Wednesday, October 6, 2010


The digital age has more than its shares of fears: worms and viruses designed to electronically rob or reek havoc, and deception and misdirection designed to coerce or compromise. The fear of the virtual predator must be foremost is many adults eyes: especially as we see children and teens spend so much time plugged in. Many of us, however, miss that the harm most likely to be found on the internet by kids comes not from the hardened criminal, but from their peers.

The case of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after a sexual encounter with another man was broadcast online, has shocked many. But his death is just one of several suicides in recent weeks by young gay teenagers who had been harassed by classmates, both in person and online.

The list includes Billy Lucas, a 15-year-old from Greensburg, Ind., who hanged himself on Sept. 9 after what classmates reportedly called a constant stream of invective against him at school.

Less than two weeks later, Asher Brown, a 13-year-old from the Houston suburbs, shot himself after coming out. He, too, had reported being taunted at his middle school, according to The Houston Chronicle. His family has blamed school officials as failing to take action after they complained, something the school district has denied.

CNN is doing a whole series on stopping bullying, including this piece by Stephanie Chen:

Kids are more digitally connected than ever, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which reported that children devoted an average 7 hours a day to their gadgets. The proliferation of cell phones, iPods and Facebook brings a complicated challenge for parents, teachers and students: The constant exposure to technology and the web amplifies opportunities for children to bully each other online.

One in five youths between age 10 and 18 have been a victim of cyberbullying or participated in cyberbullying, according to a survey of 4,400 children conducted by the Cyberbulling Research Center, an organization tracking the internet bullying trend. This figure is conservative, because children are often afraid to come forward to their parents, bullying experts say.

Cyberbullying can take on various forms, from a middle-schooler firing a hurtful text message to high school teens harassing a boyfriend or girlfriend online. The National Crime Prevention Council defines cyberbullying -- a term practically nonexistent more than a decade ago --- as what "happens when teens use the internet, cell phones, or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person."

"It's a daily nightmare," said Alexandra Penn, founder of Champions Against Bullying. a nonprofit based in Los Angeles, California, that provides resources for reducing incidences of traditional and internet bullying in schools. "There's nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.”

Recent research shows that cyberbullying can cause higher levels of depression in a child than traditional bullying. Compared with face-to-face bulling of schoolchildren, a child who had experienced cyberbullying from someone anonymous "may be more likely to feel isolated, dehumanized, or helpless at the time of the attack, " according to a study from the National Institutes of Health.

The CNN article goes on to report that many states, schools, and private communication companies are responding by trying to get new laws and measures, hotlines, and technology to combat cyberbullying, but the virtual ground to cover is vast.

I have a list of "Blogs Worth a Look" on the left side of my screen, and noticed two of them have posted on this subject as well:


I've also been impressed by the coverage from Catholics for Equality's Facebook page

Don't despair, but don't be silent either. Malcolm quotes Dr. King:

When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.

Amen! Amen! Amen!


Judge Tom said...

After 23 years in juvenile court, I believe that teenagers often learn from the experiences of their peers, not just from being lectured by those in authority. Consequently, “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” was published in January, 2010.
Endorsed by Dr. Phil on April 8, 2010 ["Bullied to Death" show], “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” presents real cases of teens in trouble over their online and cell phone activities. Civil & criminal sanctions have been imposed on teens over their emails, blogs, text and IM messages, Facebook entries and more. TCI is interactive and promotes education & awareness so that our youth will begin to “Think B4 U Click.”
Thanks for looking at “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” on [publisher] or on [a free website for & about teens and the law].

Regards, -Judge Tom

Kurt said...

Episcopal Cafe linked to a roundup of resources for congregations in talking about bullying:

The television show Glee...already known for showing bullying and showing characters dealing and standing up for each other...will also be focusing more sharply on homophobic bullying.