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article imageOp-Ed: Bullying – Who’s responsible and how to stop it?

By Bryen Dunn     Dec 5, 2011 in Lifestyle
For over a year now, news media and social networking forums have been ignited with stories of bullied victims, and others trying to combat the problem. Yet some items remain unanswered or not properly addressed.
It seems bullying and anti-bullying initiatives are making headlines on a near daily basis here in North America. Bullying has been around since the dawn of time, differences between neighbours, scuffles in school yards, bantering at sporting events, taunts between politicians, and armed battles across nations. The current uproar has been in relation to the fact that individuals, primarily youth, are taking their own lives as a result of being bullied. While the focus has been on LGBT youth, there have been similar instances with youth who identify as heterosexual.
So what is at the root of all this, and why is it now often being referred to as a crisis or epidemic among youth? First off, this is not exclusively a youth issue. Where are the parents, the friends and their parents, fellow classmates, the teachers, social workers and support staff, and all others that maintain a close relationship with these youth, or at least should be? I believe each and every one of these individuals should be questioned by authorities whenever an issue of bullying arises. These people must be held personally accountable if they are found to have been aware of this happening and neglected to step in and act accordingly when knowing something was not right.
Youth often recoil and become insular, not wanting to discuss the fact they are disliked or disapproved of by their peers. It’s the elders and those in a position of authority who need to take a stance and make a move to get them speaking. For those that don’t take on this responsibility, a proper investigation should not only provide reprimand to the bullies, but to those individuals who neglected to recognize and assist in the situation. In the unfortunate circumstance where someone takes their own life and this action can be directly attributed to the bullying of others, then murder charges should be considered. I seldom read about any sort of investigation after the fact, and very rarely is anyone charged in the case.
There was one recent case in Winnipeg, Manitoba where a young girl took her life after being taunted by class mates with racial slurs. The student responsible is now facing possible charges. There was another more recent incident in Keswick, Ontario where the victim of racial slurs has been charged for fighting back. What about homophobic slurs? Do they not heed the same investigation and punishment? Once youth realize they will be expelled from school, have a criminal record, or even jail time, then the problem may start to subside. It’s time authorities take action to resolve this issue now before it escalates any further.
The one other issue that never seems to be fully considered is cyber bullying. In this day and age where many spend the majority of their day online, including parents, who really knows what their children are doing or experiencing online. I am not advocating parents snoop behind their children’s back, but that there is a dialogue between parents and their children. Parents are supposed to be responsible for their children, and have parental instincts, so there must be some way to determine when cyber bullying is happening. Networks such as Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, and others are all easily accessible by anyone, so a little time and ingenuity could provide parents with a wealth of information just by being part of these cyber spaces.
I have noticed many online media outlets will block their comment sections from postings if the dialogue gets too confrontational between opposing views. This is done in extreme cases of hate, racism, and cyber bullying. Facebook and Twitter have similar monitoring mechanisms in place for misconduct and misuse of their sites. YouTube on the other hand has no monitoring practice in place, and I have read some of the vilest, most hateful postings I have ever seen online anywhere. I first noticed this a while back when I watched Jeremy Rodemeyer’s “It Gets Better” video. He was the youth who made a video telling others it would get better, then ended up killing himself after the fact due to being bullied. They do have a section where users can report issues, however I feel the responsibility for monitoring should fall on the owner of the website.
Here is YouTube’s policy on bullying and hate speech – “We encourage free speech and defend everyone's right to express unpopular points of view. But we don't permit hate speech (speech which attacks or demeans a group based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, and sexual orientation/gender identity). Not everything that is mean or insulting is Hate Speech.” Why is it that sexual orientation/gender identity is always listed as the last within a grouped listing?
Here are some of the more recent comments posted as of today to give you an example of what I would consider hate, and most definitely goes against YouTube policies, the first reflecting death threats based on sexual orientation/gender identity, and the second bragging how s/he can get away with this diatribe on YouTube.
“I'm an Atheist, but faggots like you are hindering our probabilities for survival. Man, Dawkins is right: I should enjoy life for what I want to do, and I want to kill fags.” Hitmonchan107
@TopMonocle “your the devil for following these fucking faggots. ahhahaha he probly got bullied so much he turned gay ahhaha this fruity ass kid. look at this fool i can see how gay he is lol. he looks like he wants sum dick right about now lol. freedom of speech is so good. i love the bill of rights lol. the poor kid is in hell right now lol. i feel soooo gudddd. hahaha love oyur yotube. thumbs up eveybdy.” bevonbeccles
Is there no way YouTube can trace these comments back to the user who posted them, and at the very least delete their comments and profile, and send them a warning that they are being monitored, and should this behavior continue further actions will be taken? ISP addresses are easily traced. Even adding a “report as abuse” button would be a start, instead of having to go through several steps of reporting, which I tried unsuccessfully to do. My correlation here is that if this kind of hatred is being dumped on internet sites regularly and permanently, then what other cyber/real bullying and hatefulness is being spewed elsewhere?
I believe the core issue of bullying lies within cyberspace, which includes cellular phones, both relatively new communication methods in the scheme of universal time. We have gained control of some things, like immediate access to information, but we have also lost control of the way we communicate with each other. It’s far too easy to be someone else, hide behind a pseudonym and bully or threaten others, or type things you wouldn’t usually say in person. Many would just shrug this off, but others less confident in themselves may take it much more seriously.
As government and celebrities take a few minutes out of their day to tell youth that things will get better, the real fact is that it is about as equivalent to doing nothing. Your video, interview, or quotes will be mocked at just like those who are being bullied. You just won’t realize it because your job is done. A real concerted effort by all is needed to put a stop to this steamroller. Parents try talking to your children, teachers and other authority officials report any suspicious actions, schools and sporting organizations put reporting mechanisms in place, and legal officials need to be ready to prosecute as deemed necessary.
Below are a couple of sites that give more information on cyber bullying, that maybe beneficial to anyone being bullied, and anyone suspecting someone is being bullied. Those in authority as mentioned above should especially take the time to read through this information. Schools can go one step further and implement specific training for their teachers, social workers, or perhaps for all students as well.
Be Web Aware
Cyber Bullying
US Government
Stop Bullying World
Stand Up Day
Bullying Awareness Week
I purposely didn’t provide statistics on bullying as this can be found from many other articles and sources. This is more my thoughts and opinions that I have been thinking about for a few months, and had to put them to words. Let’s continue to hope it will get better before more of our youth are lost unnecessarily, but better yet let's step up and take a stance.
The video posted above is an apology response from a bully to a previous video posted by bullied Jonah Mowry four months ago that has just recently gone viral around the world, and depicts his agony of abuse via similar cards and exact same song. A second video posted by Jonah more recently shows him in a much happier state saying everyone in his school likes him. Many people are calling him a fake, but perhaps this latest video by Matt Burton will squash those rumours. Four months is a long time for an 8th grader, and youth often have good and bad days. Whatever the situation, it has people talking about bullying in a positive manner.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about Bullying, Youth, Parents, Violence, rascism
 
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