Dharun Ravi guilty in Clementi death: Stop cyberbullying now

A guilty verdict sends a loud message to stop cyberbulling before tragedy strikes again.

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2012 - Today, a jury convicted India-born, former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi for videotaping his gay roommate Tyler Clementi kissing another man.  Clementi committed suicide on September 22, 2010 after discovering that Ravi set up a video feed of the encounter and had actively tweeted to friends about Clementi’s sexual orientation.  Clementi’s suicide was the same year that 20 other gay youth killed themselves.

Ravi faces deportation and up to 10 years in jail upon sentencing.

Sad as this case is all around for all parties involved, but in particular Clementi’s parents, this case may send to other young people nationwide a message about possible consequences of cyberbullying their peers.

The StopCyberbullying. Org advocacy website defines “Cyberbullying” as the occasion of “a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.”

One third of children 10 to 18 years old report being cyberbullied but only 1 in 10 have reported it to a teacher, parent or educator.

Ironically, the verdict came on the same week that high school teen Katy Butler arrived in DC to try to speak with the Motion Picture Association of America over its decision to give a soon to be released new documentary “Bully” an “R” rating because of a scene where two teens hurl obscenities toward each other.  

The Ann Arbor, Michigan high school junior says she was bullied after coming out as a lesbian in the 7th grade said the restricted rating would prevent more teens from seeing a movie she says could show them the severe consequences of bullying. Butler’s Change.org petition has garnered over 300,000 signatures.  The film follows and chronicles the lives of five families dealing with bullying.

But the difference with cyberbullying is that while there is no physical contact, the emotional torment from online harassment can have the same type of detriment.  In January 2010, 9 teens were charged in the hanging death of a 14-year old recent Irish immigrant who they bullied physically and through Facebook and text messages.

In 2010, 17-year Alexis Pilkington hung herself, allegedly after being cyberbullied on the site, Formspring.com.  Back in 2006, parents of a 13-year old who killed herself after being the subject of a cyber hoax said they were saddened there were no cyber bullying laws on the books in their state.

That is changing, albeit slowly.

Currently, all states except Montana and South Dakota have bullying laws but only, as of February 2012, only 11 have proposed including cyberbulling in their existing laws, and only 6 acknowledge off campus bullying.

In the Rutgers case, Ravi had set up a video link that about 20 students viewed from on and off campus.

And in this new digital era, children are becoming exposed to digital media, some of it interactive with other children at earlier ages. A recent Common Sense Media report revealed that a quarter (27%) of young children ages zero to 8 spend screen time with digital media such as computers, handheld and console video games and other interactive mobile devices such as cell phones, video iPods, and iPad-style tablet devices. The opportunity for kids to interact and possibly taunt and tease each other is presenting itself for even the youngest kids.

Before it gets that far, groups like Common Sense and others, are offering educators online toolkits to train them how to best deal with cyberbullying and know when it is occurring and schools about how to behave responsibly on line and to avoid bullying kids they meet online and those they know in the brick and mortar world in social media like Facebook and Twitter.

Part of the problem also is that parents are not always as comfortable, skilled or knowledgeable of all the new social media and online platforms out there to monitor their kids’ online behavior.

Below are some online resources and information for educators, parents and kids assembled by Common Sense Media, and shared below with permission:

For educators:
Generation Safe - iKeepSafe
Tools to help you manage and prepare for cyberbullying incidents

National Conference of State Legislatures
State-by-state info on cyberbullying laws

ADL Cyberbullying Resource Center
Workshops and advocacy tools

Cyberbullying.us
Pew Internet and American Life
Sources of credible cyberbullying research

Center for Safe & Responsible Internet Use
Guidance on school liability and policy

Edutopia’s Digital Citizenship Roundup
Articles and community discussions on cyberbullying and more

For kids and teens:

MTV’s A Thin Line
Interactive tools engage older kids in defining what it means to “cross the line”

Nickelodeon’s Digital Citizen hub 
A quiz asks: “Are You Cyberbully Savvy?”

That’s Not Cool
Catchy “call-out cards” and other tools help kids become upstanders

Webonauts Internet Academy
A PBS Kids game engages younger kids

NetSmartz.org Teen Center
Games and comics teach online safety

For educators:
Generation Safe - iKeepSafe
Tools to help you manage and prepare for cyberbullying incidents

National Conference of State Legislatures
State-by-state info on cyberbullying laws

ADL Cyberbullying Resource Center
Workshops and advocacy tools

Cyberbullying.us
Pew Internet and American Life
Sources of credible cyberbullying research

Center for Safe & Responsible Internet Use
Guidance on school liability and policy

Edutopia’s Digital Citizenship Roundup
Articles and community discussions on cyberbullying and more

For kids and teens:

MTV’s A Thin Line
Interactive tools engage older kids in defining what it means to “cross the line”

Nickelodeon’s Digital Citizen hub 
A quiz asks: “Are You Cyberbully Savvy?”

That’s Not Cool
Catchy “call-out cards” and other tools help kids become upstanders

Webonauts Internet Academy
A PBS Kids game engages younger kids

NetSmartz.org Teen Center
Games and comics teach online safety

For parents

Online cyberbullying tip sheet
Online versions of our cyberbullying tip sheet PDFs and video

5 things to know about cyberbullying
Quick tips, plus an engaging video

Bullying is everybody’s business
An informative article about the four roles kids play in cyberbullying incidents

Advice for parents on other issues
Practical info on everything from texting to video games

The Rutgers case is a tragedy all around, but perhaps will represent an opportunity to prevent similar incidence like this in the future.

Read more Politics of Raising Children in The Communities at the Washington Times. Follow Jeneba Ghatt at @JenebaSpeaks. Her work can also be read at JenebaSpeaksm BlackWeb 2.0 and Politic365.  She also co-hosts a Blog Talk Radio show called Right of Black which tackles current events and politics from a perspective not often seen in the mainstream media.

 


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Jeneba Ghatt
Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt is a former journalist turned lawyer turned citizen journalist. Currently, she manages her boutique communications law firm, where she has represented small businesses and nationally-recognized civil and consumer rights organizations before the United States Supreme Court, federal courts and the FCC. She also covers the White House and US Congress for the online news site Politic365.com while authoring her own influential blog JenebaSpeaks.com which is frequently accessed by top policy makers and think tanks, and the investment community. JenebaSpeaks.com focuses on the intersection of politics and technology and reports on policies and rules in the communications and tech sector.
 
Before opening her law firm, The Ghatt Law Group, which was the first communications firm owned by women and minorities, Jeneba regulated Comcast and Starpower as the Assistant General Counsel for the District of Columbia's Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications, and at one point was the only communications regulatory attorney in the entire city. She is founding member and policy chair for a new trade association, the National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs and provides advice and counsel to new businesses in the tech industry, particularly small businesses owned by women and minorities.

Born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, but raised in the United States by her Catholic mom and Muslim dad, she started her college career creating web content for one of the earliest websites in history while working part time for the University of Maryland's Office of Technology. Following her graduation from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, she founded and co-wrote one of the earliest blogs and since then has gone on to found and author six different widely read and influential blogs. She was one of only 22 writers and bloggers to attend the first White House summit for African American media.
 
She holds a Certificate in Communications Law Studies from Catholic; a Juris Doctor from there as well, and a Master of Law in advocacy degree from the Georgetown University Law Center where she first taught and lectured as a Staff Attorney and Graduate fellow at that law school's Institute for Public Representation. She later went on to teach Media Law at the University of Maryland at College Park and guest lecture at Yale Law School and Penn State University, College of Telecommunications. She is well skilled and versed with social media and manages several Twitter, Facebook, Linked In accounts and groups.
 
She sits on the board of several non profits and trade associations.

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