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Our Responsibility in the Media Age

An opinion piece concerning the digital age, and what added responsibilities it brings with it in relation to parenting.

Social media is a large and evolving tool used for a wide variety of purposes. As sites like facebook and twitter are becoming increasingly popular, people are using them to their advantage. Social Media is a fast way of spreading information via the web and in doing so has created a global word of mouth phenomenon. While many people’s intention of using social media is to do well or benefit in a positive way, there are others out there using it to do bad. Ethical concerns are being brought to light in many different aspects when it comes to the use of social media. Companies are being questioned when it comes to honesty, transparency, respect, privacy, relevance, and responsibility. While social media ethics is important to understand for businesses, I found myself wondering about the importance of ethics when social media is used for personal use and amongst students. It seems to me that social media has taken a turn for the worse with the increasingly alarming number of suicides amongst young adults taking place due to cyber bullying happening on social media sites.

While bullying has been a serious problem in American schools for an ongoing time now, social media development has caused the effects to multiply. Bullies now use social networks, cell phones, text messaging, and other online services to distress fellow students. Experts call it cyber bullying, and it may be more dangerous than previously thought. The recent attention comes in the wake of nine recent suicides stemming from bullying, including Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his freshman roommate filmed him without permission having a “sexual encounter” in his dorm room and broadcasting it over the Internet. Another recent suicide by a North Dakota teenager also shed light on this growing problem. According to an article published November 6th in the Inforum, Cassidy Joy Andel, 16, hanged herself early Thursday morning. Authorities believe it was over relentless bullying through text messages and social media websites such as Facebook. North Dakota had already been on its way to establishing anti bullying laws, and with this latest incident legislators are hoping to make it a priority.

So who is to blame for these individuals taking their own life? Is it these social media sites that make it easy to post negative content that can hurt people, or the parents, or even the school? I think society is to blame. People think because you didn’t say something mean to someone’s face but instead through technology it doesn’t hurt or is not considered bullying, but they are wrong. MyWebTimes uses the example that having hateful words about you make their way onto the Internet can be just as humiliating as getting a wedgie in front of your gym class. With Social Media being a quick way to get information out to a lot of people, cyber bullying can be even worse than it being non cyber. We as a society must come together and realize that what is happening to today’s youth is unacceptable and we must put our foot down to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect young people.

Putting strict laws into place on cyber bullying, will show just how serious this issue is. For the first time in the state of New Jersey, the proposed “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” would specifically extend protections and requirements to address actions off school grounds, including intimidation or harassment over the Internet and through cell phone texting. “We must accept that kids can be bullied at any time and any place, whether it be face-to-face or through hateful messages” said state Sen. Barbara Buono, a sponsor of the bill. States of America need to make a priority in coming up with laws that protect our youth from bullying, especially when it comes to the use of social media. The following website provides a resource for state cyberbullying laws and policies.

While social media has been criticized for it’s involvement with cyber bullying we can not ignore the fact that is has also played a positive role in supporting anti bullying. An online campaign titled “It Gets Better” has gone viral in recently. Thousands of people, including celebrities have posted personal testimonies to YouTube to let gay, lesbian and transgender teenagers know that it does gets better. The YouTube campaign is sending a positive message to an audience of millions.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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