Cyberbullying crackdown is a first step

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Cartoon by Adrian Martinez/Staff

Cowards and bullies have a huge new hangout, the worldwide web. Their destructive power has never been more dangerous.

A wave of sorrow recently shook the country with the death of 15-year-old Amanda Todd. She committed suicide after relentless cyberbullying. Her death made national headlines and lit up social media. Facebook pages were created with pictures of Todd with angel wings. Hundreds of thousands of supporters wrote comments to raise awareness about bullying.

Some sickos, unfortunately, did not honor the healing spirit of these pages and used them to spread more hurtful comments. It is bizarre that complete strangers were making it seem as though they knew Todd.  Others were also using the page dedicated to her to acquire Facebook likes, cheapening the true purpose of the electronic shrines.

A Cyberbullying Research Center report said tragic endings are becoming more common.

“Cyberbullying victims were almost twice as likely to have attempted suicide compared to youth who had not experienced cyberbullying,” it read.

Cyberbullying is defined as someone repeatedly harassing, mistreating or making fun of another person online, or while using cell phones or other electronic devices.

Todd put herself out on the Internet for others to see. She uploaded a video to YouTube in which she enumerated her struggles with constant and cruel online beat downs. Reports say that before that she was pressured into flashing a man via webcam.

Facebook and YouTube pages that are cruel, coercive and dangerous should not be allowed. They give an open hand to others with ill intent. Sympathy and shrine pages are not helpful, either. Better to have pages with professional insight from psychologists and counselors, not gratuitous pages that constantly crave the “likes” of others who may not really care.

Pages such as the Cyberbullying Research Center are a rich source of useful information. A 2010 study concluded that 50 percent of students ages 10-18 use the Internet simply to log on to Facebook. Almost 17 percent of those students also used it to go on chat rooms. Females are 25 percent more susceptible to bullying as opposed to 16 percent of males.

In the eight-minute video that Todd uploaded to YouTube, she described how the cyber bullying torture followed her everywhere she went. She moved homes, schools and cities to no avail. She included a picture of her arm, cut and bleeding. Her online cries for help just made things worse. Wolves and monsters moved in for the kill.

Suicide is not the only way out. School counselors are here to help. That is the message responsible online communicators need to spread.

California is cracking down cyber bullying. Assembly Bill 746 signed into law last year states, “bullying, including bullying committed by means of an electronic act, as defined, is a ground on which suspension or expulsion may be based. This bill would specify that an electronic act for purposes of the act includes a post on a social network Internet website.”

Many websites are dedicated to putting an end to cyber bullying. The National Crime Prevention Association (NCPA) website discusses ways to stay “cyber-safe.” It urges people to not pass along the cyber bullying messages, tell friends to stop cyber bullying, block communication with the cyber bullies and report the bullying to a trusted adult. Shutting off the computer and going outside may be the best advice of all. Young people need to learn to just walk away from the cesspool of online cruelty and hate.

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