As soon as someone is perceived as ‘different’, there lies an opportunity for unscrupulous individuals to take advantage of that person. Maybe it makes them feel superior. Maybe it gives them a natural ‘high’ by showing off to their peers or maybe these instigators just have evil intentions. Whatever the reason, this phenomenon has been around for countless centuries, only to be brought into the mainstream via the Internet and social networking – and maybe that is a good thing.
But how can cyberbullying be controlled and how can preventing it be enforced?
Sending disturbing emails and texts are part of the problem and are hard to monitor or control; however, preventative procedures can help towards diminishing the amount of bullying that perpetuates the Internet.
Free speech should not be controlled within the social media environment; however, that doesn’t mean to say that it should not be monitored and proper action taken against those individuals whose posts are interrupted as threatening, intimidating or abusive.
Facebook and the other social media should take some responsibility towards keeping a ‘clean’ environment among their members. They all provide policies against bullying and other forms of abuse, but they can’t enforce these policies alone and they depend on others to report these cases of abuse to them. Quite frankly, this procedure has all but failed, as we continue to hear about people (mostly young people) who take their lives due to some malicious posts that were written against them.
That being the case, more has to be done. Starting with the schools, they must take cyberbullying seriously and provide preventative measures to decrease and/or terminate this abuse during school hours AND after school hours as well (when most of the cyberbullying takes place), if it is determined that the abusers are enrolled in the school.
Sometimes, cyberbullying can arise outside of school jurisdiction, as the aggressors might not even be a student; therefore, there needs to be community action as well.
Overall, some suggestions for controlling cyberbullying are listed below:
- The abusers should be reported to the social media establishment with a request to remove their account(s), but not before copies or screenshots are taken of the abusive posts (for later use if necessary).
- Schools should provide special classes each semester, using ‘scared straight’ tactics about the dangers of bullying others. Including in this class would be a description of the consequences that could result, depending upon the seriousness of the abuse (suspension, arrest and even the possibility of being sued by the victim’s parents). Case histories would be presented.
- Establish a support group in the school that would consist of teachers and students where victims of bullying can go to for help.
- Establish a community support group that would consist of counselors, therapists, law enforcement officers and school officials (preferably those that are part of the school support group) to discuss the victim’s concerns and the possibility of action taken against the aggressors.
- Parents should be vigilant to cyberbullying and taught what to look out for among their children, whether that be that their child is the abuser or victim. They should also be advised about the local laws that could potentially hold them responsible if it is determined that their son/daughter is cyberbullying another teenager.
As far as maintaining anonymity on the Internet is concerned, most social media networks do not allow a user to remain anonymous. Using anonymous email and in cases where it is allowed and cases where websites are anonymously created, that would be difficult to stop; however, a cyberbully can’t run and hide in the cloud forever. Considering today’s software technology and machine language algorithms, it would only be a matter of time before the abuser is discovered and brought to justice.