Archive for October, 2014

Albany County recently made it a crime to participate in “cyber-bullying”. Some aspects of the law include

1. “any act of communicating…by mechanical or electronic means”

2. “disseminating embarrassing or sexually explicit photographs”

3. “with the intent to harass, threaten, abuse…”

Suicides that have been caused by cyber bullying or bullying in general are continuing to rise at an alarming rate. Although the intent was good, this ordinance is far too broad and vague and being able to classify certain types of activities as bullying would be  difficult. There are no clear parameters as to what constitutes as bullying and what doesn’t. The First Amendment protects the right to freedom of speech so where exactly do we draw the line between what may be bullying or merely venting? After all, that is the whole point of social networking – an outlet for one’s self expression. Albany County will have to reevaluate the ordinance.


Watch Like a Hawk?

Posted: October 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

One solution to combating cyber bullying that seems to be persistent entails parents and or schools  monitor kids’ social media accounts. This is a really tricky subject for parents and schools alike. If a parent is monitoring their child’s social networking accounts without their knowledge, eventually the parent will come across something they are going to want to confront their child on. Of course, as a parent you need to be involved in your child’s life to protect them but what concerns me is the potential damage that can be done to the child-parent relationship. Is there a possibility the child will begin to have trust issues with their parent?

What complicates the matter for schools monitoring children’s accounts is the issue of privacy. How much of a child’s activity Some brands of software parents and schools alike can use are Mobicip, Net Nanny, Online Guardian and Social Shield. All of these applications have features that alert parents or teachers of certain keywords sent to a student’s phone or social media account. In terms of blocking and filtering, recording digital footprints, installation and ease of use, Net Nanny seems to score the highest in comparison to other parental control software.

Some of the features entail masking profanity, blocking websites that may not be suitable for the child’s age and a dashboard that allows parents to monitor all activity on social network cites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Based off of the service provided by the software and the reviews of users, Net Nanny could be a great resource to assist parents in interrupting cyber bullying.

Eliminate from Within

Posted: October 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

There are a number of ways in which out society as a whole can fight back against cyber bullying to eliminate it. One way that I thought was brilliant was by empowering teenagers themselves to be agents of change. The actions taken by these agents of change need not necessarily be radical.

Pacer National Bullying Prevention Center is one organization that sees teenagers as instrumental in interrupting or preventing bullying of any sort. They have started a movement called WE WILL Generation that harnesses the influence peers can have on one another. The tactics the movement employs are geared towards teens interrupting face to face cyber aggression, but none the less, can be utilized to combat cyber conflict.

WE WILL Reach Out is one of the methods the movement advocates. It encourages youth to offer support and kindness to peers they are aware are victims of bullying. One way of doing so is by being there for them to  eliminate some of the isolation that goes along with being a victim of bullying. Many students that find themselves to be targets of cyber aggression feel that no one know what they are going through and they are the only ones. Oftentimes, victims of bullying keep the torment to themselves for various reasons, like fear of backlash or embarrassment. Just like what is commonly seen in domestic abuse cases when that one good friend convinces the battered to get help, one teen could encourage another to do the same.

WE WILL Reach Out also trains teenagers to build up their peers. It is dangerous when an individual is suffering from low self esteem, low self-worth and low self confidence. When someone does not value themselves there is no telling what types of things they could do to themselves or allow to be done to themselves. Now add bullying into the equation which tends to tear down one’s self esteem. The movement encourages building up anther’s peers in various ways such as talking with them during breaks, including them in conversations and inviting them to various outings. I think positive reinforcement from a peer has a different meaning than that from an adult. Adolescence is an insecure time fro everyone and being able to connect to your peers is important.

A third aspect of the WE WILL campaign is what the center calls “Turn a 180”. This involves redirecting a conversation that has taken a negative turn into a positive direction to deescalate bullying. The same can apply via social media. Social media is all about building new relationships,establishing new ones or just finding creative forms of self expression.  Just as hurtful words can be easily sprawled across one’s Facebook page, so too can words that deflect hatred.

As earlier stated, what better way to combat conflict than to enlist the help of  individuals within the community. In this case, teenaged students.

Chasing a Ghost

Posted: October 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

I recently came across an article on a 15 year old girl from Newark, New Jersey who had  fallen victim to cyber bullying. For three years, Nafeesa Onque had endured the embarrassment of one of her peers creating  fake social media accounts pretending to be her. This individual befriended all of her family, friends and associates via the various social networks and would post various inappropriate stats such as ones with sexually explicit content. The imposter would even pick fights with some of Nafeesa’s associates. Because the imposter had done such a good job imitating Nafeesa’s social networking accounts, one of Nafeesa’s peers the imposter insulted online, even approached Nafeesa and hit her in the face not knowing Nafeesa was being harassed by an anonymous person. Needless to say, Nafeesa and her mother were at their wits ends trying to figure out who the person was, why they were doing this and how to stop them.

What blows my mind is the amount of dedication the bully exhibited in attempting to destroy the victim’s image. The tactics used entailed uploading sexually explicit stats and sending offensive messages to Nafeesa’s entire network.Nafeesa, a popular and social cheerleader, began to withdraw from all social events because she did not know who she could trust.

There were a few steps Nafeesa and her family had taken to end the stalking. One of which was refusing to remove her real Facebook profile because she did not want the tormentor to completely take over her digital life and “win”.

As earlier mentioned, Nafeesa’s mother also regularly reported the fake profiles to the websites’ administrators who would then have them removed due to their offensive content. This solution was only temporary as another website would be created in a matter of days. Nafeesa then was bounced around between various agencies before coming to the desk of a 10 year veteran of the New Jersey State Police’s digital Technology Investigations Unit. Sgt. Allen handles many cases on cyber bullying but the severity of Nafeesa’s stood out to him. Sgt. Allen hunted all of the phony profiles and was finally able to find the impersonator’s internet protocol address. The aggressor was apprehended and admitted her jealousy of Nafeesa’s popularity.

The primary aspect of what makes digital aggression so attractive to bullies is the level of anonymity one can maintain while exhibiting damaging behavior. Social networks  allow  users to be anyone and anything they want to be; the sky is the limit, and because social media is meant to be public, the audience is virtually endless. This is what makes it so challenging to report and combat cyber aggression. You don’t really know who you are looking for as the cloak of anonymity is effective. Its like chasing a ghost. Luckily for Nafeesa, her and her mother’s persistence is what ended her nightmare. She did not remove her real Facebook page and give in to the fake ones. Her mother made sure to report each incident to Facebook or MySpace administrators to have the offensive pages removed and these reports were documented. These actions combined with the diligence of Sgt. Allen’s search for the ip address is what caused Nafeesa to triumph in the end.