Cyberbullying: eveyone’s problem
Thanks to somebody with a camera phone, internet access and a cruel intention, a 17 year-old girl this week found herself at the centre of nationwide attention.
Cross the line
I’m a funny gal. My wit and sarcasm is appreciated among friends and family and I’ve had many a belly ache over inappropriate jokes. But I know when something turns from banter to bullying.
The picture of this girl drew my attention on Monday morning as facebook friends were discussing a hash tag which caused it to trend globally, if briefly. When I found out what it was about, I was disgusted.
People were quick to condemn the girl; pouring abuse and scorn on her for her actions, saying she deserved it. Menwhile they praised the man in the photo as a “legend”. Soon, every form of social media had been touched by the incident.
New kinds of bullying
Our digital age means that bullying has changed its form. The responsibility of cyberbullying doesn’t only lie with the original bullies; it lies with every person who participates in it.
The mood of mirth over the picture soon soured when it was revealed the girl is a minor, therefore this picture is child pornography. People began to grasp the seriousness of the situation when we learned the girl has been treated in hospital due to the online abuse she was suffering. She had to be sedated and was described by Gardai as “vulnerable”.
And yet, even this has not stopped people from still labelling it all as “just a joke” or a “bitta banter”. It’s not. When your ‘joke’ results in the international embarrassment of a young girl, to the extent that her mental health is seriously at risk, it’s not a joke. It’s not funny. Nobody, least of the girl at the centre of it all, along with her friends and family, is laughing.
We’re not powerless against cyberbullying. But it’s a problem we all need to fight together. Social media sites have work to do on their safety measures, but we have work to do as a society with how we respond to such events.
If people hadn’t shared the photo and derided the girl online, this wouldn’t have gone viral. If whoever posted the picture in the first place had cared for one moment there was a person who would suffer dreadfully by making this photograph public, this girl could’ve been spared a lot of pain.
It is up to each one of us to think. If you, or someone you cared for had been the one in the picture, would you be laughing?
Being bullied is serious, if you or someone you know is being bullied it’s important to get help. Face-to-face help is available, and there is support available online or by telephone. Even just talking to a friend or family member you trust is good place to start.