(Ventura County, Ca) The age of information has offered benefits ranging from easier access to checking in on family, sites to look up symptoms during a cold or illness and the ability to gather news faster than ever before. But this era has also brought with it a new way to intimidate and overpower individuals in a substantially different way than ever before.
According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine cyberbullying has been termed a serious public health issue.
The California Education Code 48900 defines Bullying as “any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act(s) or conduct, including electronic communications committed by a pupil(s) that has, or can be reasonably predicted to have, the effect of one or more of the following:
- Reasonable fear of harm to person or property;
- Substantially detrimental effect on physical or mental health;
- Substantial interference with academic performance;
- Substantial interference with the ability to participate in or benefit from school services, activities, or privileges.”
According to the “California Healthy Kids Survey,” a detailed survey yielded data for each county on cyberbullying, which was taken for the 2011-2013 period and categorized children by race.
Statewide sources for information on adult cyberbullying could not be found.
In addition, many sources of statistics exist nationally, the United Kingdom, and for Canada.
Enough Is Enough (EIE), a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that emerged in 1994 on the front lines of making the Internet safer for children and families. EIE has pioneered and led the effort to confront online pornography, child pornography, child stalking and sexual predation. According to information posted by EIE:
- 71% of young generations say they are concerned about cyberbullying (Reportlinker June 2017)
- A 2016 report from the Cyberbullying Research Center indicates that 33.8% of students between 12 and 17 were victims of cyberbullying in their lifetime. Conversely, 11.5% of students between 12 and 17 indicated that they had engaged in cyberbullying in their lifetime. (Cyberbullying Research Center, 2016).
- Among Internet users of Canadians between ages 15 – 29, 17 percent (or 1 in 5) said they had been victims of cyberstalking or cyberbullying in the previous five years. (Statistics Canada, December 2016).
- In a random sample study over 14% admitted to cyberbullying another person, with spreading rumors online, via text, or email being the most common form of bullying. (Cyberbullying Research Center, 2015).
- Girls (40.6%) are much more likely to be victims of cyberbullying than boys (28.8%). Girls also dominate social media, while boys tend to play videogames. (Cyberbullying Research Center, 2015).
States and schools still struggle with policy prevention strategies to help better combat these issues among adolescents. According to materials provided by www.stopbullying.gov, the following measures must be adopted to successfully reduce and adolescent prevent bullying:
- Focus on the Social Climate
- Conduct Community-wide Assessments of Bullying
- Seek Out Support for Bullying Prevention
- Coordinate and Integrate Prevention Efforts
- Provide Training on Prevention and Bullying Response
- Organize a Community Event to Catalyze Efforts
- Set Policies & Rules About Bullying
- Respond Consistently & Appropriately When Bullying Happens
- Spend Time Talking with Youth & Children About Bullying
- Continue Efforts Over Time and Renew Community Interest
The above guidance includes training pamphlets and online courses.
Content is plentiful for adolescent bullying prevention strategies. Most of these are difficult to translate to adult cyberbullying prevention.
Much of the focus on cyberbullying has been focused around kids in school and specifically on social media. However, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center (www.cyberbullying.org),“We get a lot of emails, phone calls, and comments on this blog from adults who are being bullied though technology. They stress to us that cyberbullying is not just an adolescent problem. Believe me, we know. We receive more inquiries from adults than teens. We know that cyberbullying negatively affects adults too. It’s just that we spend the majority of our efforts studying how this problem impacts school-aged youth due to their tenuous developmental stage.”
California law makes two types of online or electronic conduct crimes. Posting personal information to cause fear and the use of electronic device to harass.
According to California Penal Code § 653.2, the law states, “(a) Every person who, with intent to place another person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of the other person’s immediate family, by means of an electronic communication device, and without consent of the other person, and for the purpose of imminently causing that other person unwanted physical contact, injury, or harassment, by a third party, electronically distributes, publishes, e-mails, hyperlinks, or makes available for downloading, personal identifying information, including, but not limited to, a digital image of another person, or an electronic message of a harassing nature about another person, which would be likely to incite or produce that unlawful action, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in a county jail, by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.”
In the current national and local divide over political and social issues, cyberbullying has seemingly become more frequent across the county with issues such as SB54, immigration reform, and other highly partisan topics.
Rosalyn La Liberte has had her life hijacked and her business threatened by the tweet and retweet of a falsely captioned photo by the Ventura County Star where their conversation was described as a “spirited discussion” with 14-year-old Joseph Luevanos at a recent Simi Valley City Council meeting where she spoke in support of the city’s move to Reject SB54, California’s sanctuary policy for illegal aliens.
La Liberte was falsely accused of calling the boy a “dirty Mexican” and saying he would be among “the first deported”. Local TV Station Fox11 investigated the situation and interviewed the boy who stated, “she tried to keep it civil, which I appreciated.” He went on to say many others were not civil.
As a result of this social media frenzy and mis-characterization, La Liberte received threatening calls and messages and even lost a client since she was accused by many on social media, and even MSNBC’s Joy Reid, who took the image and interpreted La Liberte’s behavior.
The height of tension surrounding political issues has contributed to mounting tensions in the community that manifest on social media and elsewhere.
To learn more about cyberbullying prevention, visit Cyberbullying.gov’s prevention page by clicking here.
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