Social Media: Cyber Bullying and Teen Suicide

Cyber Bullying is an increasing problem in today's "Social Media" society

According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, about half of young people in the United States have experienced some form of cyber bulling; 10-20 percent of those people experience it regularly. Cyber bullying is defined as when a child or teen is threatened, teased embarrassed or harassed by another person using the Internet or another form of technology. Some other frightening statistics show that cyber bullying is on the rise and becoming an increasing problem in today’s society due to the fact that so many teens use social networks to communicate; over 80 percent of teens use a cell phone regularly. In addition to social media, cell phones are a very common medium for cyber bullying. Cyber bullying victims are more likely than non-victims to have a low self esteem and consider suicide.

Most recently, in October 2011 Amber Cole, a 14-year old girl from Baltimore, MD, was filmed (without her consent) performing sexual acts with her ex-boyfriend. The video was then spread around social media sites and she became a worldwide target for cyber bullies. #AmberCole became a trending topic immediately following the release of the graphic video and she has been a target for Twitter-bullies ever since. She said that the release of this tape has ruined her life and her reputation.

As seen in this New York Times blog, the Pew Research Center released a survey which shows that 88 percent of the teens surveyed said they witnessed “people being mean or cruel” on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Another shocking fact is that one in five admitted to joining in on the cruelty. If one in five of those surveyed admitted to being cruel, how many of these teens actually participate in the cruelty but do not admit to it?

In recent years there has been an increasing number of cyber bullying cases that have ended in suicide. According to this article from the South Carolina State University, Alexis Pilkington, 17, committed suicide in March 2010 in New York because of a number of cyber bullying attacks that she received from social media websites, especially FormSpringMe. On October 7,2003, Ryan Halligan, 13, hung himself because of harassment he received at the hands of his peers. They spread untrue gossip, told him to kill himself and drew him into an online conversation that was later copied and pasted and spread to his entire school.

It is no secret that the problem of cyber bullying is on the rise and that many teenage lives are at risk due to this epidemic. What are adults doing to stop cyber bullying?

According to the Cyberbulling Research Center, by September 2001 46 U.S states had some kind of law against cyber bullying. The Anti-cyber bullying law in South Carolina includes all means of electronic communication—the Internet, mobile phones, cameras, etc. Although many states have these laws, they include major flaws.

Generally speaking, most of the laws allow law enforcement to act upon cyber bullying only if they occur within an educational setting. This is obviously a problem because many teens use their own computers at home, which means that they are able to cyber bully without consequences if their parents are not aware of their Internet activity. This means that until these laws are amended to be more strict, parents should limit and monitor their children’s time on the Internet and cell phones, and listen to cries for help from their children that may be affected by online bullying.

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