Debating the Penalty for Cyber Bullying at Manchester NJ Regional High School

A cyberbullying case at Manchester Regional High School in Haledon New Jersey in which nine students were ridiculed on Instagram is about to take center stage as the perpetrator has been identified and punishment will be determined, according to an article at NORTHJERSEY.com:

A student at Manchester Regional High School has been identified as the alleged cyberbully believed to be responsible for launching a series of vulgar online attacks against other students in January, school and law enforcement officials said Thursday.

Someone created a page on Instagram on Jan. 13 called “MRHS_FAKES” and posted photos of students which were accompanied by vicious personal attacks.

“There were nine victims,” Jennifer Bedrin, the senior assistant prosecutor in charge of the juvenile division, said about the Jan. 13 cyber-attack. Bedrin said the Sheriff’s Department planned to charge the teen with multiple counts of harassment, which is a disorderly persons offense that likely would be handled in Family Court.

Screen Shot 2013-06-15 at 9.05.40 AMCyberbullying on the internet and social media is a well-documented problem, but the issue of determining appropriate punishment is still open for debate. News 12 New Jersey has a poll today asking readers their opinion on the appropriate punishment for cyberbullying. I was quite surprised to see that 47% of respondents are in favor of jail time for those convicted of cyberbullying. Only 15% think that an apology will suffice. The poll does not make a distinction between minors and those 18 years of age and older, but I suspect fewer people would favor jail time in the case of minors.

In any case, as instances of cyberbullying increase, it appears as though society is ready to hand out some steep punishment. One can hope that news of strict punishment will serve to temper the behavior of other would-be bullies, but in the interim parents would be well served by talking to their kids about the very real consequences of using the internet as a bully pulpit.

 

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