Associated Press reports on another cyberbullying or harassment case. This case really needs to be read by parents and discussed with their children. It also needs to be discussed in the schools as an opportunity to reinforce the importance of privacy – respect for one’s own and respect for others’.
A cyberbully who forwarded explicit online photos of a teenage boy to the teen’s school was sentenced to 45 days in federal prison Tuesday.
Matthew Bean, 20, of Bergenfield, N.J., was part of an “electronic mob” trying to drive the boy to suicide, federal prosecutors charged.
The victim staved off the humiliation and is now in college, authorities said.
This case is a perfect, if unfortunate, example of various aspects of privacy issues for youth. In this case, it was the victim who had first uploaded the pictures of himself to the web. Had he not done that, there would have been nothing to trigger the plaintiff and others to try to identify him and then send the pictures out as a lark. But the case also demonstrates the lure of the internet and that when it’s too easy to just anonymously “play a prank,” the results can be devastating. In this case, the plaintiff’s explanation of how this happened clearly articulates the risks youth faces online:
“The Internet seemed safer to me, not as dangerous as handing out the photo at someone’s school where you might get punched,” he said. “We weren’t thinking. We were reacting, the beehive mind.”
“Like a riot, people were just joining in and going with the flow,” Bean said, according to court papers.
Yes, adults can face the same risks and temptations, but we need to remember that children and teen’s brains have not fully matured in terms of the neurology that underpins inhibiting impulsive responses or foreseeing the future. So if the neurological brakes are not yet fully operational, how will they control themselves when faced with temptation and when it may be too easy to just click a “send” button?
Parents and schools can bury their heads in the sand or they can recognize that lives can be and are being ruined. Talk with your children. Talk with your students. And let your children and students know that if they’re troubled by what they are seeing on the Internet or what they are tempted to do, they can come talk to you.
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