problem is a constant closely knit familial bond with family and friends. This vital point can never be stressed enough. Face-to-face communication is the life-blood of any healthy and long-lasting interpersonal relationship.
Children, who constantly boast about how many friends that they have on Face Book or My Space, but have deep feelings of intimidation and inadequacy in social situations may be in need of professional or peer-counseling. Dealing with communication problems early is the key. If they are not dealt with while they are minute, then they just may be too tough to handle later on; as in the tragic case of, Jessica Logan. Good Parenting is also another very important measure; on the road to finding workable solutions to cyber-bullying. If parents would just take a few minutes out of each day to reach out to their children; see how they are doing in school, ask them about their friends, the websites that they visit often, if they are having problems with anyone at school, etc. If these simple basics are applied, then there would, no doubt, be a marked downturn in the number of incidents involving cyber-bullying.
In closing, cyber-bullying, in all of its many forms and shades, will continue to germinate; along with our wide expanses of various technologies. But whether or not cyber-bullying continues to expand to new criminal levels or isolated to a few incidents rests with how vigilant global citizens are in dealing with the problem now instead of later. Successful passage of the proverbial technological advancement torch to the next generation rests with how well society deals with technology today.





Bibliography:
1)National Crime Prevention Council (2006). Cyber-Bullying: A public advertising campaign aimed at preventing cyber-bullying. Retrieved March, 01, 2009. From: http://www.ncpc.org/cyberbullying
2)CYBERBULLYING.US (2009). Identify the causes and consequences of online harassment. Retrieved March, 01, 2009. From: http://cyberbullying.us/index.php
3)European Commission Information Society and Media Directorate General (2008). Public Consultation on Online Social Networking: Summary Report. Retrieved March, 03, 2009. From: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/sip/docs/pub_consult_age_rating_sns/summaryreport.pdf
4)Lemondrop: Sweet. Tasty. Tart. (2008). Teen Commits Suicide – Is Texting to Blame? Mc Combs, Emily, March, 06, 2009. Retrieved March, 06, 2009. From: http://www.lemondrop.com/2009/03/06/teen-commits-suicide-is-sexting-to-blame/
5)PC’s N Dreams: Internet Predator Protection Since 2002 (2009). Teenage Sexting Statistics. Retrieved March, 07, 2009. From: http://www.pcsndreams.com/Pages/Sexting_Statistics.html
6)Washington State Legislature: Official Website (no date). RCW 28A.300.285 Harassment, intimidation, and bullying prevention policies – Model policy and training materials – Posting on website – Advisory committee. Retrieved March, 3, 2009. From: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=28A.300.285



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