Friday, May 15, 2009

Technotica's take on Cyberbullying

I'm an avid fan of Helen A.S. Popkin,'s Technotica's blogger.  I think she's witty, intelligent, entertaining, and pretty insightful at times.  So I was interested in what she had to say about cyberbullying.

She published a post entitled "Cyberbullying laws won't save your children: Luddite lawmakers continue to confuse their principles with the medium" today, in which she proposes that lawmakers are far too focused on the fact that the bullying is happening online, and not focused enough on the reality of teen suicide, depression, and other problems.  She feels that lawmakers are on a bit of a witch-hunt, demonizing the medium and the technology, and not addressing the real issues behind the suicides and other incidents that have happened as a result of the cyberbullying.

And she's got a point.  While I do feel the sentiment is correct, the laws that are being proposed are flirting dangerously with infringement on free speech.  Popkin claims that people "have a right to be mean", and that a certain amount of meanness is acceptable so "meanness doesn't become beatings and such".  All right, fair enough.  On the other side of that, however, is the fact that people have a right to block out other people's meanness.  Back in the olden days, before all this unfiltered, instant communication, kids had a way to block out anything that didn't want to pay attention to.  If it was a bully following them home at the end of the school day, that filter came in the form of their front door.  That filter doesn't work nearly as well when the bully is sending you text messages on the same cell phone you use to talk to your friends.  So what's the answer?

Back when I was a kid, another kid about 2 years older than me picked on me.  He would follow me home, threaten me, and generally make my life a little less pleasant.  What was the answer to that problem?  My father taught me how to throw a punch.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that kids find the rogue texter in their life and beat them senseless.  What I'm saying is that my father educated me on how to deal with the bully.  Education is the key, not legislation.

Kids have a right to happiness.  That happiness includes not having to deal with being bullied.

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