The advent of new media in recent years has been both a blessing and a curse to the youth of the world. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites, we can hop on the computer and have a conversation with somebody half way around the world in thirty seconds or less, instantly connecting to others in a way no other generation has previously experienced, but we’re also exposed to the darker side of rapid, often anonymous, communication. Cyberbullying , defined as when someone is “tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another…using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones” is becoming a serious problem for the young generation of internet users.
In recognition of this crisis, the Girl Scouts of America are taking action. Girl Scout Dominique Napolitano of West Islip, New York, along with talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw, will testify before Congress about cyberbullying on Thursday, June 24th. Dominique will focus on the challenges she and her peers face online and the crippling effects of electronic bullying.
“It is very important for teens to promote online safety, because many teenagers fall victim to cyberbullying,” Dominique stated. “Hearing online safety tips from adults can be boring. Teens may feel like adults don't understand and aren’t on the same level as them. But when the advice comes from another teen they might feel like the other person knows what they are going through. I am inspired to advocate for teen safety because I want to help save teens from feeling hurt or guilty.”
Dominique is not the only girl scout devoted to spreading awareness. She was one of a group of girl scouts who worked to create an online safety website – LMK designed to inform teens about cyberbullying, online sexual predators, cybersecurity and other internet related problems. A unique aspect of this online guide is that teens themselves largely contribute the information outlined on the site, and aim to raise awareness among their peers. In the face of recent cyberbullying tragedies – such as the suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince from Massachusetts, who killed herself last January after being relentlessly harassed in school and through text and Facebook messages - it’s good to hear that teens and the government are finally beginning not only to take this tragic phenomenon seriously, but are taking action.
*Julie Zeilinger, current Communications intern with the National Council for Research on Women, is the founder and editor of The FBomb a blog and community for teenage feminists. She is a senior at the Hawken School in Cleveland, Ohio.