“A victim of cyber-bullying is often belittled and intimidated until his or her life is ruled by paranoia and fear.”
Those are the words of Phar West, a Central Kitsap Junior High School ninth grader, in an essay that won first place in the Kitsap County Bar Association’s annual writing contest in commemoration of law day.
The essay also caught the eye of Washington’s Division II Court of Appeals Judge Robin Hunt, who is also a Kitsap County resident.
Educators will tell you cyber-bullying is on the rise, a scary new way for kids to continue belittling classmates off school grounds on message boards at social networking sites like MySpace.com.
It can be just as intense as a real life encounter, but much more challenging to discover as a parent because, quite frankly, kids access the internet typically far more easily than their adult counterparts.
Phar’s essay, and the topic of cyber-bullying, is the subject of Sunday’s story. Please feel free to share your experiences below.
Here is Phar’s award-winning essay.
“Cyber-Bullying: A Growing Epidemic”
Throughout the nation, it is required for school policy to protect students from bullying. This includes both verbal and physical harassment, such as threats and violence. However, policy does not shield students from cyber-bullying, a harmful trend that is steadily growing due to the younger generation’s reliance on the Internet. The effects of this form of maltreatment are just as dire as those of physical or verbal harassment. Therefore, laws should be changed to allows schools the resources to quell online bullying and harassment because it is just as violating and degrading, and can ascend into something far worse.
As human beings, we are entitled to certain rights. In “The Declaration of Independence,” Thomas Jefferson defines these rights as “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Society tends to recognize and adhere to these rights, punishing, under the authority of law, those who infringe upon them. Such laws protect each individual from actions and behaviors that would cause one to feel perturbed. Therefore, bullying and harassment, no matter how it is accomplished, violates the victim’s civil liberties that his or her very existence guarantees. A victim of cyber-bullying is often belittled and intimidated until his or her life is ruled by paranoia and fear. If this anxiety prevents the victim from leading a content existence due to another’s indiscretions, then measures must be taken to penalize the perpetrator in order to ensure the victim’s physical and emotional welfare.
The emotional and physical consequences of bullying can be significantly upsetting. The experience as a whole is degrading, offensive, and daunting. Victims of bullying are left with a chilling sense of paranoia and dread which overflows into other aspects of their lives. These negative emotional reactions have been connected to numerous physical ailments. Bullying, such as other stressful situations, may induce ulcers, eating disorders, elevated blood pressure, and depression. Extreme cases may compel a victim to commit suicide. Considering that no policy exists encompassing cyber-bullying, it is not difficult for the situation to escalate to a traumatic and potentially dangerous intensity.
As in any other case of harassment, cyber-bullying can spiral perilously out of control. Though it may occur entirely off of the school’s premises, if not obstructed at an early stage it can easily interfere with a student’s education as it becomes physical or verbal abuse. Just as these forms of bullying must be taken seriously for fear of the victim’s safety, schools must treat cyber-bullying in the same fashion. Constant belittlement and threats of assault, rape, or even murder are just as horrific online as if they were personally spoken, and should not be disregarded. Therefore, students should feel able to seek the school’s aid if they require it. As in similar situations that manifest at school, cyber-bullying should entail the same consequences: suspension of the perpetrator, parent involvement, and police action when it is deemed necessary. If not reprimanded, a bully may continue his or her destructive behavior and feel as if nothing is preventing the situation from escalating.
As a victim of cyber-bullying, I know first hand how unnerving the experience can be. Implications of violence or sexual assault are just as frightening read from a computer screen as they would have been had they been given in person. It is unacceptable that schools do not protect their students from this face of harassment, for it is just as ugly as any other. Hence, law should prevent schools from turning the other cheek when a case of online harassment manifests. Policy states that every student should feel safe on school premises. If this is so, where was the help I needed when I was in distress?