Sevenyears ago, almost all the news channels of the United states were flooded withthe suicide case of a teenager.
An 18-year-old violinistnamed Tyler Clementi, who was a first year student at Rutgers University ended his lifetragically by an intentional jumping off the Washington Bridge. Tyler fell victim to the harshattacks of a cyberbully. Devastated by the humiliation of cyber bullying, Tyler took his life.He was harassed by his own roommate, Darun Ravi who videotaped Tyler’s private moments with hismale companion and posted it publically with the cruel intent of exposing and humiliatinghim in front of other fellow students. The rise of social media websites along with facilities ofsharing pictures and videos online has lead to the emergence of a new form of public bullying,cyberbullying. It has become a well-known and controversial issue which has emerged to become oneof the major causes of deaths among young children and adolescents. Although usually anysort of abuse or harassment, be it direct or indirect or in any other form, that leads to graveconsequences such as suicide or murder or any other kind of harm to any individual should beconsidered criminal, yet cases of cyberbullying are not considered serious enough to be termed ascriminal. And since, cyber bullying is the new-age way of indirect harassment that is leading todeaths and severe consequences, it should be criminalized.
Bullieswho misuse their physical strength for repeatedly taking advantage or assertingcontrol over the weaker person has been a bigproblem in schools and colleges for generations. Psychologists and school administrators considerbullying as an act which tends to social and serious psychological problems for both the bullyand the victim. The invention of the Internet has taken bullying from real to a virtual world.
Unlike the bully preying upon victims face to face, cyberbullying may occur anywhere all that isrequired for this is access to electronic technology such as computers, tablets, cellularphones or any devices that are capable of accessing the Internet. With the growing technologyand also ignorance towards this problem, cyberbullying has evolved into new and worse forms. Acyberbully is surrounded with various options like emails, text messages, or pictures andvideos posted on social networking websites as their basic weapons of choice to degradesomeone’s reputation in minutes. Justin W.Patchin, Ph.D., co-director of Cyber bullying Research Centerat the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, agrees in his article that, “Bullying that startedin email and chat rooms in the early days of the Internet has evolved into other forms mostly socialnetworking sites and instant messaging, as well as video and pictures.
” Onlineharassment involves the perpetrator who intentionally or unintentionally harassand harm their victims through services available oninternet. Patchin, author of “Words Wound: Delete Cyberbullying and Make Kindness GoViral” (Free Spirit Publishing, December2013), has been studying cyberbullying among secondary studentsfor more than a decade, starting in 2001. He has surveyed nearly 15,000 students acrossthe United States. Most cases seem to involve middle school or high school students, whomexperts say, are in the primary age group for such behavior. However, as social media continuesits pervasive intrusion into everyday lives, cyberbullying is trickling up to college campusesand even into the workplace.
Researchers, law enforcement lawyers, college officialsand students say there are more reported incidents of acts of cyberbullying cropping up on campusand a rise in incidents of teenage suicide has coincided with the rise in incidents ofcyberbullying. And as this can happen anywhere, at any time which puts up a big dilemmafor schools and colleges: how can they handle cyberbullying that takes place off campus?And, how to deal with an unknown bully whose real identity is hidden behind the technology? In this new age of technology, words are morepowerful to hurt anyone than their actions. Just like any other victim of bullying, cyberbulliedkids experience anxiety, fear, depression, and low self-esteem. But targets of cyberbullying alsoexperience some unique consequences and negative feelings. Electronicharassment is as real as and often more frightening than face-to-face bullying. Much like other kinds of assaults likestalking in which the victim feels frightened and helpless, cyber bullying can be directly compared tostalking in a virtual manner. The victims are left scared, isolated, depressed, frozen, ashamedand not likely to share what is happening in their life with their parents and even friends. Victimslose their feeling of security.
Typically, this is because their privacy at home or any other placecan be easily invaded by the bully through his computer or any other electronic device. They nolonger find a place to escape. The victim feels like he or she is bullied wherever they are.Additionally, as the cyber bullies are anonymous.
This escalates feelings of fear inside them and inthis situation most of them consider ending their lives as the only solution, the only escape. Cyberbullying has emerged to become one of the major reasons of increased suiciderate among the youth, around the world and yet it is notconsidered as a crime. Cyber Bullying is often ignored as a cybercrime due to the fact thatit is not as widely publicized as more traditional cybercrimes like identity theft andpiracy. It also has a very ambiguous nature.
While piracy and identity theft have clear definitionsthat leave no doubt as to whether a crime has been committed, labeling an act as cyber bullying is notas clear-cut. One may perceive it as an act of innocent joking, while for others it can beperceived as a malicious intent. In the article, “Addressing Cyber Harassment: An Overview ofHate Crimes in Cyberspace”, Danielle Keats Citron who is a professor of Law at the Universityof Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and is an internationally recognized expert onprivacy has put up the contradiction that instead of penalizing the perpetuators, howcyberbullied victims are treated by the general public. She says that, “Although the abuse ofteninvolved threats, defamation, and privacy invasions, commentators regarded it as “no bigdeal.” Victims were told to stop “whining” because they chose to blog about controversialtopics or to share nude images of themselves with confidantes. Victims were advised to toughen up orgo offline.
The choice was theirs—that was the deal.” With this staggering rise in technologyrelated crimes, especially with the younger generation, comes an interesting questions, shouldcyber bullying be prosecuted? Should we have cyberbullying laws? Are the laws helpingvictims in need, or do they wrongly and harshly punish minor crimes? Is there a compromise thatcould be reached with cyberbullying laws?” The intensity and seriousness of these questionslead to only one answer, which is, cyberbullying has worse consequences that demands it to becriminalized. Althoughthere have already been several tragedies were cyberbullying was the maincause, yet ironically, many people still believe thatcyberbullying is not as large a problem with school students as it is made out to be and hence, notconsidered a criminal offence yet. According to an article in The New York Timestitled, “Dharun Ravi,” journalist Kate Zernike stated that the punishment received by the cyberbully Ravi forharassing his roommate Tyler to death was that he faced trial and was convicted of biasintimidation as a hate crime. The judge, however, did not find him guilty of Tyler’s suicide. Nor he wasconsidered a reason for contributing to Tyler’s death .Which eventually lead to a mere 30-days injail sentence for Ravi, of which he hardly served 20. This ignites a debate that what should bethe appropriate punishment for cyberbullies who aim for tearing down their victim publically,and whether these offences should be considered malicious enough to be punished by law?Andthe answer is, yes, the light punishment received by Ravi by labelling it as aminor hate crime was totally unjust to the victim and his family.
Legal action is a necessary penaltyfor these deliberate acts of calumniation because cyberbullying cannot be managed effectivelyby schools and parents alone. Cyber bullying is creating disturbances at schools andcolleges, by causing significant pain, anguish and state of depression for its victims, which many timeshas resulted to deaths. Those people who oppose legal consequencesfor online harassment that cyber bullies should not be blamed for the reaction of theirtarget.
, Orin S. Kerr Professor of Law and cybercrime specialist, has expressed his views inThe New York Times article “Bullying, Suicide, Punishment,” that the offenders should be prosecutedfor the crime they committed instead of debating about how their victim respondedto their harassment. This release the cyberbully of any contribution to the consequences theoffense. If this is the thinking, courts should stop charging robbers with first-degreemurder in case they “accidentally” murder their victim while committing their initial felony.Whether it was intentional or not, expected or not, the act comes out as the result of the crimecommitted, for which they should be strictly punished. Cyber bullies should be blamed comletelyfor the outcome of their offenses and should be prosecuted according to the damage they caused. Manyexperts argue that prevention education from parents and teachers is moreeffective than legislation in case of cyber bullying. This isnot 100% effective as according to many surveys.
Suzanne Phillips, anAdjunct Professor of Clinical Psychology in the Doctoral Program of Long Island University puts up a survey that, “Only35% of cyberbullied teens and 51% of preteens told parents.” She further supports herfindings by saying that, “The reasons given by teens in focus groups were fear of restriction fromelectronic use, fear of being blamed or expectation of parents’ overreactions.” This provesthat one of the major reasons for supporting legal regulation for cyberbullies is that schoolsand parents have failed to effectively patrol cyber abuse on their own. Some parents do not have timeenough so that they can monitor over their kids’ online activity while others lack computerskills to do so. The victims are more often afraid of the severe consequences like revenge and theirfurther defamation, this holds them back from reporting against the bullies to the authorities.This situation unable parents and school administration in managing the violations.
Wendy JMurphy, an adjunct professor of sexual violence law at New England haspointed out in her article “Federal Law Requires Schools to Protect Children from Cyberbullying,” that suchcases of cyberbullying, where school authorities are made aware of the viciousness of cyber bulliesand the consequences of their attacks on victims, schools interference is not considered forthe off-campus cyber bullying events, therefore this makes schools authorities hesitant ofinvolving in any such case. For instance, like in Tyler’s case, the school authorities were awareof the bullying faced by Tyler, but they failed to take any action, potentially missing anopportunity to get the law involved and prevent Tyler’s death.(Murphy). BenLeichtling, a well-known psychotherapist who wrote “Bullies Below the Radar”and “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” has explainedthe need of laws against cyber bullying by saying, “The furor is notoverblown, and we do need federal laws to stop cyber bullying, harassment and abuse.” In the following viewpoint,he emphasize the need of federal laws to protect children from cyber bullying. He furtheradds to his views that even if cyber bullying laws would cause some difficulties, providing somelegal protection to the victims is better than no protection. Anderson, Wayne L has mentioned inhis article how the consequences of cyber bullying lead to emergence of laws against it,”Missouri passed the Megan Meier law after Megan Meier (age 13) committed suicide due to theharassment that she received online.
States are beginning to recognize that cyber bullying is morethan one child ‘picking on’ another.” Similarly, the rapid increase of cyber bullying andits severe consequences has made many other states of USA include provisions that prohibitactivities of both online-harassment and stalking. A handful of states, such as Arizona, Alabama,Hawaii, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Illinois and New York have specifically included prohibitionsagainst harassing electronic, computer or email communicators in their harassment legislation.(Anderson). Unfortunately, there are still many states left to criminalize cyber bullying andmost of the punishments are limited to just expulsion or suspension from school, which are notstrict enough to control cyber bullying. Cyberbullying torments, threatens, harass, humiliates, embarrass or otherwisetargets someone to the limit of disturbing their mental aswell as physical balance completely. Cyber bullying is a big problem in today’s society andshould be criminalized.
It is a widespread problem. Surveys have found about 53% of teens guiltyof saying hurtful things to others on social media. Which makes about 21,200,000 teens outof total population.
Out of this, about 1/3, (i.e. over 7,000,000 teens) admitted that they havedone it repeatedly, which comes under cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying starts at an early age.
Thereis a community named “The i-SAFE Inc.” which initiates in extending e-Safety awarenessbeyond the classroom (off-campus) by bringing together school authorities, students, parents, guardians,community leaders, and general public together to spread this knowledge throughout theentire community. Communities like i-SAFE are working hard to limit the internet basedharassments and crime by spreading more and more general awareness, but this will not be provedcompletely helpful unless proper cyberbullying criminalization laws will be established. Cyber-bullyingis more serious than normal bullying. For normal-bullying, the victims knows who the bully is be it in his/her school orneighbor.
However, in case of cyber-bullying, the bully is ambiguous. He/she could be anywhere onthe other side of the computer screen, anywhere in the world and at any time! There is nolimit of place or time for cyber bullying. Normal-bullying usually occurs during school hoursor, whenever the victim is outside his safe environment like his house, but cyber-bullying canhappen anytime, anywhere. Clearly, cyber-bullying is more extensive than normal bullying.However, according to the Legal intern of the United states Attorney’s office, Tiffany Sumrall, inher article, “Lethal Words: The Harmful Impact of Cyberbullying and the Need for FederalCriminalization”, she has described the severity of cyber bullying by the example of aseventh grader teenager, Amanda Todd who, distressed by online harassment, hanged herself todeath. Prior to her suicide, she posted a video describing her struggles of how she was harassed bya stranger who posted her naked video online. She further added how this incident spurredlegislative action against cyberbullying in Canada, “In the aftermath of Amanda Todd’s suicide, Canadapassed a bill criminalizing the posting of intimate images of another individualwithout her permission.” Althoughsuicide cases may bring media recognition to the problem of cyberbullying, cyberbullying affects more than the handful ofsuicide victims.
Cyberbullying is widespread; fifty percent of people age fourteen to twenty-fourreport being a victim of digital abuse at some point in their life. The harm caused by widespreadcyberbullying raises a need for laws prohibiting cyberbullying to protect all of thesevictims. Criminalizingcyber bullying would act as a deterrent. If cyber bullying will be criminalized,it would decrease the number of people who do it,because they will be aware that there is the possibility of getting in trouble for it.
Forexample: before there were laws about using cell phones while driving, almost everyone at one pointor another used their phones while driving, even though they knew that it’s wrong. However,after the implementation of cell phone laws while driving, there are less people who use phones whilethey’re driving, because now they know consequences of breaking these rules. The sameidea applies here.
If people will be aware of the fact that they could get into some serious troublefor cyber bullying someone, then almost everyone is going to be a lot less tempted to do so.The risk of getting in trouble is enough for some people to just say “no” and save thefuture of the youth around the world. WorksCited Anderson, Wayne L. “Cyber Stalking (Cyber Bullying)- Proof and Punishment”. Insights toChanging World Journal, no.
4, Dec. 2010, pp. 18-23. Citron, Danielle Keats. “Addressing CyberHarassment: An Overview of Hate Crimes in Cyberspace.
” Journal of Law, Technology & theInternet, vol. 6, no. 1, Fall2014-Spring2015, pp. 1-11. Leichtling, Ben. “Anti-Cyberbullying Laws AreNeeded to Fight Cyberbullying.
” Netiquetteand Online Ethics, edited by Noah Berlatsky, Greenhaven Press, 2013. Murphy,Wendy J. “Federal LawRequires Schools to Protect Children from Cyberbullying” UtahLaw Review, vol. 2017, no. 4, Aug. 2017, pp. 801-814. Patchin,Justin W.
& Sameer Hinduja, “Words Wound : Delete Cyberbullying and Make Kindness Go Viral”, 2014 pbk. Free Spirit Publishing.978-1-57542-451-4. Phillips,Suzanne. “Cyberbullying Is Dangerous.
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