Bullying, Sexting, and cyber-bullying lead to Teen Suicide.
Bullying: A mater of childhood-security
A large imposing upperclassman overshadowed the pint size grade-schooler. In ritualistic fashion the little boy endures the verbal threats and physical aggression of being shoved as he forfeits his lunch money to the school bully. That was then. Today children are faced with a force of humiliation of unrestricted power and reach, often leading to suicide. 160,000 children stayed home from school today because of bullying.
77% of children ages 10-16 are victims of bullying. 86% of victims turn to violence towards themselves or others or both. As a result more than 100,000 teens carry guns to school. And suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among teenagers giving birth to a new label of bullycide.
Bullycide is on the rise as our nation has been gripped by multiple reports of sexting and cyber-sex-bullying have caused four teenagers to commit suicide in the past month alone.
Typical playground bullies have been replaced by cruel antics of online teenagers who use social networkeng cites, such as Facebook and MySpace, as a forum for torturing and harassing their classmates. Physical aggression has been replace or coupled with a cyber form of bullying. The implications of a viral culture should have parents scared and intentionally worried.
What is sexting? Sexting refers to sharing nude or sexually explicit photos via cell-phone or any media-sharing device or technology, including email and the Web.
NFL superstar Brett Favre has given sexting mainstream attention with the accusation that he sent pictures of his penis to a female NY Jets employee Jenn Sterger using his cell phone and texting multiple images coupled with sexual comments. As with most things sexual in nature it could be assumed that sexting is only an adult problem. However sexting is a trend beginning in every middle school across the nation. Sexting has giving bullies a lethal weapon for destroying the lives of children.
Sexting bullying led to 13-year-old 7th grader Hope Witsell hanging herself after topless photos circulated among her peers and beyond. In an apparent effort to win the approval of boy, she sexted topless pictures of her to him, ultimately resulting in the pictures being spread to peers in three schools. Her friend, Kyla Stich, told CNN that fellow students would “walk up to her and call her ‘slut,’ ‘whore,’ and they would sometimes, they would call her ‘skank’ and just be really cruel to her.” The bullying ultimately led to Hope committing suicide.
CBS NEWS reported in January 2009 three teenage girls who allegedly sent nude or semi-nude cell phone pictures of themselves, and three male classmates in a western Pennsylvania high school who received them, are charged with child pornography.
Parent’s reading these reports might assume these are extreme cases and not something their child would ever do. Statistics suggest otherwise. According to a nationwide survey by the National Campaign to Support Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy roughly 20 percent of teens admit to participating in sexting. Another survey suggest 22% of the 13-19 year old girls surveyed admitted they had sent nude or semi-nude photos or videos of themselves into cyberspace. Boys came in at the slightly lower rate of 18%.
The number of teen sending sexually suggestivemessages not specific nude pictures was even larger: 37% of the girls and 40% of the boys.
Just because some teens aren’t sending inappropriate pictures it doesn’t mean they aren’t affected. More than half of the teenage population has been a recipient of sexting intentional or unintentional.
Teenagers don’t seem to understand the short-term and long-term dangers of sexting. Every time they participate in sexting they risk emotional damage, placing their current and future reputation on the line. The delete button on keyboards and keypads should be removed. Kids think they can simply delete what they have sent or posted. However once content is posted virally anywhere it will remain in cyberspace forever. Young adults looking to have fun or promote themselves today, fail to realize future employers will see the images and texts. In the short-term, consequences are often immediate when an intimate personal photo sent to a person they trust, is no longer trustworthy perhaps after a breakup. MySpace should be re-named Everyone’sSpace because it is not private as it the case with all social networks. Sexting in the moment lasts forever.
In addition to personal consequences, sexting is illegal if you take a nude or sexually suggestive picture of yourself or someone else, and share it; you are distributing child pornography, which can be a felony.
Parents and educators have long promoted safe sex. This generation may need safe-sexting or better yet, cyber-abstinence education. Cyber-bullying
In some cases of sexting bullying teens initiate the problem by sexting pictures or video’s of themselves willingly to a specific person. However as in most cases of sexting bullying the recipient violates the sender’s trust and the images are sending to a larger audience often via myspace or facebook or Internet chat rooms. In some recent instances the victim never knew they were photographed or recorded and were innocently violated. As was the recent tragedy of Tyler Clementi whose September 22 suicide has been a national headline in the news.
MSNBC reported Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, jumped off the George Washington Bridge the day after a video showing him and another man having a sexual encounter was posted on the Internet. The New Jersey Star-Ledger reported his roommate, Dharun Ravi, set up a Web cam in their dormitory room, and he and Molly Wei watched the sexual encounter in her room in the same dormitory before spreading video on the Internet.
Sexting is not the only method of cyber bullying. Not all cyber bullying is sexual in nature. Instant communication, and cyberspace platforms allow for nefarious communications of all types and give fuel to bullying of all kinds, which continue to lead to suicide of young adults in epic proportions.
The Arkansas Herald reported earlier this month the cyber bullying problem “hit the mainstream attention in November 2008 when a 13-year-old girl, Meagen Meier, hanged herself after an Internet friend, later revealed as a neighbor using a pseudonym, befriended her on MySpace and began taunting her. It came out in trial that the neighbor, Lori Drew, created the account to discover if Meier had been spreading rumors online about Sarah Drew, the defendant’s 13-year-old daughter. Meier was found hanging by her neck with a belt in her closet by her mother and died in the hospital the next day.”
In 2009, 15-year-old Billy Lucas from Greensburg, Indiana was bullied because classmates thought he was gay. Their taunts of ‘fag’ and other insults continued from the school to facebook and eventually led to Billy committing suicide.
15-year-old Phoebe Prince of Northampton, Massachusetts was bullied with threats, physical assault, and humiliation by her peers after a brief relationship with a popular boy at her school ended. The in-person and cyber attacks grew to the point she took her own life. Bullying exposes teen sexuality crisis
Robert O’Brien is the unofficial faculty spokesman for “overwhelmed” lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students on the Rutgers University campus. He suggested, “Intolerance is growing at the same time cyberspace has given every one of us an almost magical ability to invade other people’s lives,”
A month after establishing the National Childhood Obesity Awareness month both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released video messages this week addressing the problem of bullying. Both messages centered on abusive behavior toward homosexuals.
With the recent multiple high-profile cases of gay teenagers committing suicide one can certainly understand the national spotlight emphasizing this targeted abuse.
Conservatives would argue that intolerance is not the problem, rather, there is a need for education and therapeutic intervention.
Our culture has produced a generation battling a sexuality and gender identity crisis. In a world where morality is being re-defined daily, and boundaries of social norms are stretched, it is not surprising our young adults are hurting. On some fronts their sexuality uncertainty is celebrated as diversity. Yet on other platforms they are outcasts of society. One thing is for certain, gender identity, sexuality, sexual relationships, and sexual activity is infecting our middle schools and high schools across the nation.
One thing both liberals and conservatives can agree on is the profusion of cyber applications and it’s impact on the human condition and the psychological threat to the development of a child. Both parties will agree with O’Brien that cyberspace has invaded childhood with infectious lethal ramifications.
The epidemic of bullying is not solely a bi-product of homophobia or related to sexual promiscuity alone. Youth of all races, genders, sexual preferences, personal abilities, and physical makeup are targeted victims of cyber bullying. There is a need for this generation to develop moral character in the form of servant leadership. We need young adults to lead by example with an intentional compassion for others, and a self-less-ness countercultural to the norm they are programmed by, and ultimately stand up to the bully.
Depression and suicide are lethal problems for youth of generations past and present. The technologically advanced instant communication age has proliferated bullying to every corner of childhood. The dangers of cyber-bullying are prevailing and the consequences are real.
30 years ago Mother hen leads the nervous young chap in a chorus of, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words many never hurt me.” Since then we’ve learned words do hurt, and so do pictures. The bully is more advanced and equipped than ever before.