by Ernest Barteldes
When people debate the topic of bullying and its consequences, I just think of the fact that this issue has been around for as long as there have been schools – just watching all those high school-set movies (including Grease, when the T-Birds gang up on this skinny guy with glasses). Though morally incorrect, bullying was sort of a rite of passage for many over the years.
However, in my day (I am 43) there was no Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook or any form of social media. In the vast majority of cases, the problem began and ended in school, and if things got bad they ended up in the principal’s office. Nowadays, things have escalated as bullies utilize the technological advances at their fingertips to take the problem outside the school yard.
Just in the last few weeks, two teenagers in New York and Tennessee were literally bullied to death via cyber-bullying.. The day after Christmas Day, 15-year-old Amanda Cummings threw herself in front of the bus after being tormented via Facebook and instant messaging in addition to what she faced at school. Earlier the same month, Jacob Rogers killed himself after being tormented by his peers simply because he was gay.
These examples – and many others that fail to reach mainstream media – are infinitely worse than the kind of stuff I encountered when I was a kid. In my day, at least I knew who my attackers were and had the opportunity to steer clear of them (or fight them, even if I knew I’d be beat up). Today, cyber-bullies keep doing their evil deeds even after school hours – and this is just what is driving so many teens to get desperate enough to kill themselves. Worse, the perpetrators can do this while remaining invisible to others, since they are acting from the comfort of their homes.
This week, New York state senator Jeffrey D. Klein (D-Bronx) has introduced a bill that would create harsher penalties to bullies. In a statement to the press, Senator Klein said that “”This legislation will give prosecutors the tools they need to treat cyber bullying as the crime it is and also send a message that this type of reckless and potentially deadly behavior will not be tolerated.” Though I praise Sen. Klein for his initiative and believe that other states (if not the federal government) should take steps to eliminate this abhorrent behavior, which has grown both in this country and internationally. Cyber bullies need to be punished for their acts so their victims won’t fear the consequences of coming forward.
But laws alone will not end this problem. Parents on both ends of the problem must educate their kids. We can no longer tolerate the ‘macho’ culture in which boys and girls are encouraged to be bullies instead of being bullied themselves.
It is time to end this now. I encourage readers to sign the recently created Change.org petition demanding social media sites to prevent online ‘trolls,’ and I also urge everyone to write to their representatives to support or create a bill so we can prevent even more people getting hurt – or worse. To sign follow the link below: