There was an Internet meme several years ago called "The Greater Internet F*#kwad Theory," which posited the following: Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = F*@kwad." Prescient as that was, when you replace the "Normal Person" with a teen bully — i.e., cyberbullying — the sum of the parts increases exponentially.
A front-page story in yesterday's New York Times spotlighted the horrors of cyberbullying, "a dark, vicious side of adolescence, enabled and magnified by technology." Among the cases investigated was the story of a Nashville teen, the 14-year-old daughter of Rolin, a Nashville musician. In addition to posting sexually inappropriate Facebook messages, the offending boy surreptitiously sent text messages to other boys from the girl's cellphone. Then, when Rolin blocked the boy's number from his daughter's phone, the boy borrowed other phones to call her.
Unlike several of the incidents described in the piece, the Nashville girl's story was able to be resolved, due to Rolin's decision to call the boy's parents and have a sit-down with both teens, despite the awkwardness that would ensue. He tells the Times:
“My goal wasn’t to polish my shotgun. It’s not about a show of force but a show of presence. I said, ‘If you want to be friends with her, you can’t text her and you can’t use another boy’s phone.’ ”
Cyberbullying headlines are hardly new, but to its credit, the Times piece provides examples of how to deal with such situations (though even the best conceived attempt can backfire, as the story illustrates), and it shows just how widespread the problem is — when an assembly of 150 New Jersey seventh-graders was asked if they'd ever been cyberbullied, 68 raised their hands.