Would you be surprised to hear that 15% of social media-using teens have experienced a form of cyber-bullying? That shocking statistic comes from the 2011 Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project report. Additionally, 88% of teens “have witnessed someone being mean or cruel on a social network site.”
With the evolution and dramatic growth of social media communities, parents today (me included) have the additional burden of educating our children about how they need to treat and respect others in the digital world. Not only do we need to model proper behavior for our children (yes, we must teach our children that everyone deserves to be treated with the utmost respect), some parents have the added burden of dealing with cyber-bullying as a very real threat to their children’s health and safety.
Sadly this threat is real and is endangering children here in Maryland. Just last year a 15 year- old Howard County teen, Grace McComas, committed suicide “after suffering months of online harassment. She was the victim of harmful tweets, some of which threatened her life.”
Her tragic death inspired Delegate Jon S. Cardin, D-Baltimore County, to introduce a tough new cyber-bullying bill in the General Assembly this session. Cardin’s bill, named “Grace’s Law” unanimously passed the House of Delegates on March 23, 2013. The legislation has now moved to the Senate which has a plethora of bills to consider as it enters the final week of the 2013 legislative session.
Cardin’s bill would close a loophole in Maryland’s current anti-bullying law which makes it “Illegal to send threatening, intimidating emails to minors.” According to Cardin, “there’s no limitation on Facebook or Twitter because of its public nature. The new bill would prohibit a person from using electronic communication to publicize certain facts concerning the private life of a minor, disseminate harmful information about a minor, and direct a threat to or make a comment about a minor that would reasonably place the minor in fear of bodily harm or death.”
As a social media professional and father of two, I urge you to call your State Senator this week and ask them to help us remember the life of 15 year old Grace McComas by joining the House in unanimously passing this important cyber-bullying legislation. Let’s pass Grace’s Law. Maryland’s children deserve nothing less.
Jonathan Oleisky is the President of Kalix Communications.