As more students have access to texting and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, cyberbullying has become more common than ever. According to a survey conducted by McAfee, a computer security company, "29 percent of 10 to 17 year olds said they've been cyberbullied, and 52 percent said they know someone who has experienced cyberbullying."
In the U.S., seven states have "added off-campus harassment to their bullying laws in recent years" according to Fox News. Georgia is not one of these states.
"Georgia legislature is looking at enacting cyberbullying laws" but there is no official law in Georgia that allows administrators to punish bullying that occurs in text messages and social media sites, 1st Lt. of the Newton County Sheriff's Office Mark Mitchell said.
Because cyberbullying allows bullies to harass their peers without having to confront them directly, more frequent occasions of harassment can occur. One upload of an embarrassing photo or a mean comment on Facebook can spread and be shared to other users, instigating more students to join the taunting. Groups on Facebook can be made, targeting a certain student with offensive comments.
"We've had some harassment, computer trespassing and computer privacy incidents," Mitchell said.
Cyberbullying not only occurs between teens, but also college students as well. On September 2010, 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, a student at Rutgers University, committed suicide caused his roommate's tweets about Tyler's intimacy with another boy. His roommate had installed a webcam in the room and tweeted students to video chat him if they wanted to see Tyler and his guest's intimate behaviors.
According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, signs that indicate the child is cyberbullying others is if the child "quickly switches or closes programs when you walk by, uses the computer at all hours of the night, gets unusually upset if he/she cannot use the computer, laughs excessively while using the computer, avoids discussion about what they are doing on the computer, uses multiple online accounts or using an account that is not their own."
Because cyberbullying is conducted online and through text messages, parents need to monitor their child's activities online and on the phone. They can teach their children about the consequences of bullying by taking telling them about real life incidents of cyberbullying that has led to unfortunate consequences such as suicide and involvement of the police. They can also take the child's phone or computer away if he or she is not responsible.
For students dealing with cyberbullying, they should refrain from responding to any nasty comments and leave the computer or phone. Responding back to the offensive comments prompts bullies to attack even more as they like to see the reactions of the targeted student. When a student demonstrates he or she has no interest in whatever the bully says, the harassment may begin to stop as the bully cannot get the reaction he or she wants.
Students should report to a parent or a trusted adult if the bully continues to text or post offensive comments even though they have tried to report the bully on Facebook and delete the messages. However, some students feel reluctant to tell their parents about their problems, so parents should be aware of the signs of cyberbully victims.
Some indications are when the child "unexpectedly stops using the computer, appears nervous or jumpy when an instant message, text message, or email appears, appears to be angry, depressed, or frustrated after using the computer, appears uneasy about going to school or outside in general, avoids discussions about what they are doing on the computer, becomes abnormally withdrawn from usual friends and family members."
Although there is no official law punishing cyberbullies, schools can still get involved. Some cyberbullying cases get to the point where the parent of the victim asks the school for help. When there is tangible evidence such as print outs of the offensive comments or texts and the bully comes clean about his actions, school officials can investigate which students are behind the taunting and get the students to come clean with their actions. Administrators may not have the rights to suspend the cyberbully for crimes committed out of school, but meeting with the bully will make the him or her realize the problem is getting serious and can be turned over to the police if it continues.
Cyberbullying has become an increasingly difficult issue to deal with. That is why more adult involvement is needed to educate students that cyberbullying is a serious problem and can lead to dire consequences.