Do you know, while you are reading this, your teenage child or teenage friend could be being subject to cyberbullying elsewhere and is contemplating suicide?
Gone are the days when bullying only meant a physically larger person attacking someone by force. Today, your child or friend sitting alone in the comfort of his own room and surfing the internet, is no indicator of his safety as he can be bullied through cellphones and computers.
In a survey conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Health and Human Services, Cyberbullying Research Center, in May 2013, it was found that a whopping 53% of teens experience some form of cyberbullying, and 52% of them do not tell their parents about it. About 33% of teenagers in the US have been victims of cyberthreats, but only 7% of US parents worry about it.
Who is responsible for this? Should parents be criminally liable for cyberbullying of kids?
This is a question that came to light when recently a few incidences surfaced where cyberbullying led victims to take extreme steps such as ending their lives. Have the parents out there been sleeping till now? Haven’t they thought what the impacts of allowing cyber exposure to children are? How much is too much? Do these parental locks help? How can they be effectively implemented?
There was a lot of debate on this, recently when the 12 year old Rebecca Sedwick from Crystal Lake Middle School committed suicide when she was allegedly tormented by two 12 and 14 year old girls, who were her schoolmates in Florida.
There have been several such cases in the past.
– Hannah Smith from Lutterworht, Leicestershire killed herself after being bullied by people on Ask.Fm who asked her to suicide. These bullies could say what they wanted with no fear, as the website allowed then to pots comments as anonymous users. The Prime Minister David Cameron held the website responsible for not using stringent protection measures.
– A 13 year old girl named Hope Witsell, from Florida, killed herself when she was taunted by her friends on a social networking site after they circulated a topless picture that she had shared with her boyfriend years back.
– Ryan Halligan hanged himself at a tender age of 13, after being bullied for years by his classmates in Vermont. He had a learning disorder and was bullied because of fake rumors about his homosexuality spread by his ‘friends’. The idea of suicide was generated by his penpal who believed it would make the bullies feel bad.
-18 year old shy Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington bridge after his roommates circulated his homosexual videos. Tyler was a talented musician and his death gave rise to a huge uproar and agitation among people. His bullies were punished nevertheless, but will a mere $25000 penalty and a 5 year term in prison bring back Tyler’s life?
There have been many questions raised such as: Are parents responsible and do they have an indirect role to play? What new law should be implemented for providing justice to the victims of cyberbullying and how can kids bullying others through the internet be punished or rather be taught that after all, they are responsible for what they are doing on the net?
The issue of cyberbullying was not taken very seriously till the number of cases in the recent past went up. This has become a question of debate especially after the recent case of Rebecca when her tormentors were questioned and they responded to the incident saying ‘Yes, I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself, but I don’t give a f—’. Cyber bullying itself being wrong, the accused girls were not even remorseful about the consequences of what they did to another’s life. Shouldn’t parents be held responsible for this? A draft legislation is being prepared that hold parents criminally liable for “willful blindness or gross negligence”, and if implemented, it will be the first of its kind in North America.
If a child or a minor kills someone using their parents’ car, shouldn’t the parents be held responsible as much as the child? Are the parents not responsible if a child kills someone inadvertently using their gun? Parents give a lot of freedom to their children these days. It might be their way to boost their self-confidence and make them independent and self-sufficient, but children should be brought up with a sense of accountability, responsibility and sensitivity towards fellow human beings. They should be taught to respect others and treat then with compassion.
Parents keep a tab regularly over their kids when it comes to their studies or their day-to-day activities and hence they should also be equally liable for what their kids are doing on the internet. Children should also be taught the pros and cons of the use of the internet. They should be well informed of the dangers of misusing them as well.
If parents should be criminally liable or not, is still under debate, but it is known for sure that they are liable morally and ethically for such torturous incidents.
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