Nadin Khoury, 13, was attacked on his way home by seven classmates in early January. The Pennsylvania teenager was beaten, kicked, shoved into a tree, and hung by the hood of his coat on a fence. Nadin cried for help and begged for the attack to end, but it didn’t.
The attack went on for over 30 minutes.
And even though there were people walking down the street as seven teenagers, aged 13 to 17, punched him, kicked him, and drug him through the snow while he was calling for help, no one came to his aide. After he was hung from a fence, a stranger driving by stopped the assault and called the police.
That by itself is bad, but one of the attackers recorded several minutes of the assault on his cell phone, then later posted it to YouTube. So, after seven teenagers brutally attacked Nadin, one of them decided it would be great fun to post it online.
The result wasn’t quite what he had in mind. On Jan. 31, using evidence partially gained from the YouTube video, police arrested six of the seven teenagers responsible for the assault.
While cyber bullying is normally associated with tragedy, in this case it led to the arrest of six assailants.
And even though achieving this kind of positive outcome from the use of social networking sites in the case of cyber bullying isn’t an isolated incident, not everybody realizes what a powerful tool social media can be in preventing the types of tragedies it seems to spur.
Online strangers can make a difference.
An image was posted on PostSecret on June 6, 2010, that depicted the upcoming suicide attempt of an anonymous illegal immigrant. According to Time, within 24 hours, a Facebook group had been set up with the message “Please don’t jump” and over 20,000 users had joined. While it’s unclear if the original secret sender ever saw the outpouring of emotional support, many other suicidal people who joined the group decided against attempting to end their lives.
But that’s not all.
On July 16, 2008, USA Today published a story about a man who had received a harsher sentence based on pictures posted to Facebook. USA Today said pictures of Joshua Lipton in an orange jumpsuit that read “Jail Bird” had been posted to his Facebook account. Two weeks before, Lipton had been charged in a drunk driving collision that sent one woman to the hospital. Because the photos seemed to mock the seriousness of his case and made him appear remorseless, he was sentenced to prison instead of receiving a lesser punishment.
Yes, there are hundreds of cases where teenagers and adults have been harassed and bullied online; just type “cyber bullying stories” into your search engine, and you’ll find pages of links to first-person stories. But is banning Facebook and YouTube, or restricting cell phone, use the answer?
No, it’s not. Social media sites are never going to go away. They’ve become an intricate part of our culture, and hiding from them is not going to save us.
What we need is better education on how to use social networking to protect ourselves from cyber bullying.
Report bullying. Many sites have zero tolerance toward bullying, and encourage users to report harassment. Take screen shots of the negative comments or print out copies before reporting the incidents. This way you’ll have documentation if it continues.
Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Tell the school, and if the bullying is severe enough, tell the police.
Remove yourself from toxic environments. Take your harasser off your friends list, block them on social media sites, and block them on your phone. While this won’t stop the bully, it will minimize your exposure to the virtual attacks.
If you suspect your children are being bullied, talk to them. And just because they tell you nothing’s wrong doesn’t mean that nothing is wrong. Bullying is embarrassing, humiliating, and can alienate the victim and make them too scared to seek help. Make sure they know they can always talk to you, and if they’re not comfortable with you, then at the very least they should talk to an adult they trust.
Today, “Teen ‘Wolf Pack’ Accused of Bullying Boy,” MSNBC
Kristi Oloffson, “Can PostSecret and Facebook Save a Life?” Time
Eric Tucker, “Facebook Used as Character Evidence, Lands Some in Jail,” USA Today