The faceless, sometimes even nameless, threat of cyberbullying is a modern inception that has grown exponentially withthe popularity of social networks. As these new threats arise, new policies are needed to combat them, and many of these policies have come in the form of laws intended to slow down the wave of cyberbullying.
Laws, Present and Pending
In 2011, the state of New Jersey enacted a law that makes cyberbullying an infraction that will go on a student’s permanent record. In a push for a similar law in Florida, a bill that passed the Florida Senate will make online bullying the jurisdiction of the state’s public school system, giving school officials the right to reprimand students for actions carried out online.
All in all, every state in the country, with the exception of Montana, has an anti-bullying law, according to Sameer Hinduja and Justin W. Patching of the Cyberbullying Research Center.
The Effects of Cyberbullying
The effects of cyberbullying are endless. A New Jersey anti-bullying law was enacted in response to a rash of suicides linked to online bullying. While this is the most extreme outcome, studies have shown that cyberbullying has the same effects as traditional bullying, making victims feel powerless and causing psychiatric disturbances that last into adulthood, according to a study by U.S.- and UK-based university researchers, published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal. Mental disorders linked to childhood bullying include panic disorders, anxiety, agoraphobia and depression.
Kids Will Be Kids or Crimes
Cyberbullying laws are up for debate. Proponents of the law claim that something must be done to protect kids online. Opponents argue that these laws go too far and don’t accomplish what they are meant to accomplish.
In New Jersey, for example, parents have appealed bullying reports on their children’s records, starting at their local school boards, but working their way into the court system, according to New Jersey Online. It’s escalations like this, opponents say, that waste public resources.
Some anti-gay politicians have taken the position that laws against bullying are just part of the “homosexual agenda,” and protect only LGBT students.
How Parents Help
The opportunity for exposure to things parents would prefer their children not to see is increasing. Directtv, a standard satellite package, has 285 channels, making it more difficult for parents to monitor what their kids see and hear. With 67 percent of all Internet users using social networks, according to Pew Research Center.
Parents do have an ability to affect the prevalence and outcome of cyberbullying. The National Crime Prevention Council offer tips for parents that include keeping your home computers in communal areas, knowing your children’s account information, reviewing their friend lists and discussing what cyberbullying is and if your children have ever experienced it.
As an advent of our new, interconnected world, cyberbullying won’t be solved quickly. Like any epidemic, it will take time for parents, schools and lawmakers to come up with the right solution. Keeping on top of their children’s online activities provides parents with the greatest opportunity to keep cyberbullying out of their children’s lives.