Tragically, these two seem to go hand in hand these days. Cyber bullying recently claimed its fourth victim in as many weeks. The latest casualty – Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student that jumped to his death off of the George Washington Bridge. This was in response to his his roommate secretly taping and streaming online a private, sexual encounter of Clementi and another male.
Bullying is as old as human social societal structures. The strong and dominate have and will continue to prey upon the meek and submissive. Any new communication or technological medium provides a platform for this type of behavior. Back in the good old days, bullying was confined to the schoolyard, the playground or basically anywhere people physically congregated. With 500 million members and growing, Facebook often becomes the venue of choice for the bullies of today.
The access and anonymity that social networks provide make it all too easy for bullies to thrive. It is much easier to muster bravado while typing at a keyboard, rather than dealing directly with a physical confrontation. Many people who lack the physical prowess to “bully” others in the real world, hide behind a mask and spew insults and messages of hate to their adversaries. This has created a situation where anyone on a social networking site has the propensity to be both bully and victim.
Parents, educators and a concerned community must realize and address the dangers associated with social networking and the internet in general. We must educate the bullies on the potential consequences of their actions and the bullied on coping mechanisms and resources available to strengthen and support them. It is tragically ironic, that at a time in history when we are the most “connected,” that so many people feel isolated and alone. Predatory sex offenders are not the only dangers lurking online. We must vigilantly guard and defend the fragile egos and psyches of our nation’s youth.
What strategies, resources and tools can be used to combat cyber bullying and the suicide connection? Please leave your tips and suggestions in the comments section below.