Bullying is no longer confined to the playground. It now can be piped into their homes via the Internet, onto the phones they carry in their pockets and magnified a thousand fold by social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
This constant harassment is called cyberbullying. The National Crime Prevention Council reports that 43 % of all teens in the U.S. have been subjected to it.
And, sadly, it has proven to be deadly.
Last week, a 14-year-old New York teen took his own life after being targeted by cyberbullies. He is only the latest victim who felt he had no place to hide from his tormentors.
Unfortunately, the laws in New York are not keeping pace with technology and are ill equipped to deal with this emerging threat.
That's why I have proposed legislation to change all that.
My proposal :
Updates the crime of Third-Degree Stalking (a Class A Misdemeanor) to include cyberbullying. This behavior is identified as a course of conduct using electronic communications that is likely to cause a fear of harm, or emotional distress to a person under the age of 21.
Expands the charge of Second-Degree Manslaughter (a Class C Felony) to include bullycide. This is defined as when a person engages in cyberbullying and intentionally causes the victim of such offense to commit suicide.
Make no mistake about it: These are tough penalties. However, I believe this is what's needed to tackle cyberbullying head-on. Read CNN's coverage of my proposal here. More information can be found here and here.
This is similar approach to how we first tackled drunk driving.
A generation ago, people had a different view of drinking and driving – despite its destructive and potentially dangerous consequences. It took education and tougher laws to change attitudes and make people aware of the dangers of drunk driving.
My proposal will go hand and in with current anti-bullying initiatives and will send a message that cyberbullying is not only wrong, but also could be deadly.