Cyber-bullying: “Don’t be a popcorn and coke person.”
“I wanted to slap [the person who did it]. I wanted to really do something to [the person],” said an anonymous junior who was cyber-bullied.
A recent poll suggests cyber-bullying is not uncommon at Northwood. 52 percent of students polled admit that some one has, at some point, used social media to say something mean or offensive about them. 34 percent of students polled also admitted to having used social media, at some time in their lives, to say something mean or offensive about someone else. Administrators decided to hold an assembly March 3 to address the topic.
“Recently in the news there has been a lot of talk about social media being used inappropriately and being used in illegal ways as well,” guidance counselor Telisa Hunter said. “We’ve had some issues over the years here at Northwood but recently it has come to law enforcement’s attention.”
Hunter explained the assembly was necessary because issues on social media can often affect day-to-day activities at the school and that anything with the potential to disrupt the learning environment must be addressed.
“When something happens on social media, everyone sees it,” Hunter said. “Our job is to prepare you for the future and warn you about all the things that can hinder your future. It’s more about education, prevention and warning students of the consequences before they make a mistake themselves.”
Often times issues which start in person can become widespread when they reach social media.
“Sometimes people say that I look like a thumb,” sophomore Brodie Beasley said. “They tweet pictures of thumbs and put pictures of me next to thumbs, saying that I look like one.”
Beasley went on to explain that prior to the first post of his face next to a thumb it was more of an “annoying joke” in his circle of friends, but once it hit social media everyone began talking about it.
Principal Justin Bartholomew feels cyber bullying is not a simple issue and suggests it extends to all areas of the world.
“I think there’s a cyber bullying problem in the United States, Canada and in every country in the world,” Bartholomew said. “As soon as anyone has the ability to sit behind a computer with popcorn and a Coke and post or say hateful things, there is going to be a problem.”
Several recent online pages created on Instagram were responsible for posting a multitude of explicit photos, most of which were nude. All the accounts involved went under investigation by the North Carolina Police Department and State Bureau of Investigation.
The investigation of these accounts began Feb. 12 after a woman contacted Wake Forest Police when she discovered nude photos of her daughter on Instagram. In this particular case, the images that were posted of the student, who is now 18, were said to have been from her freshman or sophomore year of high school.
In mid-February, Bartholomew was prompted to send out a phone call to all students’ homes regarding the issues of cyber-bullying, sexting and the dangers they entail.
“You have students who, with the click of one button, can destroy their futures,” Bartholomew said. “So I think sending out a public service announcement, particularly when we know we have a whole bunch of different cases of cyber-bullying going on locally, was the appropriate thing to do.”
Another recent poll shows that 28 percent of students admit to sending nude photos while 48 percent admit to, at some point, having received nude photos. Students found with nude photos on their phone can be charged with child pornography if the individual who possesses the photo or the individual in the photo is under 18 years old.
Bartholomew stressed the importance of the parent’s role in a student’s development and protection.
“If we had to take on every single social issue, we’d be in trouble here at school,” Bartholomew said. “We can control your laptop and what comes in and out of it, but we can’t do anything with your cell phone.”
In North Carolina, certain cases of cyber-bullying can be charged with as much as a misdemeanor simply because of the harassment component. Child pornography is also a secondary charge that will most likely be brought up in the cases regarding the Instagram accounts.
“Between your laptop and your smart phone you can do 50 million things; you’ve got to pay attention and take it seriously,” Bartholomew said. “It’s like your license; when you get it, you are given the right to sit behind a vehicle with incredible amounts of power, so it’s a great tool, but a lot of damage can also be done. At a young, young age, you can do immense amounts of damage to yourself if you don’t act with responsibility.”
— John Dunning