Editorial: Taking a stand against cyberbullying across campus

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Editorial: Taking a stand against cyberbullying across campus

Children and young adults stuck in the middle of our nation’s cyberbullying epidemic often feel helpless, especially since anonymity and privacy settings allow the harassment and threats to take place “underground” and far away from the prying eyes of parents, school administrators and employers.

While it is nothing short of pitiful, cyberbullying seems as rampant on college campuses as it is in the hallways of elementary schools. Recently, it was highlighted on Lakeland College’s campus when Yik Yak, a new app that allows users within radius of the school to post anonymously on a public forum, proved a cesspool for obscene rumors and hate speech.

Although this social networking app stirred up discussions about cyberbullying among undergraduates, the phenomenon is certainly not new to our college or other institutions of higher education.

Sadly, on campuses today, a few vocal critics of Yik Yak are undoubtedly the same young people who threaten or rant about others on Facebook and manipulate their privacy settings in a way that hides it from anyone who may hold them accountable.

Additionally, “substatuses” and “subtweets” have arguably become a norm among students; these are public posts threatening or harassing an individual who is not specifically named, but the author gives enough hints that other students know exactly who it is about.

For some reason, many people are quick to condemn Yik Yak but fail to see the equal amount of cowardice found in derogatory statuses or tweets and how a victim’s life can be influenced by them.

When it comes to disagreeing with someone on a national topic or simply having trouble getting along, too many young people will immediately resort to posting hate speech, threats or obscene rumors that could destroy young lives.

The worst part is no one is safe. A few people try to pin the blame on victims; however, as highlighted in the sexting article on this issue’s front page, a student could take every precaution, yet others may still doctor lewd photographs to pass off as belonging to the aforementioned student.

Certain young people have no creative energy left for academic essays because they spend too much time concocting false—albeit extremely detailed—accounts of students having affairs with professors or other obscene rumors that destroy reputations. If nothing comes to mind, they can always resort to the old fashioned threat or name calling.

Several Mirror staff members have been on the receiving end of cyberbullying in some capacity at some point in their lives, and there is nothing worse than sitting across from or working on a class project with someone who makes no secret of their distaste for you or has tried to soil your reputation with downright lies. While it can sometimes feel like an endless cycle of “suck it up,” support resources and awareness efforts have become more prominent in recent years

For instance, “Stand for the Silent” is an organization that tackles all forms of bullying in schools. In 2010, a group of students from Oklahoma State University started the foundation after Ty Smalley took his own life at the age of 11 due to bullying.

Kirk Smalley, Ty’s father, then used the organization as a starting place for his campaign to end bullying. Today, Smalley visits schools to share his story in an effort to prevent his personal tragedy from happening to someone else’s family. As of Sept. 11, Smalley has reached out to 951,000 students in 945 schools to talk about the repercussions of harassment.

In addition to his presentations, Smalley also has an active Facebook page where encouraging messages are posted daily.

However, no organization or campaign can win this fight alone. What it comes down to is everyone must stand against bullying; whether it is on Yik Yak, Facebook, in person or anywhere else, choose to either report it, speak against it or at the very least not “like” it. Everyone deserves to live in a place where they feel safe.

October is National Bullying and Cyberbullying Awareness Month and thus the perfect time to start combating this epidemic. It is time for our generation to consider whether a perceived personal slight is worth destroying someone’s life over with one careless social media update posted in the heat of the moment.


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