A new academic year is starting for HBCU students. HBCU students will take back to school excitement and enthusiasm for another academic year of discovery and growth . The excitement of a new term, new courses, instructors, and classmates for growth in diverse careers to positively influence our world. As a public school teacher in DCPS and Professor at Edward Waters College, caution is also being shared concerning growing bullying and cyberbullying. Technology is being used to spy, taunt, stalk and bully students at HBCU’s.
What is not expected the harassment, embarrassment and stress of cyberbullying, stalking from people met in person or online from parties or social gatherings. Once a person has “locked you into” their cell phone, as a Facebook friend and on other social media platforms it is hard to delete, block and hide from them.
The feeling of cyberbullying is like, “someone following your every move. You try to get away but they know all of your information: email addresses, phone numbers, Facebook page.” A. Spivey (Black College Wire).
Cyber bulling/stalking is becoming more prevalent with new advances in SoLoMo (Social Local Mobile) technologies. Cyber stalking is defined in electronic platforms as being pursued, harassed, stalked, or contacted by another person continuously and without consent (crimelibrary.com). This also comprises false accusations, the transmission of threats, identity theft, sexting and solicitation of sex.
The actions of cyberbullying and stalking are not fun, entertaining, nor playful, that is why a person must be careful of who takes their photo or a video of them. Once the photo is taken or video recorded they have lost control of that digital content. The environment of an HBCU is for academic growth and excellence, there is history behind each school. Students need to understand their inappropriate behavior is punishable by jail time, fines, expulsion, legal restraining measures, and the potential for retaliatory violence from their victims.
Cyberbullying has created turmoil for students and in some cases for instructors. Statistics show the affects are increases of suicide planning, suicide attempts and physical retaliation. The public schools are facing tragic results from bulling, events like suicides by youth as young as 11are growing across the country. In Springfield, Mass (2009) Carl W Hoover (11) African American male suffered from continuous attacks of bullying. Carl tragically hung himself, he was a football and basketball player, Boy Scout and yet he was called “gay” and taunted. Tragic results like these are what parent’s fear when bullying starts at school, extends into the community, online and even in church.
Carl W. Hoover story..
The prevalence of bullying has been discussed by Oprah, Tyra Banks, Dr. Phil and President and First Lady Obama. The Antibullying conference at the Whitehouse shows on a governmental level bullying, cyberbullying, stalking and harassment is being taken seriously. Cyber laws are being created and enforced with the victims and those committing the crime in mind. Prosecution of bullies does not always solve the issue, counseling and intervention strategies in schools, communities and churches are preventative measures that many can be involved in. R. Mahaffey, an FBI Deputy Marshall in Jackson, Miss. in charge of the Cyber Crime Center says, “We live in a technology driven society and not everyone uses technology for positive means.” Students at HBCU’s and other higher educational institutions should know that once they login to the schools network their Internet activities can be monitored, data collected can be used in a court of law against them. Mahaffey explains, “School age students and college students list too much personal information on their profiles in social networks which can be easily accessed and manipulated.” This is why many times students wonder how people get to know so much about them and their patterns of movement that can be used by cyber and physical stalkers. Girls and women need to be aware that now people stalk them online without them knowing and it makes it easier to stalk them on the college campus, around town and even in the public or private schools environment.
A. Moncrief, freshman computer science major from Joliet, Ill., attended a technology conference stated, “I have chatted before and see all sorts of weirdoes,” Moncrief said. “I have learned codes and structures of websites. If I wanted to I could hack into a site or someone’s computer; it is just that easy, if I wanted to cyberstalk a person I would have no problem because people put so much information about their lives online especially girls.” The Internet provides the anonymity to empower the bully to become more malicious and express their harmful feelings.
The laws in place do protect citizens who have been violated in the cyber realm, consequences of breaking the laws include fines and/or four years in prison. Words of caution and wisdom by Moncrief, “If you feel you are being cyber stalked or been a victim of a scam, save all the emails or chat blogs. Print off multiple copies and contact the proper authorities immediately.”
The entertainment industry has also taken note of this issue, recently LMN (Lifetime Movie Network) has several shows relating to bullying, stalking and cyberbullying; on ABC Family Network the program Cyberbully premiered with great reviews (http://abcfamily.go.com/movies/cyberbully).
On a more personal note, I’m a parent that has a child in college and high school, it is really important for parents to sit down with their children to talk about their online activities. Parents need to make students understand the seriousness about bullying/cyberbullying this academic year. The risks of physical harm, stealing of personal identity, and damaging of reputation should not be looked upon lightly. The stakes are too high for young people who attend HBCU’s to better their futures.
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