Monday, November 8, 2010

Media and Cyberbullying

Media and Cyberbullying

The role of the media in bringing awareness of the harm caused by cyberbullying

Bullying is a favorite playground pastime. It is a common experience among children and adolescents. The rise of the Internet has given way to social media. Social media has given bullies an additional outlet. Cyber bullying is a new type of bullying that the media has exploited. Since cyber bullying is a new phenomenon the media has been attracted to this with coverage on situations that include cyber bullying. Bullying has changed because it is more consistent due to technology. Bullies can text message, post on Facebook or Twitter and instant message their victim. Bullying has come off the playgrounds and entered the homes or “safe places” for the victim. This new type of bullying has caused adolescents to feel victimized with no hope of a future. One recent story in particular has shown the extremes of what happens when cyber bullying goes too far.

On January 14, 2010 fifteen-year-old Phoebe Prince hung herself from a stairwell in her home. Phoebe was a freshman at South Hadley High School located in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Phoebe and her family had recently moved to Massachusetts from Ireland. Phoebe was driven to suicide due to relentless bullying via Facebook, Twitter, and Formspring. On these social networking sites Phoebe was called names including “Irish slut” and “whore”. The District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel explained, "The investigation revealed relentless activity directed toward Phoebe designed to humiliate her and to make it impossible for her to remain at school” (Kennedy,1). Phoebe was bullied for three months before she committed suicide and on the day of her suicide she was seen crying in the nurse’s office. It only took a few days after Phoebe’s death for newspapers and television channels across the nation to discuss the ramifications of cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is when one person harasses, humiliates, embarrasses or torments another child through the Internet. Cyberbullying is normally not a random one-time offense and has taken the notion of bullying to another level. Cyberbullying is often done through social networking sites, like Facebook or Twitter, but can also be used with instant messaging or blogging. The New York Times defines cyberbullying as, “an imprecise label for online activities ranging from barrages of teasing texts to sexually harassing group sites” (Cyberbullying, 1). According to a Harris study, 78% of high school students experience some type of cyberbullying.

The media has changed peoples’ social values. The media has made its audience obsessed with fairness and the concept of taking action. The media has been subjective when presenting the story to create awareness. In the newspapers’ headlines they suggest that the suicide was an action driven by the cyberbullying of the harassers. Some of these headlines include the New York Daily News, “Phoebe Prince, South Hadley High School's 'new girl,' driven to suicide by teenage cyber bullies” and ABC News, “Teens Indicted After Allegedly Taunting Girl Who Hanged Herself”. The media also came up with the term “Mean Girls” to describe the bullies. The media has used its power to motivate the public. The media’s subjective headlines have brought the concept of bullying to the forefront. Now, more than ever, school districts, parents and organizations have promoted and participated in the action against cyberbullying.

This case study shows the different ways in which media are affecting our social values. Should the media be taking such an active role in this issue? Are they causing more harm than good? This is where the media literate citizen comes into play.


Class Discussion:

1. In group settings discuss how Internet sites like Juicy Campus can have negative affects on people’s self-esteem?

2. Read the NewsWeek story “From Lockers to Lockup” and in-group settings discuss your reaction to the story. Do you believe that cyber bullying is a crime? Is the media contributing to legislators’ decisions on passing new laws against cyber bullying?


1. What actions can you take if you see someone or hear about someone being bullied via the Internet?

2. How has the recent media attention on cyberbullying caused you to think differently about posting something negative on another person’s Facebook wall?

3. Has the media done an effective job on shining light to this issue? Has the media motivated the public to “take actions into their own hands”?


National Center for Bullying Prevent

Stop Bullying Now!


National Organization for Youth Safety

NVEEE: National Voices for Equality, Education and Enlightenment (National Anti-Bullying Organization)

YouTube Video: Phoebe Prince, 15 May Have Committed Suicide Because of Cyber Bullying


Ballou, Brian, and John Ellement. "9 Charged in Death of South Hadley Teen, Who Took Life after Bullying." Boston Globe. 29 Mar. 2010. Web. 1 Nov. 2010. .

Bennett, Jessica. "From Lockers to Lockup." NewsWeek. 4 Oct. 2010. Web. 3 Nov. 2010. .

Cullen, Kevin. "The Untouchable Mean Girls." 24 Jan. 2010. Web. 06 Nov.

2010. .

"Cyberbullying." New York Times. 30 Sept. 2010. Web. 31

Oct. 2010. .

Donaldson James, Susan. "Immigrant Teen Taunted by Cyberbullies Hangs Herself." ABCNews. 26 Jan. 2010. Web. 01 Nov. 2010. .

Eckholm, Erik, and Katie Zezima. "6 Teenagers Are Charged After Classmate’s Suicide." New York Times. 29 Mar. 2010. Web. 1 Nov. 2010. .

Fleetwood, Blake. "They Called Her an Irish Slut: Phoebe Prince." 2 Apr. 2010. Web. 1 Nov. 2010. .

Goldman, Russell. "Teens Indicted After Allegedly Taunting Girl Who Hanged Herself." ABC News. 29 Mar. 2010. Web. 1 Nov. 2010. .

Kennedy, Helen. "Phoebe Prince, South Hadley High School's 'new Girl,' Driven to Suicide by Teenage Cyber Bullies." New York Daily News. 29 Mar. 2010. Web. 1 Nov. 2010. .

Oliver, Kealan. "Phoebe Prince "Suicide by Bullying": Teen's Death Angers Town Asking Why Bullies Roam the Halls." CBSNews. 5 Feb. 2010. Web. 1 Nov. 2010. .

"Phoebe Prince Suicide." Jan. 2010. Web. 01 Nov. 2010. .

"Study: Half of Teens Admit Bullying in Last Year." Boston

Herald. 27 Oct. 2010. Web. 1 Nov. 2010. .


Ashley Haltzman, Hofstra University Undergraduate Student, Public Relations Major