Perhaps it is about time that new york followed suit and, like the majority of states in the US, passed legislation related to the mounting problem of cyberbullying.
The newly proposed law places much emphasis on school officials to intercept and manage alleged cyberbullying incidents among students.
Specifically, the law requires schools to establish a formal process to deal with cyberbullying. It directs schools to designate an official to investigate cyberbullying complaints.
When warranted, school officials are directed to alert local police of incidents so that they can work with authorities to develop appropriate interventions on a case by case basis.
Although originally included, the law currently on the table does not allow prosecution of offenders. It is the exclusion of this directive that many lawmakers feel 'waters down' the law's legislative effectiveness. Many even question if the law will have any preventative impact without the threat of prosecution for offenders.
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While the spirit of the law is indeed good, as with many situations, the devil is in the details. The first concern is how incidents will be defined as cyberbullying. The law lays out guidelines for this task, however in reality, it will be the interpretation of these guidelines that will make all the difference.
Unfortunately, the way lawmakers and adults define cyberbullying, in general, may be far different than the kids to whom this law is really targeted.
Unlike bullying, which is clearly defined as an act against another with malicious intent, the definition of cyberbullying is often grey. While certainly many instances of cyberbullying are clearly definable in reality because of the lack of direct face to face contact, it is difficult to clearly interpret intent.
One teen sender's sarcastic banter may be perceived by the intended receiver as baseless and cruel. In reality, unlike bullying, which is defined from the perspective of the offender, cyberbullying is defined by the perspective or interpretation of the receiver.
Kids, especially teens, can seem very nasty and even cruel to each other at times. Social networking sites such as FormSpring have demonstrated this. Participants post questions on the site and encourage friends to answer.
Teens have taken the intent of the site to a new level by posting such questions as "Am I pretty?"