Delete Cybrebully

Black letters flash across the screen, launching an attack of rumors and insults. A text, a Facebook wall post, a Tweet – a line or two is all it takes to wound someone's self-esteem, to bring tears, to ruin a friendship. With the explosion of modern technology, old-school bullying is out and a new type of bullying is taking the stage; the youth of this generation do not even need to have personal confrontation. While stuffing someone in a locker is a pretty obvious sign of harassment, with no bruises or bloody noses as evidence of abuse, cyber-bullying often doesn't raise alarms until it's too late.

“It's such a gray area,” says Broadcast teacher Charles Huette. “It is easy to talk about but difficult to identify.” When asked to define “cyber-bullying,” most students respond with a blank look. Most eventually describe it as something hurtful said online about another, but the definition is far from clear-cut. One of the challenges with cyber-bullying is its chameleon effect: it takes many forms, often blending in with its ­surroundings.

Websites like Twitter have made drawing attention to oneself simple and common. So common, in fact, that the results of online actions often don't merit a second thought. When “George” posted comments about other students on Twitter, he didn't intend it to be an attack. “I just thought it was funny,” he says. “When I wrote it, I thought that the people I wrote about or their friends weren't going to see it because I know who follows me, but it got around. I didn't realize that [the students or a teacher] would actually see it.”

An unintentionally mean Twitter comment may or may not be cyber-bullying, but that doesn't make it any less hurtful. The ease of sending words into cyberspace blurs the line between public and private, amusement and attack. Whatever the definition, the results are real. And even though actions on the Web can seem to be miles from reality, there's no denying that the dangers are real. “It's very clear that those things do have consequences. You hear about kids committing suicide,” Huette says.

Many feel that when it comes to cyber-bullying, it simply takes a click of the power button to zap away the negative effects. Unfortunately, it isn't always that easy. “People think if you just walk away and move on, it goes away. But ignoring it won't solve the problem,” says Tina, a junior. “It's hurtful because people have their self-esteem crushed.”

Facebook or fists, bullying is bullying. Though it may seem less real when it's hidden behind a screen, the results are as solid as a slap in the face. There's no doubt that the Internet is part of modern life, but with it comes a new set of dangers and responsibilities. In a world where privacy is fleeting and it's almost as easy to inadvertently become the bully as the bullied, actions and words need the same care and consideration they merit in the real world.





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