With the explosion of social media, teenagers have been handed immediate access to an open cyber-battlefield. Too many negative comments are blasted online with a high possibility of being seen by many.
During my generation we hung out at the mall, rode bikes to the skate-park or school to explore. We socialized outside, played outside, and of course fought outside. Today the internet has become the playground for the generation of young. This is where kids come to socialize, surf the net, and where some come to, verbally attack students, teachers, principals or even parents.
Anyone can set up a Facebook account, MySpace, or blog, and can easily post hurtful comments. Because not all comments show the author’s name, these comments are difficult to track.
The National Crime Prevention Council defines cyber-bullying as “the process of using the internet, cell phones or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.”
What may seem like a student’s right to privacy and free speech, very well may be defamation of character with potential legal consequences. Many students have no idea what challenges they could face. This should make it a priority moving into the 2012 school year to continue recognizing Cyberbullying and how states should respond.
The consequences can range from violation of school code leading to possible suspension from school or not being allowed to participate with afterschool sports. Cyber-bullies beware; the New Year brings new laws to many states.
Two examples are California and Illinois:
1) California passed Assembly Bill 9 this year and it will go into effect January 1, 2012. This bill will “require the policy adopted by the local educational agencies to prohibit discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying based on actual or perceived characteristics.” This bill also gives school districts the right to suspend and in some cases, expel students who are caught.
2) Illinois passed HB3281 amending current School Code. PA 97-0340 is also becoming law January 1, 2012. This bill provides that “the gross disobedience or misconduct for which a school board may expel pupils includes that perpetuated by electronic means.” This includes making explicit threats on an internet site against school employees, students, or any school-related personnel.
Cyber-bullying is still a threat to student’s safety, however, due to the efforts by ikeepsafe.org; the hard work is paying off. Many school districts see the tremendous value in promoting responsible digital citizenship.
Happy New Year to all, and let’s make an impact!
Dennis Schmid is a married father of 3 living in Mesa, Arizona. Dennis works full-time for the leader in Identity Theft Protection and has first-hand knowledge of what society needs to protect families and businesses from cyber-attacks and identity theft.