The social interactions among today's school-aged children are quite different from those of previous generations. With new technology continuously moving forward at the speed of light, and with owning a mobile device being the new "norm," children today have no problem getting online to become the recipients of the information available on the internet. The ability of having so much information available at the palm of your hand can be extremely beneficial. One can look up the weather report and see if they need to bring their umbrella before stepping out the door…or look up a five-star restaurant for a fancy first date. However, the major difference between children and adults having this information readily available is that, as adults, we know that having accessibility to social media sites, blogs, and chat rooms, comes with personal responsibility.
Children don't always understand the responsibility that they accept while online, especially on social media sites such as Facebook. Sometimes it can be hard for kids to grasp the fact that even though they aren't physically saying or doing something to someone, they are still affecting that person's emotions, reputation, and well-being. After all, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," right?
Wrong. Words do hurt. Words can even kill. Let's take Amanda Todd's story, for example. She was a 15 year old girl from Canada who succumbed to the effects of cyber bullying and committed suicide on October 10, 2012. Todd's case is interesting in the fact that one month before her death, she posted a video where she was crying out for help in protection from her bullies. The video, entitled "My Story: Struggling, bullying, suicide and self harm," is nine minutes of Todd holding up flash cards that tell her experience of being bullied. This video went viral and reached 1,600,000 YouTube views.
Over one million people saw this video. Why wasn't Todd helped? Where were the laws to protect her?
Every country (and state, for that matter) carries their own set of laws for bullying and harassment. The challenge now is to include cyber bullying into laws that are already in place for bullying and harassment. Lawmakers in at least five states (New York, Indiana, Maine, Delaware, and North Carolina) are working to stiffen the laws regarding cyber bullying. The main concern with the current laws is that they are vague and need to become more specific as to what cyber bullying is and how it is dealt with.
If you or someone you know is being cyber bullied, helpful information about this topic can be found at www.stopcyberbullying.org.