Cyberbullying: What We Can Do To Stop the Growing Epidemic

By Jennifer Janviere

The growing cyberbullying epidemicFacebook and social media have undoubtedly changed the methods that we use to communicate with one another, in both positive and negative ways. But the popularity of online networking has a troubling dark side that has recently been gaining more media attention: the growing problem of cyberbullying.

Bullying is nothing new to teenagers and in some cases, college students. But with the advent of the Internet and the exponentially increasing popularity of sites such as Facebook and Twitter, this problem has the potential to become more widespread and out of control than ever before.

According to an article on ReadWriteWeb.com, 32% percent of teenagers with social media profiles have experienced some form of harassment while online. This includes forwarding of private content and posting (sometimes embarrassing) photos of other users without their consent, or even verbal threats.

In recent years, the media has been littered with stories of bullying behavior gone too far; of personal online attacks that have crossed the line from cruel to deadly. And these cases are unfortunately not limited to teens. Take the example of Lori Drew,  the woman on trial for helping her daughter create a false profile to blackmail a classmate rival, only to end with the targeted girl committing suicide. This led to a prolonged, costly and public court battle between the families of both girls involved, until the case was eventually dismissed by the ruling judge mid 2009.

Even more recent examples include Phoebe Prince, who took her life earlier this year after battling with incessant attacks from fellow students on Facebook and Tyler Clementi, who jumped off the George Washington Bridge last month after his roommates conspired to post embarrassing content of the Rutgers University freshman on YouTube.

Now that the issue has become so public, what can be done to combat this growing problem? Should parents of teens who bully others online be held legally accountable for the consequences? Should the teens themselves face punishment as adults? Should websites such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter be accountable for policing and removing offending material? And what legal punishment is an appropriate counter measure for the instigators of vicious personal online attacks?

Possibly the most important question of all, however, is how can we can counteract cyberbullying. A variety of online resources provide tips for parents and teachers on spotting and stopping the problem and links to state laws. A few helpful sites are posted below:

StopBullyingNow.com
Stop Cyberbullying.org
Prevention tips from Google Family Safety Center
Info about cyberbullying for parents on Forbes.com

Perhaps most importantly, parent and teacher involvement is the key to educating young people about the consequences of bullying and stopping this behavior as soon as they see it happen. Too many times a blind eye is turned towards this issue, which many people wrongly consider a harmless part of the adolescent experience. A little vigilance on the part of adults can go a long way towards setting expectations for online etiquette and stopping these problems before they get out of hand.

While bullying itself will never completely go away, a watchful and involved community of role models and authority figures can help set the tone for more positive ways of interacting and dealing with interpersonal problems that will resonate with young people and will help shape their future online interactions for years to come.

Jennifer Janviere is a multimedia specialist and instructor in the Diederich College of Communication.

2 Responses to “Cyberbullying: What We Can Do To Stop the Growing Epidemic”


  1. 1 scott October 11, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    I think some of the worst bullying (“cyber” and otherwise) is related to homophobia. Dealing with that would lead to significant progress.

  2. 2 Judge Tom October 12, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    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 http://www.freespirit.com [publisher] or on http://www.askthejudge.info [a free website for & about teens and the law].

    Regards, -Judge Tom


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The opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of Marquette University or the Diederich College of Communication.

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