Cyberbullying is defined as: “The use of electronic communication to bully a person by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature.” It is out there and it is on the rise. Especially at risk, of course, are adolescents and teenagers. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center in fact, 33.8 percent of teens surveyed between the ages of 12 and 17 have been cyberbullied in their lifetime. And, it is certainly no coincidence that suicide rates have been affected; the National Center for Health Statistics reports that that rate has doubled for girls ages 15-17 between 2007 and 2015.
Are we, as adults, setting a good example for our youth? Try not to roll your eyes too hard. The answer is, our course, that we are doing a terrible job. We are a country divided, with citizenry conditioned by search engines and analytics to read and consume news and information catered to our own personal belief systems. In turn, we eschew ideas counter to our own and, quite often, attack those espousing contrarian thoughts- often quite harshly. Social media makes it easy; in such cases, deeming it ‘anti-social’ media would be more apropos.
To the credit of some of our adult legislators, cyberbullying laws are coming more and more to the forefront with the West Virginia Senate just passing legislation while, the Maryland Senate has passed a bill that, ironically enough, the ACLU opposed. Still, our supposed top political ‘leader’ continues to take to Twitter to attack and malign in ongoing and outrageous attempts to discredit and shame while his wife has stated cyberbullying is among her most important causes. That irony cannot be understated.
And what of the mediums where mob mentality and bullying is too easy and occurs with far too much regularity? Twitter recently instituted new guidelines aimed at blocking, suspending and removing users who issue tweets and direct messages of a suspect nature. It’s a start. Overall, of course, it us up to us all. Teaching our kids right from wrong. Monitoring and being intolerant of such behavior in our schools. And setting a the right example right to the very top. After all, who are the kids in the room and who are the adults?