Editorial: Cyber bullying hits close to home

These days, it seems like we are more open than ever before. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and many other sites allow us to post information about our lives for the world to see. But what about our privacy? Just because we put something online, does that automatically mean that anyone can use what we say against us? At what point do we lose the right to keep what we want hidden and show only what we want to be seen?

Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman from Rutgers University, was the latest in a recent string of suicides related to bullying. At least five males aged 13 to 18 killed themselves in the past three weeks because others either knew they were gay or thought they were, and then harassed them about it. In this case, Clementi’s roommate streamed live video of his interactions with another male, leading him to post a final Facebook status that said, “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.” And that was it.

All of the victims were bullied not only face-to-face, but also online, in an unfortunate trend called cyber bullying. New Jersey has had laws against bullying. In 2007, it extended the law to include “electronic communication” and gave more rights to school systems to punish anything that happens off of school grounds. But clearly, this does not seem to be working.

A big question concerning this topic is: Do cyber bullying laws apply to college students? Surprisingly, they don’t. The majority of college students are 18 and older, so, because they are legally considered adults, there is no law to protect them. The state legislature is currently working on a law to do so. But because a law has not been established yet, Clementi’s roommate and another 18-year-old girl will only be charged with an invasion of privacy.

Maybe it’s because we are on a smaller campus, but Rider feels more accepting and open-minded. However, we are not immune. With sites like CollegeACB.com, the University has still had its incidents. Luckily, since we attend a small school and everybody generally knows everybody else, it is easier to look past our differences and establish genuine friendships. We just need to work on the few situations we’ve had in the past.

We need to make changes to the way our society thinks about people who are different. One way to do that is to encourage children to be more accepting earlier than we are now.

“There really is not much to do besides start off awareness at a young age,” said Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) president Justin Mersinger.

When asked when this awareness should begin, GSA vice president Chris Shepherd said it should start in kindergarten.

“Parents should do it in the home. It’s really important to teach your kids that everyone is different. And everyone matters and everyone is important.”

Recently, students have committed to helping the situation by starting a group called Rider Allies Against Bullying (RAAB). While other cases like Clementi’s have happened recently, it was the fact that this kind of bullying was occurring at the college level that really set the club in motion. More clubs like this need to be established to allow any Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning (LGBTQ) person to feel that they have a place to go on campus. Having this happen could prevent the recent tragedies that have been occurring all around us, and we won’t have to hear about another case like Tyler Clementi’s.

This weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Angelique Lee.

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