Say no to cyberbullying

Melissa Hurtado and Melissa Hurtado

October is National Bully Prevention Month and it’s important to take a look at what a bully really is and why we want to prevent bullying.

When someone mentions the word bully, most people visualize a large, angry kid walking down the hallway pushing a scrawny kid against the lockers, demanding his or her lunch money.

In modern times, a bully isn’t necessarily someone who torments physically, but rather anyone with Internet access; it could even be you.

Bullying through media is known as cyberbullying, and can be as simple as posting a mean or defaming message about someone.

As young kids we heard the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” As optimistic as that sounds, it’s completely unrealistic to say that the words others speak won’t hurt our feelings or alter the views we have of ourselves.

How can we expect a vulnerable teenage girl not to feel the slightest bit self-conscious if one of her peers calls her ugly or fat on an Instagram photo she posted?

In popular culture we’ve seen cyberbullying highlighted in films such as the 2011 ABC Family original movie appropriately titled, “Cyberbully.”

“Cyberbully” tells the story of an average high school girl whose life spirals out of control when she becomes a victim of cyberbullying and as a result, attempts suicide.

This story is not very far from reality and truth be told, there are far too many young people taking their own lives as a result of being bullied both online and off.

So, what is it about the Internet that makes people more prone to becoming a bully?

Is it the anonymity of it? What is it that gives us the courage to say things to one another online that we normally wouldn’t say in person?

Say you were to see an ARC student playing her guitar in Rose Marks Court. It’s hard to imagine another student approaching the musician and saying, “You suck!” However, if you were to read the YouTube comments posted on song covers, you are likely to see at least one negative message.

Your words have as much value and impact on a person online as they do in person.

During this month I urge you all to take your fingers off the keyboard to think about the effect your words can have on someone. Keep in mind the wise words of your elementary school teachers, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”