How to Stop Cyber Bullying and Keep Your Kids Safe Online

online harrassmentWhile constitutionalists and libertarians can argue about the rights of free speech on the Internet, it’s an entirely different matter when you’re the victim of sustained harassment or threats of physical violence. According to a Pew Research poll, 73% of adult Internet users have seen someone harassed online, and 40% have been victims.
Another Pew poll states that one in ten adult Internet users (10% male, 6% female) have been physically threatened or continually harassed for a sustained period. Pew also reports that teens are more likely than adults to experience hostile or cruel behavior online with real-world consequences. More than one-quarter of adult Internet users (29%) report experiences that resulted in face-to-face arguments, physical fights, or got them in trouble at work, and more than half of teenage Internet users (52%) report similar consequences.
In early 2015, former Major League Baseball star and outspoken conservative blogger Curt Schilling responded to cyber threats against his 17-year-old daughter by tracking down and publicly identifying two young men who had tweeted obscene comments about her. As a consequence, one man, a graduate student working part-time as a ticket seller for the New York Yankees, was immediately fired. The second was suspended from college.
When told of the consequences faced by the tweeters, Schilling responded on his personal blog, 38 Pitches: “In the real world, you get held accountable for the things you say, and if you are not careful that can mean some different things.” However, as reported by Asbury Park Press, Rutgers-Newark law professor Bernard W. Bell said the offensive tweets in the Schilling case might not meet the legal standard for criminal prosecution, raising the question as to whether the line on free speech needs to be redrawn.
To the dismay of free speech advocates, many people are questioning whether the definition of the First Amendment has gone too far. Authors Nadia Kayyali and Danny O’Brien, writers for the conservative Electronic Frontier Foundation and avid advocates for free speech on the Internet, recognize that harassment “can be profoundly damaging to the free speech and privacy rights of the people targeted.” They promote better technology, improved police education, and a community response to stigmatize abusers.
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