Bullying has been a problem in America’s schools for as long as anyone can remember. It’s a difficult problem to solve; often, children accused of bullying don’t realize that what they’re doing is wrong or don’t understand the harm that their words or actions do.
Educators are well-versed in combating bullying at school, but recent advances in social media have taken bullying out of the school yard and onto the Internet.
It’s called cyber-bullying, and awareness of the practice has grown sharply in recent years. Children often use the anonymity provided by the Internet to send abuse to one another. This sort of bullying can be more difficult to detect and to stop, as those who have been bullied often do not reveal the actions to their parents or teachers.
Recently, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler announced that he planned to take a personal hand in putting a stop to bullying in Maryland schools.
Most people do not think of bullying as a legal issue, instead considering it a matter of schoolyard discipline. However, the abuse can be punishable by law. Cyber-bullying, in particular, is punishable by a Maryland law that was enacted following the suicide death of a 15-year-old girl, who was the victim of cyber-bullying.
Cyber-bullying is indeed an Internet crime, and efforts should be made to put a stop to it. However, authorities should take care when charging minors with cyber-bullying. In many cases, they may not understand what affect their words, which were not delivered face-to-face, had on the victim. They may be too young to truly grasp the consequences of what they had done. As a result, prosecutors and judges should take care to seek a punishment that educates and rehabilitates a person convicted of cyber-bullying, rather than a harsh sentence that only punishes.
Source: WJZ-TV, “Md. Attorney General Teams Up With Schools To Track Bullies” Gigi Barnett, Nov. 06, 2013