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Tuesday, May 30, 2023


Parents, social media part of the blame attributed to bullying

Every one of us, at one time or another, have experienced that bully figure in our lives — whether it was an isolated incident or a long-term issue — and generally it doesn’t bring forth the fondest memories. Bullying is nothing new in modern society. It is the intensity and frequency with which it is practiced that has come to evolve, often for the worse.

Recently in Florida, twelve-year-old Rebecca Sedwick committed suicide after repeated and relentless bullying from two girls, ages 12 and 14. Sheriff Grady Judd, however, decided that enough was enough — especially in light of the fact that the older girl continued to post abusive remarks about Rebecca after her death — and that now was the time to take better action against those involved in bullying-suicide cases. Both girls who relentlessly bullied Sedwick are facing felony charges including harassment.

The real issue here, besides the tragic death of an innocent girl, is whether bullies can be held responsible when their “victim” dies or is seriously injured — especially if that death or injury was a result of self-harm not committed by the bully. Is it fair to charge them as felons?

“Being charged with a felony seems a little harsh. However, it is completely fair to punish the two girls for their actions,” said mechanical engineering freshman Lacey Manning. “Bullying is serious and deserves serious consequences. (The accused girls) should be charged as criminals, because they caused a girl to commit suicide. A young girl’s death should not be taken lightly.”

Another issue Sheriff Judd is trying to address is whether the parents of the accused girls should be charged with Sedwick’s death as well. They too potentially played a large role in the actions of their daughters by not stopping them or even bothering to investigate what their daughters had been doing — especially when the older girl’s parents claim that their daughter couldn’t have written those terrible things and that they believe her social media accounts had been hacked. However, Judd also noted that a charge against the parents would be unlikely because there is little evidence plausible for it.

“Parents have a great responsibility in raising their children, and if parents do not teach one correct behavior and speech, then they will not be able to properly express themselves,” said kinesiology freshman Stephanie Benza. “Certainly, there are parents who do not take responsibility for their children but should take it. That’s why I think that if you charge them, you make them realize the situation their child has put another child in and what situation they have put their child in by not being involved.”

Manning, on the other hand, said, “I do not believe the parent should be charged. The parents probably had no idea what their daughters were doing. If they knew what was happening, … that is simply bad parenting and should not result in an arrest.”

In the age of social media and the Internet, it is becoming increasingly easier to bully individuals without leaving a trace — meaning you can completely ignore your victim throughout the day at school, then bombard them with hate once both of you are at home on Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat. With that in mind, (associate professor of psychology Candice A.) Alfano said, “The widespread use of electronic and online communication tools serves to increase opportunities for youth to be bullied, but available research indicates that kids are still more likely to be bullied in person rather than online. Nonetheless, the effects of online bullying are similarly serious to those associated with in-person bullying.”

With the availability of streamlined apps and websites and the isolated nature of school life from parents, the signs for parents and friends to recognize that a child is experiencing bullying might be there but are not easily recognizable.

“Parents and teachers need to be aware that bullying behavior increases as children enter middle school and enter the adolescent years. There are also some common signs of both victimization and bullying and adults need to be in the look-out for both,” Alfano said.

“A child who is fearful of or just does not want to go school, comes home with damaged or lost personal items, has problems sleeping — particularly on school nights — or eating or lacks interest in or avoids social activities may be a victim of bullying. Kids who are perpetrators of bullying, on the other hand, often exhibit other defiant and delinquent behaviors, have poor school performance, blame others for their problems and tend to seek attention from peers.”

In the end, bullying is a growing and evolving monster that must be stopped. While many states endorse strict policies to address bullying, it often may not be enough. For the future, it may not be enough just to punish the bully but move towards holding all parties accountable, starting with the parents.

Opinion columnist Juanita Deaver is an anthropology freshman and may be reached at [email protected]


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