Cyberbullying, Social Media's Role in Teen Suicide
Online Cyberbullying, The New Threat To Teens
In our new world of social media, where so many aspects of our lives are openly shared with others, it should come as no surprise to find cruel intentions gaining ground on that list. I read an article the other day that said 85% of Americans now spend a large portion of their day online. And with teens, that number increases. This group appears to be facing an increasing problem when it comes to cruel intentions, which is rising at a level far beyond what we might have ever imagined.
Cyberbullying Making Top News Headlines
I have been struck lately, like I hope others have, by the increasing number of teen suicides resulting from cyber-bullying. When I was a teen, so many moons ago, I can recall a couple of bullies. Those of us with enough years behind us probably had similar experiences. This was long before the Internet. Come to think of it, this was long before cell phones as well. These bullies might demand their share of your lunch money, or your assistance with writing their book report the night before it was due.
In our new age, where we have the entire world at our fingertips, the bullies have become more sophisticated. The new high-tech, cyber-bullies use cell phone texts, Facebook postings, Twitter tweets, blogs and email to target their victims. And unlike the bullies of my day, the last school bell at 3:30 each afternoon does not signal a retreat for the day. These offenders now have 24-hour access, 365 days a year.
18 year old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, just recently, jumped off a bridge because of cyber-bullying. His roommate secretly filmed him having sexual relations with a man and uploaded the video to the web. His suicide has helped spark a much-needed outcry for action. A number of celebrities have spoken up, including Ellen Degeneres. On her blog, Degeneres wrote:
"I am devastated by the death of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi. If you don't know, Tyler was a bright student at Rutgers University whose life was senselessly cut short...My heart is breaking for their families, their friends and for a society that continues to let this happen. These kids needed us. We have an obligation to change this. There are messages everywhere that validate this kind of bullying and taunting and we have to make it stop. We can't let intolerance and ignorance take another kid's life."
Earlier this week, in the small town where I grew up, a 16 year old girl took her own life. Following her death, her Twitter page revealed that among some of the problems she was facing, a fair amount of internet taunting was occurring. One of her last tweets read, “Putting my life in God's hands and praying that he takes away this pain && misery...I can't go on like this.”
So, what is the answer? I wish I had one for you. Bonnie Rochman at Time says, “Maybe we are where we are because we’ve had no teachers. No one has instructed us on how to use the Internet." She points to a lack of rules for the cyber-road. "In a lawless Facebook-Twitter-chat-room culture, with scant etiquette and 24/7 saturation, it can be hard to know where to draw the line.”
Cyber-bullying Help and Awareness Links
It's Time To End This, Ellen Degeneres, The Ellen Degeneres Show
The Atlantic Wire - Opinions
J.C. Shelton 2010 All Rights Reserved