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Cyberbullying is a new frontier of cruelty and abuse

Bullying is an age-old problem. Anytime you gather a group of young people together, there is bound to be some level of abuse. Children are not known for demonstrating an overabundance of empathy, though it's not clear that adults do much better. But the bullying of the past may be a mere shade of what kids face today. Social media and the Internet have given rise to countless new opportunities for people to spew hatred without having to do anything more than pick up their phones. Cyberbullying laws are still developing, and many victims are unsure what, if any, protection is available to them.

The tools of cyberbullying

Part of the problem is that the methods by which young people bully one another are constantly evolving. Parents may know Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, but teens have other options and are motivated to stay a step ahead of their elders. Still, plenty of bullying is spread through tweets, posts and snaps. These platforms allow bullies 24/7 access to their victims, and allow them to get their abuse in front of a wider audience. 

The victims of cyberbullying

Being the target of bullying has never been easy. No amount of bullying is acceptable, but some forms of cyberbullying are more threatening than others. Perhaps it is the impersonal nature of cyberbullying, but it seems to give rise to terroristic threats and conduct that most would consider shocking. One growing area of concern is revenge porn. Teens and even some younger children share videos or images of an explicit nature in order to humiliate and expose their victim. This is a violation of both the rights of the victim and the New Jersey criminal code.

Victims of abuse can suffer from depression, PTSD and other mental and physical harm. They suffer elevated rates of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as suicide. Sadly, many parents are ignorant of the harm inflicted upon their children both online and in person.

Providing a safe environment

Schools are required to address bullying, including cyberbullying. It is not acceptable for school administrators to throw their hands up and say that they can't do anything about online abuse. Schools are required to have an effecting bullying or harassment policy and to investigate incidences of bullying. They must enforce their policy with action. If they fail to take appropriate action, victims and their families should contact an attorney familiar with New Jersey bullying claims.

Source: The Trentonian, "Mercer officials teach kids the dangers of cyberbullying," 20 February 2017

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