Panelists consider cyberbullying
Nicole Caratas | Sunday, February 22, 2015
In the latest installment of the Saint Mary’s Justice Fridays series, panelists called attention to the bullying problems associated with social media, especially in the age of new and accessible technology.
Panelists included Janielle Tchakerian, assistant vice president for student affairs at Saint Mary’s, St. Joseph County Police Department legal adviser Eric Tamashasky and psychologist Milene Jeffirs. The panelists said anonymity and the fast pace of change contribute to bullying.
“The anonymous nature is a very big problem for everybody,” Tamashasky said. “The only person who can fight the anonymous side is law enforcement.”
In-school processes for dealing with cyberbullies are often inadequate because schools often are not fully equipped to deal with anonymous cyberbullies, Tamashasky said.
There is also a level of ambiguity when it comes to the apps students download and how they can be used against a person, he said.
The anonymous nature of apps such as YikYak allows students to target other students without fear of being traced. For apps like Snapchat, Tamashasky said recipients can download software that allows them to save pictures received without notifying the sender.
Tamashasky also said students should research apps before downloading them in order to verify app advertisement information and privacy policies.
The panelists said students have the ability to watch for signs of bullying in the Saint Mary’s and South Bend communities.
“The students know what’s going on in their classes; they know what’s going on in their dorms; they know what’s going on in their communities,” Jeffirs said. “Watch for the signs. See if there are kids out there in pain or too lonely and then reach out and try to make that situation less painful for that one person.”
Jeffirs said watching out for one another plays a key role in making the online community more safe.
“As a psychologist, I look at the emotional side of it, the mental health side of it more than the technology side,” she said. “I really think students can just watch out, reach out and report. That’s the most important thing, to have the courage to report and to tell administrators that something is going on.”
Tamashasky said there is an app called “STOPit” designed for students to take pictures of online bullying and anonymously report it to schools.
The College already allows anonymous reporting of bullying through campus security, Tchakerian said.
“What I want you to take away is how to help a friend who’s going through it, like sharing correct information and knowing who you should be reaching out to,” Tchakerien said. “What I see are the students who want help but don’t know how to get it or don’t want to go through it alone.
“When you are being bullied, whether in person or via social media or dry erase board in the residence halls, there is an emotional toll it takes on students. To be supportive of students going through that and to help [them] go through it and say, ‘You don’t have to go through it alone’ is the message I want you to take.”