Boon to Nightmare

August 22, 2011
By LizaW. GOLD, Glenview, Illinois
LizaW. GOLD, Glenview, Illinois
17 articles 0 photos 1 comment

As a teen living in the U.S., life can be generous, taking advantage of our nation's gifts. At the birth of our country, our Founding Fathers sat together in a room, and gave us the 1st amendment, otherwise known as Freedom of Speech. Then came the 21st century when Mark Zuckerburg and his friends sat in a Harvard dorm and gave us Facebook and a new age of social networking. Two blessed gifts. Two powerful gifts. With every blessing comes responsibility. We have the responsibility to use those gifts wisely, but when we forget that responsibility we get a curse. Cyber- bullying.

The nightmare of cyber-bullying starts small, teasing, whispering, and snickering. But it's a slow torture, following your thoughts whenever you try to move on. An uncontrollable, hidden monster. The uncontrollable factor is what makes cyber-bullying so difficult to stop. Cyber-bullying has the ability to turn a home, the safe haven, into a place of suicide and tears. As a result, nearly 2,000 teens in the U.S. commit suicide yearly.

So what went wrong? How did we reap deaths from 2 seemingly innocuous gifts? Was it the 1st Amendment? Facebook? Myspace? No. It's our response to the growth of the inevitable connections to each other, whether it is social networks or texts. If our social bounds are growing, so should our defense. Despite the flourish of opinion, creativity, and even humanity, freedom of speech inspires, I don't think it is justice when we let the 1st Amendment defend the provocation of the suicide of a thirteen year- old girl. The truth is that the U.S. has yet to pass a federal law addressing cyber-bullying. Although, instating federal laws won’t be the end of cyber-bullying, they will let the bullies know that bullying isn’t a minor offense. Rather, it is the stripping of humanity. We have decided from the very beginning that murder is unacceptable. Committing murder means taking away that person’s choices. However, driving someone to commit his or her own murder is entirely different. For that person to commit suicide, he or she has to go through unbearable pain and the belief that he or she is worthless. Bullying drives that person to see themselves to be insufficient to be a human being and therefore useless on the planet. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but never underestimate the power of the words themselves.

But it doesn’t simply stop at federal laws. We must also consider an increase in programs and counseling groups for teens who need help. For one thing there are certain limits to laws, like the impact of the family and environment. Both of which play a huge role in influencing the bullied or bully’s feelings and actions. For example, inattention or abuse by the family could lead to emotional imbalance in a child, who could in turn let out steam by bullying another person. In reverse, someone who is extremely well supported by his or her family could overcome, much more easily, the bullying situation. Because familial support can change things for the better or for the worse, we must have other sources that the teens can turn to when they feel lost. These sources would enlist teachers and counselors to assist teens who step forward and really be apart of the students’ lives at schools in order to know what’s going on. Another difficulty that comes with bullying is that many hurt teens refuse to come and get help, and sometimes their schools might not even have proper counseling. That’s why we need more programs to make sure that counselors and teachers are present for the students. The adults must also preemptively be present in hallways and lunch periods in order to pick up hints of possible unreported bullying. Most importantly, bullied students need to know that it’s not simply okay to let the bullying continue.

Freedom of speech and social networking sites are freedoms and when exercised properly, powerful. Isn’t it empowering to know that your words can be heard all around the word? Let’s not abuse them, but protect them.

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