The issue of harassment online and how to deal with it isn't that clear cut
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- With more and more states looking to enact or stiffen their anti-cyber bullying legislation, there is still not. The reason why is that prosecuting cyber bullying may not be a black and white issue. While there are many benefits to enacting legislation to curb cyber bullying, there are many consequences to legislation that is making this argument less one sided.
Can be coupled with other types of bullying prevention
One of the best ways to decrease the incidents of cyber bullying is to take preventative measures. Many of the cyber bullying laws are also implementing programs to deal with all types of bullying in schools.
On top of that, there are anti-bullying groups who are offering free help to schools who want to add cyber bullying into their anti-bullying curriculum. The Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State College offers research resources on cyber bullying.
The issue however, is that a significant amount of schools do not have any anti-bullying programs.
Past anti-bullying measures in schools have worked
Many of the schools that have bullying programs have seen success. A study conducted by the University of Washington revealed a 72 percent decrease of malicious gossip in an elementary school that used the program Steps to Respect.
This isn’t the only study that has been done that has shown the success of these programs. Over two and a half years, a Florida school has seen a 30 percent decrease in bullying after implementing a Norwegian anti-bullying program called Olweus.
Currently, anti-bullying programs are attempting to phase in new tactics to deal with the online aspect of bullying.
Costly for enforcers and offenders
Principals will also have to pay for cyber bullying, even though they are not partaking in it. In Worscester, Massachusetts, principals have to pay $145 to be trained to identify and deal with cyber bullying.
This can be costly for people as young at 12 that are found to be cyber bullying. In Wyoming, students can be fined anywhere from $250 to $750 if it is determined that they are sending abusive messages via text and social media.
Despite the fact that enacting cyber bullying laws are well intended, they may have trouble being enforced in a way that does not infringe on our First Amendment right to free speech.
The American Civil Liberties Union goes further with their criticism of cyber bullying, saying it will be used as a crutch to allow for Constitutional violations. They believe that these laws will be purposely be used to quell unfavorable speech when the First Amendment is specifically there to protect that kind of speech.
“It [cyber bullying laws] is meant to imply the regulation of unlawful conduct, not the censorship of protected speech, under the guise of protecting our children. Nothing could be further from the truth. As reprehensible as some online speech may be, the First Amendment protects the bad with the good.” James Tucker of the ACLU says.
The ACLU has been a frontrunner in the opposition of cyber bullying legislation. They are currently backing a case of two 14-year-old Indiana girls, who were expelled after talking about killing classmates on Facebook. The ACLU says that their expulsion violates their civil rights because the incident happened off campus.
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