Staff Editorial: WHERE WE STAND: Discretion important to combat cyber bullying

The story about Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student, taking his own life is amongst one of the many that the media are calling cases of cyber bullying, or cyber-harassment.

The topic of cyber bullying has made headlines these past weeks, and has slowly become the top concern many have regarding the steady growth of social media.

Gone are the days when a bully can only attack on school grounds. According to stopcyberbullying.org, a website created to educate and prevent cyber bullying, cyber bullying occurs when a child, preteen or teenager is, “ tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another […] using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.”

Cyber bullying can affect people of all ages and can lead to dire consequences. Photo courtesy of WAtoday

The website makes a distinction that when these cases occur amongst adults, it is called cyber-harassment.

In any case, it’s obvious that cyber bullying has become a problem with social networking sites , like Facebook, and even through direct, personal communication, like text messaging, but what are we to do about it?

Granted, there are laws that could possibly be enacted to patrol what goes on online, but trying to resolve and avoid these instances of cyber bullying can easily start at home or with the individual.

Parents, for instance, need to have a stronger presence and knowledge of their child’s online activity.

Trusting a child or teenager with a computer is much like trusting them with a car. Their inexperience can lead them to avenues that they may not know what to do with while they’re alone in their room.

“The Internet has been called a big city with no police,” said Dr. Kimberly S. Young, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.

There are so many things that can be viewed on the Internet. From how-to sites, to chat rooms, to adult sites where children are at risk to view things they aren’t meant to see at such a young age. Parents possess the ability to prevent this from happening.

Parents these days allow their kids to roam the Internet for many hours throughout the day. Many kids even have their own laptops.

“The most important way to help is prevention,” Dr. Young added. “Parents should learn what their kids do online, talk to them about it and know the early warning signs of trouble.”

Besides prevention, another way to help is to install parental control settings on the computers. Normally this requires a password to view certain sites and limits kids from harmful material on the web.

Other practical solutions, like having the computer in an open area in the house, instead of in a child’s room, are always talked about, but even having constant talks about what they can or cannot do online is also important.

Having that line of communication between parent and child is key and allows for a chance to truly know what’s going on in their lives.

Granted, most college students may not know anything about parenting, but these principles can be applied to ourselves when it comes to facing issues of cyber-harassment.

Keeping out of situations that might generate cyber-harassment can be as simple as learning one’s boundaries and exercising discretion online. You know yourself better than anyone, so you should practice safety when surfing the web.

Another rule of thumb to follow is to simply exercise discretion when posting content on the Internet. As we’ve all heard, once something has been posted online, it can never truly be deleted.

Once that message, post or photo has been put out there, it’s available for anyone to see. And with the steady trend of employers checking up on a prospective employee’s online activity, for example, it’s obvious why practicing discretion online is important.

Is it really going to be worth it to post a rumor about someone or bash someone online all for the sake of trying to knock another person down?

Parent involvement and discretion are important in battling cyber bullying and cyber-harassment.

The Lewis Flyer

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