This week, the New Zealand government signed into law the “Anti Bullying Law”. The wide-reaching law is designed to crack down on cyber-bullying, with serious offences attracting up to two years in jail or fines of up to $50,000. Children under the age of 14 cannot be charged with cyber bullying and those aged 15-17 will be entered into the Youth Justice System. This law adds an offense for inciting or encouraging suicide or any kind of harmful activity.
In my opinion this is a great step towards the issue of bullying but especially cyber bullying, an extremely harmful activity that until now was totally legal and could not really be prosecuted. But even though 99% of teenagers have witnessed cyber bullying in some form, and between 33% and 50% of teenagers have been victims of some form of cyber bullying, only 7% of parents are worried about this issue. 7%?!? If only 7% of people cared about rape, people would most likely notice and consider that a problem. But cyber bullying is also a big problem. And its more of a modern problem. Part of the problem is that not many people understand what cyber bullying actually is.
Cyber bullying can take many forms:
- Sending mean messages or threats to a person’s email account or cell phone
- Spreading rumors online or through texts
- Posting hurtful or threatening messages on social networking sites or web pages
- Stealing a person’s account information to break into their account and send damaging messages
- Pretending to be someone else online to hurt another person
- Taking unflattering pictures of a person and spreading them through cell phones or the Internet
- Sexting, or circulating sexually suggestive pictures or messages about a person
And none of the items above are okay. Cyber bullying can lead to anxiety, depression and even suicide. A lot of cyber bullies think that their actions are funny. It’s not. I want you to apply this two word sermon whenever you feel like saying a mean comment to something or someone. Stop it. It’s not okay. Ever. Before you say anything on the internet or in real life, think about what you are saying, why you are saying it and how the person on the receiving end of your comment might feel about it. You commenting “You can’t draw, go back to school” on a piece of art that an artist just finished making is not a way to boost their confidence in their abilities and might make them lose interest in doing any artistic work again because they think that their art is no longer good enough.
Just because you have an opinion on something, does not mean you need to express that at every possibility. One of the worries of the opposition party for this new law in New Zealand was that this law might limit freedom of speech. But it shouldn’t. Just because you feel like someone’s haircut looks like a bird’s nest, does not mean you need to tell them that. You don’t like a video on Youtube? You don’t then go and comment and let them know how much their video sucks.
Don’t agree with someone’s opinion? It is not your moral obligation to tell them how wrong or stupid they are. No matter how wrong their opinion may be, putting down of an individual and demeaning their intelligence is not productive. Feel free to point out why you may disagree with someone, but saying something like “You’re dumb, how could you ever think something like that you loser?” is harmful, offensive, unhelpful and just plain rude.
Cyber-bullying is an issue, as statistics prove more than 90% of teenagers have witnessed some form of it online. Governments and larger organizations are starting to realise that this is a problem that needs dealing with, and that is a very positive step in the right direction. However, there is more we can do. Though lots of teenagers see cyber bullying, not many are quick to help or do anything about it. If you see someone being targeted by this kind of bullying, do what you can to help. Just telling the cyber bully to leave someone alone, telling them to go away or comforting the person being targeted is already a great help, and anyone you help in this way will really appreciate it!
If you are a victim of cyber-bullying and don’t know what to do, there are people and resources that can help you! Below are just a few links if you are ever looking for help or more information:
Cyber bullying is not okay. It never will be okay and we cannot tolerate it in our society.
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