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Cyber Bullying needs our Attention

Cyber Bullying needs our Attention

In the last decade or so, it seems that bullying has taken a new and very disturbing change of face. We acknowledge that this is, in fact, due to the lack of face and to the anonymity that the internet and cell phones provide. Bullying has become something that is done behind closed doors. With the lack of a true identity, harassment has become so much easier and even more tempting, and hence, the extremity of the harassment has increased tenfold. This may be due to the fact that the person bullying does not see any reaction from the victim, and thus, development of any empathy towards the victim is incredibly difficult.

Bullying is an asymmetric power relationship, or an imbalance of strength. In the school playground, this can be seen as the bigger kid picking on the smaller one for their lunch; online, it is very similar. Bullies are able to create numerous accounts on any website, and therefore create many different identities to use in bullying their victim. This leaves the victim feeling hopeless, because, from their point of view, many different people are bullying them - in reality it may only be one person. Most websites have features for the prevention of bullying, such as the ability to accept or decline any friend request, and the ability to block or report any page or user. Unfortunately, most users do not know how to do the latter. Another technique used for harassment is using a facebook page solely to name and shame others or to target a specific person. This is much harder to deal with as the target can block the page, but this only prevents them from seeing the offensive content. These pages start up rumours which will affect the victim throughout their daily life, not just online.

It is very easy to blame the technology itself and say that cyber-bullying happens because of the power that anonymity allows. A core reason for this is that it is very difficult for parents to believe that their children do such things to each other. We see it as a problem with people - we have been dealing with bullying for a long time, now it has simply changed its face. No longer will traditional anti-bullying education have any effect. We need to set up a well-thought out education system in which every child and parent knows what can happen online and how to prevent cyber-bullying and how to stop it when it happens. It will be more beneficial to create a new system in which each member of a community has the ability to moderate any interactions within the community. This will empower the members of the community and ensure that the bystander has the ability to speak out and to really make a difference. It will also ensure quick and efficient moderation that is in-line with self-defined community standards, in contrast to the current system in which we rely on the moderators of a site, whose job may be very difficult if they receive more reports per day than they are able to attend to.

The use of data communications today has more uses for good than bad. To introduce laws that will hinder the users' ability to share information through this medium restricts speech without addressing the issues and the ramifications will be endless. We need a shift in the cultural mindset towards cyberbullying, and not let it become another means in which our ability to communicate is controlled and normalized through legislation aimed at punitive reaction for stepping outside boundaries. The Pirate Party of New Zealand


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