Advancements in technology have impacted virtually every aspect of the modern world. Sadly, this is not always positive. Young people are using the internet to harass and bullying other young people often forgetting or ignoring the permanency of placing things on the internet. Imagine being ridiculed via a method that is everlasting and for the masses to see. The emotional damage of cyberbullying has pushed some youth to commit suicide. The issue has become prevalent enough that a variety of professionals from a variety of fields have weighed in on how the problem should be addressed. While opinions may vary, there is a point of agreement. Although technology has effectively changed the modern world in many positive ways, with the positive has also come the negative and one of the most negatively impactful ways that technology has changed society is cyberbullying. To be determined now is what should be done about the issue.
As previously mentioned, the ramifications of cyberbullying have proven to be tragic over the course of the last several decades. The internet is a powerful tool and the result of its use for bullying has caused the negativity inherent in the action to spread and grow to a magnitude that many young people have felt was beyond their ability to cope with. Many have taken their own life as a result. In response to this, some states have passed legislation that makes cyberbullying illegal. This is an action that is controversial. Justin Patchin wrote an article in 2010 entitled. “Cyberbullying Laws and School Policy: A Blessing or a Curse?”. In this article he discussed legislation that specifically defines cyberbullying and requires schools and ;aw enforcement to take specific action against the behavior even if it occurs off of campus. Patchin is a supporter of cyberbullyi8ng being treated as a serious, and even criminal offense depending on the degree of the action, based on the suicides that have resulted from the behaviors and its rate of growth. He states that he would like laws in the future to be even more prescriptive in their guidance by states in defining how and when action can be taken in cyberbullying incidents (Patchin, 2010).
Patchin makes a very good point that something needs to be done about cyberbullying and that it is a real problem in America. His opinion about the level of involvement by the state may be overreaching. The fact of the matter is that no two bullying incidents are the same. There is an areas of “gray” that must be considered. In that area “bullying” may be difficult to define. This is why states have been so hesitant to strictly define what constitutes behavior. The pigeon-holing and criminal ramifications that Patchin suggests are a bit unrealistic.
Criminal Charges are Not the Answer
Nadine Connell presented a different position in 2013 in her article entitled “Criminal Charges Don’t Deter Bullies”. She presents the position that many states are looking toward the utilization of criminal charges to stop cyberbullying, but this approach to the issue is ineffective. She presents that using the criminal justice system is beneficial for neither the victim or the bully. She cites her reason as being that young offenders do not fare well in America’s overburdened system and the result of criminal charges does nothing to correct the issue at hand. Adolescents lack the capacity of self-regulation that would enable them to make different decisions due to the fact that they cannot accurate gauge future consequences in the same manner as adults (Connell, 2013).
Connell makes some solid points in her argument. The focus should be on prevention and not just on punitive punishment. This is the only way to address this problem. To just place bullies in jail is not getting down to the root cause of the problem. It does not change the way that adolescents see and understand the impact of bullying, and thus, does not prevent it from happening in the future. While it is clear that some action must be taken with regard to this issue, relying on criminal punishment does not seem to be the answer.
The Therapeutic Approach
According, to Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, M.S., L.P.C., cyber bullies should undergo therapy to address their bullying behaviors. In a 2013 article entitles, “Teen Bullying: A CBT Approach to Addressing the Issue”, she posits that their bullying is most likely the result of specific situations within their own background that is prompting the malicious behaviors. She states that bullies must be cared for too and it must be remembered that they are children that need help (Lohmann, 2013).
Lohmann’s position regarding getting to the root cognitive cause of the problem is a valid one. The bullies are children, and they should not be disregarded to the actions that they are choosing to engage in. Often, children act as a result of a deeper cause or issue and this is certainly worth exploring. Lohmann’s position, however, should not be misconstrued as absconding the bully from responsibility for their actions. Although it is conceded that they should receive help, they should also be held accountable for their actions.
In conclusion, there are a variety of views that exist with regard to how the issue of cyberbullying should be addressed. Some champion the use of criminal charges; other say criminal charges are not the answer, and others say that therapy is the correct course of action. It is the opinion of this learner that a blended approach is best for combatting this issue. Cyberbullying as impacted the people that I know from both the victim and offender position. The victims are always badly traumatized and the offender often has an underlying issue that they are dealing with that results in them engaging in bullying behavior. Based on my personal experience and view of both sides, it was not surprising that research presented a view of these sides of the issue.
It is conceded that cyberbullies should be held accountable but it must be remembered that they are children. The victim should receive the help that they need to ensure that they can function as adults in the future. The bullies should receive the same. Addressing the root cause of the issue is the only way to slow its growth. Yes, there should be punishment for cyberbullying, the degree and kind of punishment is debatable but it should match the impact if the action. Punishment should; however, not be the primary focus. The primary focus should be helping the victim and the offender. This is the only way to really change this problem for the better.
- Connell, N. (2013). Criminal charges don’t deter bullies Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com
- Lohmann, R. (2013). Teen bullying: A CBT approach to addressing the issue. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com
- Patchin, J. (2010). Cyberbullying laws and school policy: A blessing or a curse? Retrieved from http://cyberbullying.us