If you follow the news and are involved in the anti bullying movement in New Jersey you will probably know this name well. If you don’t this name means nothing to you at all. Dharun Ravi is the young student who used a webcam to spy on his roommate Tyler Clementi having sex with a man in his dorm room at Rutgers University. Ravi sent tweets of his findings on twitter to his followers humiliating, and embarrassing Clementi to the point that he took his own life by jumping off the George Washington Bridge in September of 2010. Ravi faced up to 10 years in prison for his actions. Before the jury went off to deliberate the case they were informed by Judge Berman of New Brunswick New Jersey that Mr. Clementi’s suicide was not relevant to the case they were considering. Ravi was found guilty of all 15 counts of invasion of privacy, biased intimidation and evidence and witness tampering on March 15. He was sentenced today (May 21, 2012) to 30 days in jail, 300 hours of community service, counseling on cyberbullying and alternative lifestyles, and a $10,000 probation fine to be used to help victims of bias crime.
After Tyler Clementi committed suicide the state of New Jersey passed the strictest harassment, intimidation, and bullying laws in the country. Schools were mandated to have anti bullying specialists, and coordinators. Investigation into acts of bullying was also mandated and schools were put on notice that they are going to be graded on how they handled bullying in their districts. The Anti Bullying Bill of Rights, which all schools must abide by, is the standard that other states look at and consider when they tackle the problem in their state.
Let’s back this up a bit and start considering what would have happened if Tyler Clementi didn’t take his life. Business as usual I guess, right? Does it take a tragedy like a suicide to make an entire culture understand how devastating harassment, intimidation, and bullying can be to its victims? How about Dharun Ravi? Supposed Clementi never said anything would anyone even know who he is right now? How many Dharun Ravi’s are there in society today who take the time to humiliate, harass and intimidate? It is amazing to me that we have to have a law that says we have to treat others with kindness and respect. More importantly how we consider stricter laws after a tragedy.
The sentencing is what it is. Dharun Ravi didn’t kill Tyler Clementi, the judge made that clear by calling the suicide irrelevant; Irrelevant to whom? Certainly not to Clementi’s family or those that loved him. Ask Dharun Ravi if Clementi’s suicide was irrelevant? Dharun Ravi wasn’t sentenced today; he was sentenced in September of 2010 the day that Clementi took his life. I have often said that consequences take on many forms. Dharun will serve his time and pay the fine, he will do his community service and it’s over right? Wrong; I don’t care whether he displayed remorse in court or not. He has lost his freedom albeit not physically. He will be emotionally and mentally bound in chains for the rest of his life. His own conscious will see to it.
On March 20 Jim and I had a very special guest- Dr. Michael Nuccitelli, a forensic/clinical consultant who has done his homework when it comes to internet predators and cyber bullying. We discussed the social media sites available today (ie. Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Dr. Nuccitelli educated us on the following statistics:
Facebook- 5 million out of the 7.5 million people under 18 are 10 years old and under.
At any given time, there are 750,000 online predators.
Only 10% of children being cyber bullied tell their parents, most likely for fear of losing their internet privileges. What’s the solution, parents? Dr. Nuccitelli says to tell your kids that they will never lose their internet privileges, as long as they are open and honest with you.
But what if your child isn’t being completely honest with you? Here are some signs to look out for:
1. Your child’s internet history is cleared.
2. He/She turns off the computer when you enter the room.
3. Your child is upset when he/she gets off the computer.
Jim says the signs to look for are:
- Rapid Behavioral Shift (RBS)
- Increased Isolation
- Familial Withdrawal
Parents : this website is a great tool to use so that you can be further educated on proper internet etiquette (digital citizenship): http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/citizenship/
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Cyber bullying is a term used to define recurrent and sustained verbal and/or physical attacks by one or more children towards another child who is unable or unwilling to deescalate the engagement using information and communication technology. Like classic bullying, cyber bullying is harmful, repeated and hostile behavior intended to deprecate and disparage a targeted child.
Bullying use to be confined to schools, neighborhoods or some small geographic location that the bullied child could leave and seek respite. With cyber bullying, the target child has no escape from the taunting and harassment afforded by the internet and mobile digital technology. Given the variety of methodologies cyber bullies use, which continues to expand, provided below are the ten most common.
1. Exclusion: Exclusion is a cyber bullying tactic that is highly effective and indirectly sends a provocative message to the target child without the need for actual verbal deprecation. As its well-known children and teens are developmentally fixated on being recognized by their peers, the process of designating who is a member of the peer group and who is not included can be devastating to the target child.
2. Flaming: Flaming is a term describing an online passionate argument that frequently includes profane or vulgar language, that typically occurs in public communication environments for peer bystanders to witness including discussion boards and groups, chatrooms and newsgroups. Flaming may have features of a normal message, but its intent if designed differently.
3. Outing: Outing is a term that includes the public display, posting, or forwarding of personal communication or images by the cyber bully personal to the target child. Outing becomes even more detrimental to the target child when the communications posted and displayed publicly contains sensitive personal information or images that are sexual in nature.
4. E-mail Threats and Dissemination: E-mail Threats and Dissemination is a cyber bully tactic used to inspire fear in the target child and then informing other members in the peer group of the alleged threat. The cyber bully sends a threatening e-mail to the target child and then forwards or copy & pastes the threatening message to others of the implied threat.
5. Harassment: Harassment is sending hurtful messages to the target child that is worded in a severe, persistent or pervasive manner causing the respondent undue concern. These threatening messages are hurtful, frequent and very serious. Although sending constant and endless hurtful and insulting messages to someone may be included in cyber stalking, the implied threats in harassment does not lead the target child to believe the potential exists the cyber bully may actually be engaged in offline stalking of the target child.
6. Phishing: Phishing is a cyber bully tactic that requires tricking, persuading or manipulating the target child into revealing personal and/or financial information about themselves and/or their loved ones. Once the cyber bully acquires this information, they begin to use the information to access their profiles if it may be the target child’s password, purchasing unauthorized items with the target child’s or parents credit cards.
7. Impersonation: Impersonation or “imping” as a tactic in cyber bullying can only occur with the “veil of anonymity” offered by digital technology. Cyber bullies impersonate the target child and make unpopular online comments on social networking sites and in chat rooms. Using impersonation, cyber bullies set up websites that include vitriolic information leading to the target child being ostracized or victimized in more classic bullying ways.
8. Denigration: Denigration is used in both classic and cyber bullying, denigration is a term used to describe when cyber bullies send, post or publish cruel rumors, gossip and untrue statements about a target child to intentionally damage their reputation or friendships. Also known as “dissing,” this cyber bullying method is a common element and layer involved in most all of the cyber bullying tactics listed.
9. E-mail and Cell Phone Image Dissemination: Not only a tactic used in cyber bullying, but a form of information exchange that can be a criminal act if the images are pornographic or graphic enough depicting under aged children. Children can receive images directly on their phones and then send them to everyone in their address books. Of all cyber bullying methods, this tactic, which serves to embarrass a target child, can lead to serious criminal charges.
10. Images and Videos: Briefly described in Happy Slapping, the usage of images and video recording has become a growing concern that many communities, law enforcement agencies and schools are taking seriously. Due in part to the prevalence and accessibility of camera cell phones, photographs and videos of unsuspecting victims or the target child, taken in bathrooms, locker rooms or in other compromising situations, are being distributed electronically. Some images and videos are emailed to peers, while others are published on video sites.
A student is accused of posing as a girl on Facebook, tricking at least 31 male classmates into sending him naked photos of themselves and then blackmailing some for sex acts. Anthony Stancl, 18, of New Berlin, west of Milwaukee, was charged with five counts of child enticement, two counts of second-degree sexual assault of a child, two counts of third-degree sexual assault, possession of child pornography, repeated sexual assault of the same child and making a bomb threat. A survey of 1,280 teenagers (users age 13-19) and young adults (age 20-26) conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl.com has revealed that one out of five (20 percent) teens overall have posted nude photos or video of themselves on the Internet-that number goes up to a third when young adults are included. While 71 percent of teen girls and 67 percent of teen guys who have sent these photos say they’ve sent them to a boyfriend or girlfriend, 15 percent overall said they’ve sent nude photos to people they only “knew” online. For women, that percentage stays the same when they turn into young adults, although the percentage of young adult men goes up to 23 percent.
This is just another example of what society developed for good, deviant minds have used for criminal, and immoral purposes. What is the problem? Is it to difficult for individuals to enjoy the tools of convenience without trying to figure out how to use it to satisfy their own immoral appetites? I believe that speed and the lack of impulse control plays a big part in why these acts occur on a regular basis today. The speed of text messaging, and sending emails and pictures from a cell phone, combined with the poor impulse control on the part of deviant individuals creates an environment where people can say and send anything they want to another person, things that they wouldn’t say in person like “do you want to screw,” or do in person, like getting naked.
I am 60 years old, 40 years ago if I or anyone of my friends wanted to take and send nude pictures of ourselves or anyone else (By the way we never did) we would have to live with the embarrassment of having these pictures developed by a photographer. In order for a picture to be taken it needed two things, a subject and a photographer. No teenage girls were going to take their clothes off for some sex crazed boy and let him take her picture. Any pictures that were taken of anyone, and I mean clothed usually required a five day period for development. Everyone had time to think. It wasn’t as easy as hitting the send key.
Once the send key is hit everyone has a record of what was sent, a record that will last a lifetime, and probably create a lifetime of misery. Society’s stagnant morality just can’t seem to keep up with the rapidly moving technology. We haven’t figured out how to use our new toys and are always looking for ways to use these things to self destruct or to ruin the reputation of another person. When I was a kid I was told, never write a letter, and to never throw away a letter. I understand this now better than ever. At least 40 years ago if I wrote a letter I could decide if I wanted to mail it off. If it was written in anger I could think about it and allow my impulses to calm down. If someone sent me a letter that was less than friendly I had a permanent record of that person’s thoughts of me.
Today people just don’t think, they get a thought, no matter where they are and immediately begin to text someone and begin to berate another person without even giving it a second thought. It is just as easy as hitting the send key. Below is an article I wrote a while back about how this type of selfish and uncontrollable behavior affected an evening that I was spending with my daughter Sarah. It is living proof how texting if not used correctly can ruin and day, and evening, or a life. Thank God things worked out, but remember it all started with an impulsive text message. I left in my advice for those of you who have children who could be impacted by such insensitivity by others.
Many years ago when my oldest daughter Sarah was about 4 years old a good friend of mine told me that girls were easier to raise than boys. Well my oldest daughter is now 20 years old and I still haven’t figured it out yet. One thing I do know is that I hate to see my daughter upset. I don’t mean mildly upset, that just goes with being a teenager, but upset to the point of tears. This happened to me one night when my daughter was 17. She received a text message from one of her friends. The text message said that she wanted to talk to her about something. Sarah couldn’t get in touch with the girl that sent the text so she called another one of the girls in this group. She has been friend with 4 girls for about the last two years. These girls did everything together. Hang out mostly as Sarah calls it. They went to parties together, studied together, drove to school together, and yes, they got into trouble once in a while together.
When she called one of the girls up the girl told Sarah that all four girls were upset with her because they were starting to view her as being selfish, and annoying. My daughter was blindsided by this information and really didn’t know what to say. She didn’t even know what they were talking about. I asked her if she thought this information was true. She told me no. I then asked her if she thought she might have a couple of blind spots and the girls were possibly seeing something in her that she just didn’t see in herself. She said no, and I must say did a pretty convincing job backing up what she told me. The question is this; how do you as a dad offer a teenage daughter advice in situations like these? I am no expert but, I believe that I did a pretty good job based upon the outcome.
Teenage girls always seem to like to be connected to some group outside their family. Teenage boys like the connection also, but a boy’s connection is usually with some type of sports team, or club. Girls like to be connected to each other. The longer this connection lasts the greater the chance that their weaknesses will be exposed, and for sure they will start engaging in rumors, and gossiping about one another. Girls also tend to become more jealous in these relationships if a boy becomes involved in this mix. Once one of the girls has an opinion about someone else in their group they will bend over backward to try and convince the other members of the group that it is true. They will even search for the evidence to prove their point. This behavior becomes crushing and emotionally painful to the girl who is being ganged up on, as was the case with my daughter.
What can you do when your daughter confides in you enough to tell you what is going on? First, listen, and I mean listen well. Find out all the facts and please don’t react or condemn your daughter. Don’t say to her you better change your ways. If you are condemning her it’s a good chance that that’s the reason why she looking for connections outside the family. The next thing is to love her to death with your actions and words. My comment to my daughter was, I like everything about you. I like how you talk and how you act. Help her understand that you are her biggest fan. Let her know that she doesn’t have to apologize for something that she truly believes she is not guilty of. I mean are these girls the only one with an opinion. Of course if she feels as if she has done something to offend someone apologize, and move on.
Tell your daughter that long term relationships give everyone an opportunity to show their true colors. These relationships may be nice at first, but the longer that a person is in them the greater the chance that the true character of someone will pop up. That’s when a person has to decide if they want to stay friends with someone who is not a very loyal friend. Tell your daughter to stand tall, hold her head up, and don’t let them see you cry, and that you will be there to help her do all of these.
Adolescent relationships are a growth process. There is pain that can come from being hurt by a so called friend. Guess what? By the time your daughter is 22, she will have the savvy to manage this type of crap and she won’t be emotionally immature when it comes down to relationships. All friendships are not intimate, and by that I mean a relationship that involves a person’s heart, mind, and soul. The relationships that your daughter has with someone in high school might be viewed by her as intimate. Relationships have a continuum that go from, acquaintance, friend, close friend, and then intimate friend. An intimate friend is usually someone that is a life long friend.
By the way after I offered my daughter some of my wisdom, which by the way took me two days, she said to me “I really love you dad,” and was happier than I have seen her in a long while. When I was alone, I cried, yes I cried again. I am such a big baby.