In 21st century New England, protecting our loved ones’ lives and wellbeing must factor in new digital threats. Complete strangers can reach into our homes electronically, defeating any physical safety system we’ve installed.
And with the proliferation of smartphones, tablets and social media platforms, the risk of cyberbullying – simply defined as inflicting intentional electronically enabled harm – only grows, as a guide on the subject illustrates.
Last month was National Bullying Prevention Month, and the local Patch news site invited the public to share any stories of bullying. It’s a good time to reflect that we in New England live in a highly connected and risky world. Also, we need to recognize that the e-harassment problem is widespread and going largely unaddressed.
The statistics are grim. In an article from researchers for the website BroadbandSearch stated:
- Some 34% of middle and high school students admitted they had been cyberbullied at least once
- Of these, 17% claimed they’d been bullied in the prior 30 days
- This is double the number of people in 2007 claiming to have been cyberbullied
The article concludes we’re heading in the wrong direction on this problem.
Proliferating Harassment Vectors
PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center reports a longer list than ever of channels from where bullies can strike. They include:
- Personal websites
- Social networking sites
- Instant messaging platforms
- Video games
Children at Special Risk
Cyberbullying may not result in direct physical harm to our families and friends, but the damage such activities cause is quite real and can be immense. While electronic harassment can affect anyone in any demographic, young people, who often spend much of their free time on Facebook, Instagram and other similar platforms, are especially vulnerable.
In Massachusetts, for instance, bullying overall is a festering problem. A recent Boston Herald article states that:
- Some 15% of the Bay State’s 1 million K-12 students said they had been bullied
- Only 2,000 (or 1%) of these cases were reported
Fatal Consequences of Cyber Bullies
This unmet cyber-challenge has real world consequences. In the past decade in Massachusetts alone, we’ve seen electronic bullying escalate to tragic proportions. Two such harassment cases became national news.
For instance, as the Herald article mentioned, there was the 2010 tragedy involving Phoebe Prince, a South Hadley, Massachusetts, teenager. A handful of her high school classmates so tortured her in person and online for three months that she hanged herself. Her six tormentors were all prosecuted and the legislature even passed a law to discourage bullying.
More recently, Plainville, Massachusetts, teenager Michelle Carter urged a highly vulnerable and depressed friend, Conrad Roy III, via text, to kill himself. After Roy died of self-inflicted asphyxiation, Carter was tried and sentenced for involuntary manslaughter. These examples underscore both how far cyberbullying can go in its consequences, and how the law views it as a genuine crime.
Remember: Full protection of our loved ones must include cyber-defense. Need to learn more about cyberbullying and how to make it history? Here are online resources:
- A Massachusetts state guide is available with extensive resources for the public to learn how to detect, report, and ultimately stop e-harassment.
- Protecting our children is a priority: parents should instruct their children to report cyberbullies to an adult immediately, among other responses, says a guide
- You might need to address cyberbullying from the workplace (which can include less than friendly emails from colleagues)
- If you’re a New England business, consider joining up with anti-bullying organization Cybersmile
- Learn what American Alarm can do to keep your home from fires and other threats.
- If you are an existing customer now would be a great time to test your system. Contact our central station when you are ready.
- Subscribe to our blog to stay informed about the latest security news and insight.
- Stay current on security topics such as home alarm systems, business security systems, video surveillance