Cyberbullying is an issue that many people (including students) struggle with at one point. Pennsylvania does not have specific cyberbullying laws, however, cyberbullying falls under Pennsylvania’s harassment/stalking statues. Additionally, schools must have their own policy, publicly posted, and reviewed at least once per school year with students. Review your state’s cyberbullying laws/statutes, as well as your own experience/view on cyberbullying. Do you believe there are additional laws/provisions needed to punish cyberbullies? If so, what laws do you believe would benefit students in particular in your state?
Cyberbullying and the elimination of it have become prevalent topics in today’s media. It seems like every other day that a new tragic story is surfacing of students who have turned to violence or even suicide after receiving some form of cyberbullying. At the end of the day, it is a heart issue that needs to be resolved through understanding, but nonetheless, there is much legislative and front-line action we could take to prevent this unnecessary harassment.
In my home state of Florida, we have recently passed legislation towards the punishment of those who cyberbully. Cyberbullying and harassment are still defined as separate acts under the law but cyberbullying is on the road to becoming further restricted and outlawed. Schools in the state of Florida that receive federal funding are required to keep a log of all “discriminatory incidents” and release a sort of a prospectus as to how they plan to eliminate these occurrences within the school. These discriminatory incidents include known incidents of cyberbullying. Though these legislations are in good faith, they are not enough to try and eliminate cyberbullying at its root, as they are only required to put out this report once a year and are tackling it with too broad of a scope. Cyberbullying needs to receive a set-apart status from normal bullying to begin to eliminate it efficiently. The punishment for convicted cyberbullies needs to be heightened and scaled dependent on the level of severity of the incident. If it’s a mild incident, then the punishment could be a restriction from internet access for a set period of time, provided the offender is a minor with parents that consent to the program. If the incident is more severe, then the internet access restriction could be lengthened, or other duties could be implicated such as community service time. Another way to prevent cyberbullying would be to educate parents on both fronts of the field to keep an eye out for cyberbullying. Parents should be properly educated to look for the signs of their child being a cyberbullying victim, which could include frequent online chatting with someone from their school that they are otherwise afraid to approach, a general tendency to hide what they do on their phone, a downturn in positive behaviors, and many other subtle signs. Parents should also keep an eye as to whether or not their children could be perpetuating the cyberbullying problem, which includes frequent online chatting with someone from their school that they otherwise do not associate with, a general tendency to hide what they do on their phone in messaging apps, or an unwillingness to get off of their device when asked to do so. Another generalized red flag that either side of the situation could be partaking in is the creation of multiple social media accounts, as a victim may be making them to escape a bully and a bully may be making them to chase the victim as their other accounts may be blocked. Lastly, the bullying topic needs to become less of a taboo in our society. We need to let the children and young adults know that coming forward about cyberbullying is not a weak move and that their real friends will stick with them along the way.
Though it is a major issue in today’s society, Cyberbullying is something that we gladly are on the road to eliminating. I have no experience being cyberbullied in my day but I feel for those who receive any form of unwarranted persecution, especially in such a formative time as the preteen and young adult years.