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Parents, students need additional education on cyberbullying

Published: Friday, July 3 2015 4:29 p.m. MDT

Jane Clementi, right, and her husband, Joseph Clementi, left, attend a symposium on use and misuse of social media at Rutgers University, Monday, Nov. 14, 2011, in Piscataway, N.J. Their son, Tyler Clementi, was in his first weeks as a student at Rutgers in September 2010 when he killed himself after a roommate allegedly used a webcam to spy on Clementi's intimate encounter with another man. The family has started a foundation in their son's honor to address cyberbullying. The foundation was a co-sponsor of the symposium.  (Julio Cortez, Associated Press) Jane Clementi, right, and her husband, Joseph Clementi, left, attend a symposium on use and misuse of social media at Rutgers University, Monday, Nov. 14, 2011, in Piscataway, N.J. Their son, Tyler Clementi, was in his first weeks as a student at Rutgers in September 2010 when he killed himself after a roommate allegedly used a webcam to spy on Clementi's intimate encounter with another man. The family has started a foundation in their son's honor to address cyberbullying. The foundation was a co-sponsor of the symposium. (Julio Cortez, Associated Press)

Acting out of what the judge called "colossal insensitivity," former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail on Monday for spying on and invading the privacy of his roommate.

The roommate, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide after Ravi intimidated him for being gay and used a webcam to spy on his date, along with encouraging others to spy, according to a recent ABC News article.

"I do not believe he hated Tyler Clementi," Judge Glenn Berman told the court. "He had no reason to, but I do believe he acted out of colossal insensitivity."

This incident has raised a multitude of questions and problems, many of which concern the issues of cyberbullying and harassment among youth.

As American life becomes more and more digitized, especially for young people, the threat and implications of cyberbullying become more and more real for both parents and children each day.

According to a New York Times article, cyberbullying can have more adverse effects than traditional physical bullying on the playground.

"Online bullying can be more psychologically savage than schoolyard bullying," according to the article. "The internet erases inhibitions, with adolescents often going further with slights online than in person."

FILE - In this May 23, 2011 photo, Dharun Ravi walks into the Middlesex County Courthouse for a hearing in the webcam-spying case involving the suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi  in New Brunswick, N.J.  Ravi , the former Rutgers University student, is accused of spying on a roommate who later killed himself is due back in court Friday, Sept. 9, 2011 to see if he can get charges dropped.  Charges against 19-year-old Dharun Ravi include privacy invasion and a hate crime.   (Julio Cortez, Associated Press) FILE - In this May 23, 2011 photo, Dharun Ravi walks into the Middlesex County Courthouse for a hearing in the webcam-spying case involving the suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi in New Brunswick, N.J. Ravi , the former Rutgers University student, is accused of spying on a roommate who later killed himself is due back in court Friday, Sept. 9, 2011 to see if he can get charges dropped. Charges against 19-year-old Dharun Ravi include privacy invasion and a hate crime. (Julio Cortez, Associated Press)

So what can parents do to protect their children? It may be that parents need to visit the classroom themselves and receive more information on this issue.

“I’m not seeing signs that parents are getting more savvy with technology,” said Russell A. Sabella, former president of the American School Counselor Association in the New York Times article. “They’re not taking the time and effort to educate themselves, and as a result, they’ve made it another responsibility for schools. But schools didn’t give the kids their cellphones.”

Parents can only do so much, so ultimately youth need to be responsible with online activity and realize the potential ramifications of their actions.

"It is clear that youth are underestimating the level of harm associated with cyberbullying," Jennifer Shapka, an associate professor in the education faculty at the University of British Columbia, said in an MSN Health article. "Students need to be educated that this 'just joking' behavior has serious implications."

Students and parents can also visit online websites such as ncpc.org for more tips on information regarding the prevention and mitigation of cyberbullying.

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