With the prevalence of electronic technology in today’s world, cyberbullying is a real and current concern for both kids and parents. Cyberbullying is any bullying activity that happens using electronic technology, such as cellphones, computers or tablets, according to StopBullying.gov. Because this kind of technology became widely available in recent years, it has a short, but definitive history. Knowing the history of cyberbullying may help you understand this threat and how to prevent and/or resolve it.
As technology has advanced, the incidence of cyberbullying has also advanced. Cell phones began to become more prevalent during the 1990s. In 2004, 45 percent of teens polled by the Pew Research Internet Project owned cell phones. In 2010, 75 percent of teens polled owned a cell phone and in 2014, 78 percent of teens have one. In addition, mobile use and access has evolved to the point where currently, three of four teenagers have access to the Internet on a mobile device at least occasionally.
Notable Early Cyberbullying Cases
In 1998, a middle school boy created a website that contained threatening messages and derogatory statements about his algebra teacher and the school principal, according to an abstract published by Bucknell University. The Commonwealth Court upheld the school’s decision to permanently expel the student due to threats, harassment and disrespect. Another notable case was documented in 2003. It involved a 14-year-old boy who received unwanted Internet attention in the form of harassment and cyberbullying when an amateur video of him imitating a Jedi knight went viral. Classmates attacked the boy maliciously, encouraging him to commit suicide, according to a Fox News report.
Suicides from Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying has had devastating results for some victims. One notable case occurred in 2006 involving a girl named Megan Meier. Meier committed suicide after a mother and daughter created a fake MySpace persona and used the account to send Meier hateful comments. Federal prosecutors tried the case and a jury found the mother guilty of one felony count of conspiracy and three misdemeanor counts of unauthorized computer use. Later, judges acquitted the mother of the convictions, according to an ABC News report. In 2008, a girl named Jessica Logan committed suicide after nude pictures of her allegedly circulated electronically among students at her school in Cincinnati, according to an article published in The New York Daily News. Logan's family was awarded a $154,000 settlement in 2012. The Jessica Logan Act also became law in 2012, encouraging Ohio schools to stop cyberbullying and to increase teacher training.
Cyberbullying Prevention and Repercussions
Anti-bullying statutes became prevalent after the Columbine massacre in 1999. States have passed laws that require school districts to have strict policies about bullying, including cyberbullying. Colorado passed anti-bullying legislation in 2005 and 33 other states also passed legislation between 2006 and 2010, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures website. Parents can help prevent cyber-bullying by monitoring electronic device and Internet usage and encouraging discussion about online activities to facilitate communication. When cyberbullying involves a threat of violence, sexually-explicit photos or messages, stalking or hate crimes, it constitutes a crime and a victim should file a report with local law enforcement, advises the Stopbullying.gov website.