Cyber bullying is without a doubt an epidemic today. It is a worldwide issue that affects untold many. A report by ITV in the UK showed that cases doubled in 2014 alone. It seems that wherever there is an internet or phone connection, cyber bullying is never far away.
The question we need to ask is WHY is this abusive behaviour allowed to continue? Why is it that we interpret ‘Freedom of Speech’ to mean ‘freedom to harm without consequences’? When harming behaviour occurs in the physical flesh, it is against the law. So why is it that it is accepted and allowed when it happens from behind a screen and often anonymously?
How come a person in a public place misbehaving or breaking the law can be stopped? It is possible to get an A.V.O (Apprehended Violence Order) that in Australia legally requires an offender to remain a certain distance away from their victim. We can get support from authorities because there are laws and policies in place to say this is NOT OKAY nor is it acceptable behaviour! But why is it that the same abusive messages can be disseminated via the internet, yet this cannot be stopped?
Why are there no policies to stop this happening?
I have been speaking with colleagues from Australia and England who have had a similar experience. In recent times, all of them have had conversations with their local Member of Parliament (MP) about incidents of cyber-bullying that they had personally experienced. They all said that his or her local MP was understanding and agreed this was not okay. However, of real concern was a statement that every MP also shared, being along the lines of:
“It is an accepted part of our job that we will be cyber-bullied.”
All MPs had resigned themselves to the fact that ‘cyber-bullying was a normal and accepted part of their job’. Further to this, this resignation came with an acceptance that there was no hope this would ever change.
This to me is extremely concerning. It means that those in a position to change policies are also those who have accepted cyber-bulling as a normal part of life.
Does this also mean that these politicians have accepted that freedom of speech equals freedom to harm?
The reality is, these MPs are also people. They are normal people who are equally hurt by the harmful comments that are freely expressed when ‘freedom of speech’ is interpreted to mean ‘freedom to harm’.
I look forward to a government that will implement policies which prevent cyber-bullying and make it a criminal act, punishable by law. When this day comes, we will have the opportunity to bring responsibility to all human beings and thus bring policy change that values all people equally.
- ITV news report 16.11.2014 accessed from http://www.itv.com/news/2014-11-14/child-victims-of-cyber-bullying-double-in-a-year