Cyber bullying is a relatively new concern that our society has to deal with. The Amanda Todd story fully illustrates the potential consequences of what cyber-bullying can have on young adults. Although the Amanda Todd story is extreme and well publicized, there are potential millions of cases that are less extreme and go unnoticed. This analysis will provide a background on the Amanda Todd story as well as the phenomenon of cyberbullying that is increasingly becoming a societal concern amongst the younger generations as the role of social media expands further and further into personal lives.
Amanda Todd was a young female living in Vancouver who was the victim of cyber bullying. When she was in 7th grade she was very active in internet chat groups and, at one point, allowed a stranger to flatter her into flashing her exposed breasts into a camera (Grenoble, 2012). Roughly a year later the same man found Amanda on Facebook and used the image to blackmail her into making an explicit video for him. Later, the video went viral and Amanda was left to deal with the shame that having her personal exploits being witnessed by many of her friends, family, and classmates. The psychological harm that was caused by this was illustrated by a video that Amanda created to express her feelings about the event.
The video was produced before Amanda Todd committed suicide. She stated that as a result of the bullying and the humiliation that was associated with the illicit material that was posted about her on the internet, that she felt anxiety, depression, and panic disorders. Amanda tried to go to different schools in order to try to get a fresh start with a new student population. But these efforts failed and the stories and online videos were viewed by the students in the new schools she relocated to. The stress for Amanda was too great and she began to engage in acts such as self-mutilation. Her first effort at suicide was drinking bleach which was unsuccessful. Later she overdosed on prescription medications but this suicide attempt was unsuccessful as well. However, in January 2014, Amanda was finally successful in taking her own life and the videos of her that were posted on Facebook went viral and millions of people became familiar with the Amanda Todd story.
Historic Events and Legal Decisions
The word "bully" can be traced back as far as the 1530s; in its most basic sense bullying involves two people, a bully or intimidator and a victim (Donegan, 2012). The bully abuses the victim through physical, verbal, or other means in order to gain a sense of superiority and power. However, social media and the advancement of technology has allowed for a new type of bullying to occur which is referred to as cyberbullying. As people nationwide have turned to the courts for redress in bullying incidents, we have seen a variety of lawsuits and legal proceedings associated with cyberbullying, such as (Glover, 2012):
• Civil causes of action for alleged torts like defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, premises liability, vicarious liability, and damages;
• Civil causes of action for alleged free speech, equal protection, and privacy violations;
• Student and employee discipline for harassment and violations of institutional policies and codes of conduct -- Effective July 1, 2012, California elementary and secondary schools will also be able to suspend and expel students for cyberbullying that satisfies certain legal requirements under California Education Code section 48900(r); and • Criminal charges and prosecution for hate crimes, impersonation, harassment, cyberbullying, and violations under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).
However, since many of the legislation for laws against cyberbullying are based upon the state's rule, the actual criminal and civil laws vary from place to place. However, forty-nine states have passed anti-bullying laws and the first was Georgia in 1999.
There are also independent watchdog organizations that are now dedicated to providing the latest regulations and even a comparison rating of the state's laws such as "Bully Police USA" (Bully Police USA, N.d.). Despite the political support anti-bullying legislation has gotten, there are many critics of the legislation. For example, some have argued that New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights under the First Amendment and claims that the biggest problem with the new law is not just its costs or heightened liability for New Jersey schools, but rather the statute's increased regulation of off-campus speech (Nash, 2012).
Reducing bullying among students has become a major goal of schools in the modern world. However despite the efforts made in legislation little progress is being made and some even estimate to be a continually growing problem (Kalman, 2013). Much of the research on school anti-bullying programs has shown that these programs have little benefit to the schools and the students and can even sometimes make the problem more salient. So far the U.S. And other countries have focused mostly on taking a legal/law enforcement approach to the problem rather than a scientific/psychological approach. The social sciences could be harness to create better interventions that could be more effective than some of the zero tolerance measures that have been put into place.
There are many psychological issues associated with school bullying as well as interventions to deal with this issue. There can be both proactive and reactive strategies introduced to help those who have been the subject of peer victimization. One experiment with junior high-school students studied strategies such as identification of supportive systems, in-class strategies, premonition and environmental analysis, thought cessation and redirection, and masking; the results show that although the strategies helped participants to cope with the immediate effects of bullying, they did not exempt participants from the psychological and emotional implications of peer victimization.
There are certain groups that are more vulnerable to bullying than others. One example can be provided by individuals who have speech-language needs and pathologists (SLPs) must be aware of these issues related to communication disorders. One literature review in education, psychology, child and adolescent development, and speech-language pathology was conducted and the recommendations for how SLPs can prevent and intervene in bullying incidences were extrapolated from the reviewed literature (Hughes & Schuele, 2014). It was found that students with communication disorders are at particularly high risk for being bullied by peers and some students with communication disorders are "provocative victims" in that they demonstrate impairments in social skills that draw the attention of bullies (Hughes & Schuele, 2014).
There are many challenges that individuals, schools, and law enforcement face when trying to deal with peer abuse and/or bullying. It was identified that there are two basic strategies -- proactive and reactive. The proactive strategies consist of education and outreach primarily. Although there has been legislation passed in nearly every state to punish cases of bullying, this can be considered more of a reactive method since the punishments occur after the offense. However, there is also undoubtedly an element of the punishments that have a deterrent effect upon future episodes; however these have proven to be ineffective in some circumstances and can even make the problem worse. Although counseling has proven to mitigate some of the effects of bullying, this is not a comprehensive solution either. Furthermore, some attempts to legislate the problem have gone as far as to question whether it violates first amendment rights. Thus the primary challenge related to all these factors is how to design a program that is effective and does not detract from individual liberties.
I agree that there should be some component of a proactive strategy that is developed through the assistance of the social sciences. The power of education and a support system that monitors students proactively can greatly reduce the likelihood of occurrences. I also agree that even though many of the legislative measures have vast amounts of political support, there is definitely the potential for some of these attempts to cross the line and actually be counter-productive. Furthermore, some punishment should be strictly enforced; especially for severe cases. However, for more minor instances, I believe that rehabilitation should be a greater focus and the criminal justice system would ineffectively treat those who are the "bullies." There seems to be some psychological imbalance that drives the bully motivation that could be treated as opposed to punished. Therefore, I think that some of the punishments and legislative acts might be too severe or misguide (with the exception of serve instances).
Police officers, prosecuting attorneys, and judges should not strictly enforce punishments for minor occurrences. It is often the case that when a youth member is introduced to the criminal justice system that they are treated in a counterproductive way that only increases the likelihood of future issues. The legal system should mandate counseling and treatment to give the bullies a chance at rehabilitation before resorting to more extreme punishments.
Cyber bullying is a relatively new concern that our society has to deal with. The Amanda Todd…