More than a year has passed since Rutgers student Tyler Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate allegedly spied on him. Clementi’s death resulted in a national debate about the negative effects of cyberbullying.
This week, Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, is on trial after being indicted on 15 counts relating to the spying incident, including bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and tampering with evidence and a witness.
Though the national cyberbullying discussion focused mainly on secondary education students, college students say it remains an issue on campus.
“I feel like with social media it is easier to be a bully because you don’t have to face them,” University of Nebraska-Lincoln student Lorena Carmona said. “You become a completely different person online.”
In September of 2010, Ravi allegedly used a webcam to spy on Clementi having an intimate encounter with another male. Clementi committed suicide three days later.
His death sparked an outcry across the nation from those wanting to raise awareness of and prevent cyberbullying.
Fourteen states now have anti-bullying laws that contain the word “cyberbullying,” according to the Cyberbullying Research Center. In Arkansas, for example, a law that took effect in July 2011 defines cyberbullying as an offense committed someone who “transmits, sends or posts a communication by electronic means with the purpose to frighten, coerce, intimidate, threaten, abuse, harass or alarm another person,” and is a Class 3 misdemeanor.
“Tyler Clementi and others like him are first-hand examples of the effects of cyberbullying,” UNL student Kim Buckley said. “I think people really took a look at what was going on in terms of cyberbullying and are trying to put a stop to it.”
According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, half of all young people have been bullied through electronic means.
In a study conducted at Indiana State University, 22% of college students reported being cyberbullied, while 9% reported cyberbullying someone else, according to the school’s news release.
Kansas University student Erica Austin said cyberbullying isn’t something college students grow out of.
“I would say cyberbullying is an issue on all school campuses, whether it be elementary or college.” Austin said.
“I think that on college campuses it is often not seen or heard so it gets overlooked, probably because college students are older and do not tell many people what is going on. Or they keep it to themselves because they feel they can handle it.”
Students interviewed agreed that that, though progress has been made, universities can still do more to prevent cyberbullying for its students.
“With all this technology being so new-age and at the tip of a person’s fingers, it could be a bigger problem,” Carmona said. “Just one that isn’t broadcast around.”
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