Cyber bullying more than a virtual problem

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 24, 2010

In a true sign of the times, the term “cyber bullying” has been all over the headlines recently.

Defined as harassment by means of the Internet or text messaging, cyber bullying has been blamed for a recent spate of adolescent suicides. And in Massachusetts, a group of teens have been charged in the death of classmate as a result of hurtful text messages they sent.

Now the Louisiana Legislature has gotten in on the action by proposing a bill that would make the act of cyber bullying a misdemeanor. The bill, which would only apply to those 17 and under, has already cleared a House committee.

Some might think a formal law is taking it too far. Parents, after all, should be able to control the actions of their children. With the current rate of technological progress, however, it is nearly impossible for parents to keep track of everything their child does.

Others may find the proposed legislation is making a mountain out of a molehill. But those same people would probably find nothing wrong with charging a bully who physically attacked a child on a playground.

The fact is, these harassing and often unrelenting messages can be a truly insidious menace to the well being of a child. A physical threat can be countered and will likely be stopped by an authority figure. But text messages and Facebook posts are undetectable to those same figures, especially if the child being harassed is too embarrassed to let anyone know what is happening.

While it is undeniably unfortunate such drastic measures have to be taken, holding children accountable for their actions may be the only way to stem this growing problem.