In the aftermath of the tragic apparent suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, CNN explores a perceived explosion in cyberbullying that also allegedly contributed to the suicides of high schoolers in Massachusetts and New York earlier this year.
The story, part of the cable news outlet’s week-long exploration of school bullying that includes nightly reports on “Anderson Cooper 360°,” examines how and why cyberbullying spreads, as well as how its victims may experience higher levels of depression than victims of physical or verbal bullying.
Research released by the National Institutes of Health last month finds that students who are only victims of cyberbullying are more likely to exhibit depression symptoms than students who are only bullies or who are both bullies and victims. An earlier report from the Cyberbullying Research Center linked being a victim of cyberbullying with suicidal thoughts.
Clementi apparently leaped from the George Washington Bridge after roommate Dharun Ravi conspired with friend Molly Wei to stream live video of Clementi having a gay encounter in his dorm room.
Meanwhile, a blog commentary from CNET‘s Larry Magid points out what may be the larger issue. While the growth of social networking and other Web 2.0 tools may give students greater opportunity to bully others, that doesn’t mean a generation of digital natives understands cyberbullying’s psychological effects. Magid compares it to road rage, when drivers may direct obscene gestures toward other cars that walkers would never consider giving other pedestrians. Advocates for digital-literacy programs echo that argument, insisting that children who grow up in a digital age still need to be taught the potential consequences of their digital actions.
Steve Goldstein, the chairman of the gay rights advocacy group Garden State Equality, said in a statement that he considered the death a hate crime.
The idea that Ravi and Wei never thought that Clementi would suffer from serious mental anguish might be just as scary.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.