By Jessica Donaldson
When a pregnant teen made comments on Facebook recently, threatening the life of her former school friend, the cyber-bullying debate began raging all over again. But what part does social media really play in all this?
In this particular case the Geelong 16-year-old had already been served a restraining order, and knew she was facing court if she continued her intimidating behaviour towards her former friend, but she was seen driving past the victim’s house, following her in the street, and talking about her at school.
After continuously being seen flouting the restraining order, the final straw was making death threats towards the girl on Facebook. This quickly caught the attentions of the court, and the girl was charged with stalking and making threats to kill.
But cyber bullying isn’t just happening between teenage girls; some adults who ‘should know better’ are getting in on the action too.
The ‘blogosphere’ has been rife lately with nasty comments, accusations, and vicious gossip aimed at a small number of so-called Australian ‘Mummy Bloggers’ – women who have successfully built a lucrative career out of their blogs, with big sponsorship and advertising deals targeted at their massive audiences.
These women claim they have been targeted by other bloggers, jealous of their success, and also by media agencies looking to discredit them in an effort to regain some of their lost readership. Sound like a conspiracy? The Mummy Bloggers swear it isn’t and that they are the targets of genuine cyber bullying.
However, there is an unexpected up side to cyber bullying. When four schoolboys verbally abused 68-year-old American bus monitor Karen Klein recently, it was caught on video by a fellow bus passenger and posted on the internet. The video clip went viral and an online account was set up for the grandmother of eight, to raise money for her to go on a holiday. In a matter of days over $US665,000 had been donated by complete strangers, and the boys were expelled from their school, ordered to complete 50 hours of community service each, as well as being required to individually apologise to the woman.
Like many sites on the internet, social media can be lethal when it’s used to negative effect, but used sensibly and wisely, it can also be a tool for positive change.