Tragically, online bullying appears to have been the cause behind another teen suicide. As reported by CNN, 18 year old Brandy Vela of Texas City, Texas killed herself in front of her parents after being relentlessly bullied online about her weight.
According to the story, Brandy was a well-liked student at school. But in April, the online bullying increased, apparently by others who were creating fake Facebook accounts in order to perpetuate the bullying.
Brandy’s sister said that Brandy had changed her phone number and reported the bullying to the police. The suspects, however apparently used untraceable apps to create the social media accounts. The police are reportedly continuing to investigate the matter, and questioning those who knew the young woman.
Of course none of this will matter much to those who loved Brandy, as nothing can be done to bring her back.
The Rules of Bullying Have Changed
In past times, bullying was done either face-to-face or behind a victim’s back. With the Internet, bullying can often be done anonymously, and with words (and even pictures) that can be published to the world with one mouse click, leaving a permanent mark against the victim.
The way that social media is now designed, bullying can become a team sport, with others piling on the victim by “liking” the bullying remarks or postings. It can take guts – which fortunately some people have – to post comments rebuking the bullying.
In the interim, the bullying exists. Many victims will be irreparably injured.
We Need Better Education and Tough Penalties for Extreme Bullying
Unfortunately, most schools do not adequately teach about the dangers of bullying, and states lack significant criminal penalties for extreme bullying. We believe that this needs to change.
Schools need to do more than simply having anti-bullying policies. They need to each what constitutes bullying. They need to show the harmful effects of bullying. And they need to show students how they can combat bullying.
Extreme bullying is more than words that a person might say one time out of temporary anger or frustration. Extreme bullying is a conscious decision to engage in ongoing and pervasive conduct solely to cause humiliation to a person. Such deliberate decisions and conduct should be criminalized accordingly, in the same fashion as if a criminal made a deliberate decision to rob a bank.
States have taken steps to combat similar bullying behavior, like stalking. It’s now time that the law is expanded to include bullying.