Cyberbullying and The First Amendment

I recently read about a case of cyberbullying that led to arrests made of the girls that did the bullying.  In another article (which I can’t find, otherwise I’d link it), I read someone’s opinion that they should replace the word “bullying” with “assault” in cyberbullying.

I think we should take a deep breath, and think very carefully about what our response should be to this, and the ramifications of that response.

I don’t want to be callous about this subject.  A little girl took her life, and that’s tragic.

How we react to that tragedy can have lasting and devastating consequences, however, and I think we should be careful about that.

Let me go off on a tangent for a moment.  For years now, the formula seems to be “something terrible has happened, therefore, we should react horribly.” I hate to bring up September 11th, but our reaction(s) to that tragedy were terrible, and resulted in the loss of lives of people all over the world.  It resulted in atrocities done in the name of security.  I think we need to change the formula to “something terrible has happened, so let’s not do anything until we’ve taken some time to calm down.”

I don’t think these girls should be arrested for saying horrible things.  I think saying stupid or mean stuff should not be the grounds for anyone to get arrested.

Does that mean I think there should be no ramifications for cyberbullying?  Maybe.  I might have to think on this some more, before I have a definitive answer.  I think in this case, all of the parents involved have some questions to answer.  What were the parents of the instigating children doing?  How did the parents of the girl that committed suicide not know that their daughter was hurting so badly?

It’s that last one that gets me.  My children have unsupervised and unrestricted access to the internet.  Maybe I’m being an irresponsible parent in regards to that, but I’ve thought this through, and I’m not just being lazy.  My kids are both teenagers, and I know that if I prohibit them from something, whatever it is that they are denied, they’re going to crave that much more.  Worse, they are going to go around me, and they are going to get it anyway.  If they can’t see what they want at home, they’ll go out somewhere else.  Also, and let me be completely blunt about this: if my kids want to look at porn, that’s their business. (I think I’m going to have to explain this more at some point.  I’m going to table that for another post)

My kids have unrestricted internet access, but they’re not alone.  I check up on them.  Not necessarily what they’re looking at, but I talk to them.  I check to see what’s going on in their lives.  I make sure they’re happy, and getting everything they need.  I make sure they know that they’re loved, and I make sure that they know that I’m there for them.

Whatever a parent’s policies might be surrounding their children’s internet use, I would think that they would, like me, take an interest in their child’s life, and talk to them.  So what were the parents of the victim doing?

This makes it sound like I’m blaming the parents of the child that committed suicide, and I don’t mean to be mean.  They must be feeling a kind of pain I never want to know, and hopefully will never understand.

I guess the bottom line is, I don’t want to see freedom of speech infringed or curtailed because 3 sets of parents were not paying attention to their children.