Do We Really Need a Policy?

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me—or so the saying goes. This week, school administrators went from class to class, briefing students on Rio Americano’s policies regarding the appropriate way in which to use campus technology.

An acknowledgment form was passed out, listing the rules and regulations, among which were the expected copyright rules and general cautions against sharing private information. Underneath those guidelines, denoted by an asterisk, was cyberbullying.

The paragraph-long entry went on to say that the school has a zero tolerance policy for cyberbullying and that students must refrain from being “mean.” When did common decency become so far removed from society and conscience that it is necessary to have a special clause to tell people not to hurt each other?

Not only are guidelines and definitions needed, apparently, but it seems that administrators now need a formally scripted signature to assure them that students will not verbally abuse one another.  

In the last few years, the world has seen a major increase in the use of social media and technology in general. The platform technology provides is ideal not only for keeping in touch with friends and family and the latest events, but also for spreading positivity.

Yet a great portion of the population has managed to take something with such potential and twist it into something destructive. A recent study conducted by the National Crime Prevention Council indicated that, in the last year, forty-three percent of teenagers have been victims of cyberbullying.

It seems that the stereotypical kid being shoved into a locker, getting tossed into a trash can, or having his lunch stolen has not faded but simply found a new territory–the internet.

The ways to humiliate and deprecate range from hurtful text messages, to unauthorized sharing of embarrassing pictures, to mass-spread rumors.

This new method of terrorism is ideal for bullies as they can easily hide behind a screen with full security and no consequences while the victim sits as a virtually captive audience. And for what? Revenge? Some kind of sick joke? Twisted boredom-induced creativity?

Cyberbullying is not less harmful than its physical, face-to-face counterpart. Like any other form of bullying, its effects are equally serious and detrimental. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, victims of cyberbullying are more likely to receive poor grades, use alcohol and drugs, and even have more health problems.

So, why is there even a question of whether or not students would choose to impose this kind of cruelty on their own classmates? If it is so damaging, shouldn’t it just be automatically assumed by administrators, by everyone, that teenagers would not even dream of doing such a thing?

By choosing to engage in cyberbullying, its participants decide that that damage is not important. They decide that they would rather have a moment of laughter, temporary retribution, or some short-lived social acceptance than be concerned about the long-term repercussions of their actions.  

In high school, everyone is more or less in the same boat. Whether people come from different backgrounds, are pursuing different goals, or have different interests, everyone is trying to survive. So, why make it more difficult for each other?