CyberBullying, Suicide and Punishment

Tyler Clementi, Rutgers freshman

NYT -  TYLER CLEMENTI may have died from exposure in cyberspace. His roommate and another student, according to police, viewed Mr. Clementi’s intimate encounter with another man on a Webcam and streamed it onto the Internet. Mr. Clementi, an 18-year-old violinist in his freshman year at Rutgers University, jumped off of the George Washington Bridge, and now the two face serious criminal charges, including invasion of privacy.

The prosecutor in the case has also said that he will investigate bringing bias charges, based on Mr. Clementi’s sexual orientation, which could raise the punishment to 10 years in prison from 5.

But the case has stirred passionate anger, and many have called for tougher charges, like manslaughter — just as outrage led to similar calls against the six students accused of bullying Phoebe Prince, a student in South Hadley, Mass., who also committed suicide earlier this year.

What should the punishment be for acts like cyberbullying and online humiliation?

That question is as difficult to answer as how to integrate our values with all the things in our lives made of bits, balancing a right to privacy with the urge to text, tweet, stream and post.

And the outcry over proper punishment is also part of the continuing debate about how to handle personal responsibility and freedom. Just how culpable is an online bully in someone’s decision to end a life?

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/03/weekinreview/03schwartz.html

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One Comment

  1. After 23 years in juvenile court, I believe that teenagers learn from the experiences of their peers. Consequently, “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” was published in Jan., 2010. It is the only book available that’s written for teens to read about the outcome of cases in recent years where teens have bullied online and by cell phone.
    Endorsed by Dr. Phil on April 8, 2010 ["Bullied to Death" show] TCI presents real cases and updates of dozens of teens in trouble over their emails, blogs, IM icons, Facebook and YouTube posts and more.
    Take a look at “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” on http://www.freespirit.com (publisher) or on http://www.askthejudge.info (a free, interactive website for & about teens and the law).
    Regards, -Judge Tom

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