The Bully Slayer: A fine line online, the ease of cyberbullying

smartphone cyberbullying

OPINION – We live in the information age. Available at our fingertips is everything you wanted to know, and some things you didn’t. We bank online, we learn online, we communicate online; we even live out certain activities that used to be restricted to face to face contact … like dating.

Why is online dating so huge? According to Match.com, a leader in the “online singles bar,” it’s because individuals feel more comfortable behind a screen. They’re not as awkward, and they’re not as afraid to express themselves – largely because they are not there to witness the effect on or reaction of the individual who has caught their eye … or in this case a mouse.

What strikes me about Match.com’s information is the fact that those are the same reasons people commit cyberbullying.

When you bully someone face to face, you are there to see the pain, the embarresment, the anger it causes. For most people, this is something that is hard to stand. But behind the shield of a computer screen, they can detach themselves and be free to say whatever they want despite the hurt on the other side.

Most individuals who do commit cyberbullying do not realize the long lasting impact of their actions. Unlike a comment, forgotten by others in a week’s time, when the next big thing comes, what is said online can and most likely will linger for years to come. It becomes “posted,” “liked,” “shared,” “tweeted” and eventually goes “viral.”

It reaches a much more vast community of varying ages at a much more rapid pace. It’s no longer limited to the brick walls of a school, or the boxes we call cubicals. It can reach states away. And depending on the format – and popularity – some sites will even pay the bully.

YouTube is littered with videos of bullying caught on the latest smartphone. These acts are then viewed by millions, many with purpose to condemn the act. But at a point, after a certain number of “hits” or views YouTube may start paying royalties to the poster.

A perfect example of this is a video entitled “Making the Bus Monitor cry.” This story broke across the country five months ago. A few teens began bullying an elderly bus monitor, filming it on their phones. As the story broke, people flocked to the site to see what the fuss was about. As of Friday night there were 2,350,950 views of the original video and at least five edits of the video on just the main YouTube page!

Think how would it be to know that one of your most embarrassing moments has been viewed 2,350,950 times?

It’s because of acts like this that a school in the United Kingdom took extraordinary steps to prevent Cyber-Bullying. Students at Burnage Media Arts College in Manchester are forbidden from using mobiles anywhere at any time on campus. It is a zero tolerence policy.

Head Master Ian Fenn said in an interview with the Telegraph, “When we banned them completely from the school grounds, we weren’t sure how it would be received, but the effect has been dramatic … I don’t think there’s any other initiative in the last 12 years I’ve seen that has had the same impact. Apart from getting the best teachers we can, I think it’s the most important thing we have done for pupils to improve learning.”

Now, am I advocating this in every school? Not necessarily. But I do adamantly support bosses, principles, and parents that come up with these out-of-the-box ideas to get these same impacts.

Perhaps if this same policy had been in effect when those boys used their smart phones to do a not-so-smart thing …Karen Klein could have been spared 2,000,000 views (well, over 8 million on another YouTube of the same event).

Again, I am excited to team with St. George News on this column, and hope that you will share experiences, and or stories of bullying with us, so that we may learn and grow together, figuring out the best way to combat this epidemic!  Email me, “Like” me on Facebook, Tweet us.

 

Ed. Note: T.S. Romney is an opinion columnist and a law enforcement officer. Nothing in this column shall be construed as legal advice, as a substitute for professional mental health treatment, as an adjudication of claims, or as acting on behalf of any law enforcement department. T.S. Romney’s opinions and methods are his own and are not representative of St. George News.

Email me: tsromney@stgnews.com

“Like” The Bully Slayer at www.facebook.com/bullyslayer

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.

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