I was raised in a Christian household and my mother was a firm believer of turning the other cheek. Yes, quite literally. As in “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39 ESV) Being bullied at school and having my mother advise me to not fight back and simply pray on it was no easy feat. Being bullied, at all, does something to a person. It changes them and not necessarily in a good way.
There was a time where parents would send their children to school completely at ease, believing in their safety. Lets say that instead of being in a safe haven, the child was being heavily bullied at school. This child became increasingly withdrawn and was continuously sporting a shiner. As the parents search high and low to find the best solution to protect their child in school; they are at ease when the child is home. After all, they are far away from said bully.
Well hypothetical situations like the one depicted here are a thing of the past. Not because bullying has ceased to exist but because the rise of technology has helped evolve the art of bullying. Bullying no longer stops at the playground or at the end of a school day. As defined by the government “Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.” Technology has provided a whole new playground for bullies that offers an opportunity to harass with less accountability, more anonymity and its all from the comfort of home.
Although statistics state the the most common victims of cyberbullying are children from the ages of 9-14, the truth is no one is safe from it. Someone, who wishes to remain anonymous, and has experienced cyberbullying said, “Cyberbullying is a problem that is a lot bigger than anyone can imagine. I feel it’s necessary to take appropriate steps to combat this issue before it gets out of hand. My advice to anyone who is being harrassed or threatened by someone is to immediately report the incident to the proper authorities. Next, they should seek support from loved ones or attend counseling to help deal with the damaging side affects. There are a large array of resources and support groups available on the web for both adults and children. The most important step is to talk about it. No one should ever feel like they have to deal with this issue alone. “
Although I completely agree with Anonymous’ words, it is in this advice that we find our crux. Because not all states have laws against cyberbullying, it’s not always an easy issue to resolve. However, there are exceptions. If bullying ever reaches these following levels, they are considered criminal and should be reported to the authorities. Threats of violence, child pornography, sending sexually explicit messages or photos, Taking a photo or video of someone in a place where he or she would expect privacy and/or stalking and hate crimes. While most states do have legislation in place against bullying, not many include cyberbullying.
Although a study released at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in October 2012 shows that “cyberbullying is rarely the only reason teens commit suicide. Most suicide cases also involve real-world bullying as well as depression.” Yet, suicide is one of the leading cause of death for those, ages 10 to 24 and both traditional bullying and cyberbullying increase the possibility of suicide and suicide attempts.
While every state with the exception of Montana has some form of bullying law only 16 of those states include cyberbullying. If you are not in a state that includes cyberbully legislation what can you do? There are many websites that give very sound advice as to what can be done to help. Such as Safeclicks and stopbullying. However, I think we should take it a bit further. An anti-cyberbullying law was proposed to the federal government and is sitting in some dark secluded corner collecting dust because it has not been able to generate enough backing. H.R. 1966 (111th): Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act named after Megan Meier a girl who commit suicide because of cyberbullying.
We often think that we, as one person, can hardly do anything to make a change. Unlike the story of David and Goliath, I’m not asking you to cast any stones. Truth be told, that has already been done. Plenty of stones have been cast into the waters of this terrible form of harassment. However, we must continue the fight and pick up the torch. Linda T. Sanchez a Californian congresswoman has already set things in motion by submitting this proposal to congress, now, about the torch mentioned, you must do your part. Let us reach out to our senate, these people we voted into office and have a responsibility to us, their voters. Lets ask that they support this bill and see to it that the law is passed. We can all prevent the repetition of tragic cases like that of Megan Meier.
Are you on board and wondering what you can do to help? Well first, go to the government website and find your senators. Senators make themselves available to their constituents and have varying forms of communication available. And as easily as you can call and state your concerns, you can also copy and paste this message in the text of an email:
Dear Senator [Insert Last Name]:
As a constituent concerned about the lack of cyberbullying legislation on a federal level, I urge you to back the H.R. 1966 (111th): Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act presented to congress by California’s Linda Sanchez.
Cyberbullying is an epidemic that destroys lives and rarely sees punishment. Cyberbullying can be very damaging. With the nature of the Internet, once things are circulated they may never disappear. Cyberbullying can lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicide. It is an increasingly dangerous issue that needs to be addressed. With the federal government passing this bill, not only would this form of harassment become a taboo but it would also become punishable by law.
Many bullies don’t see what they do as cyberbullying and are likely to view it as a joke. However, ruining lives is never a laughing matter. I ask that you please help in protecting our community. In protecting our children, siblings, friends and neighbors.
You have the power to speak for me, for our community and to make a difference. I once again urge you to support H.R. 1966 (111th): Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act. It is of the upmost importance that our lives be protected by our government and ask that you represent my voice, that of your constituent, in the face of your peers.
[City, State ZIP]
© 2013 Seven Magazine