Today, we have the world at our fingertips. Literally, with the touch of a fingertip or the click of a mouse, we can be connected to someone from another country, stream live footage to family members, or update friends with pictures and statuses. To say the society we live in is technologically advanced would be an understatement. With everything available to us, it seems as if anyone with opposable thumbs can document, broadcast, and stream just about anything — with smartphone in hand of course. The list of innovations society has crafted is a long one, capping off at the most recent apps and tools available to us on a daily basis. Our ability to interact in this way can be a great thing, as long as that power is used for good and not for evil.

Rebecca Ann Sedwick. That is the name of a 12-year-old girl who jumped to her death in September after being repeatedly bullied by a group of girls. That bullying, as you may have guessed, took place mostly online. A cluster of individuals, mostly girls her age and older, harassed Rebecca through hateful messages on social media outlets. Reportedly, one of the final messages Rebecca received said, “You aren’t dead yet” and prodded her to “Go jump off of a building.” That is precisely what she ended up doing. After Rebecca took her own life, one of her bullies posted a Facebook status admitting that she had in fact bullied Rebecca and that she did not care about the young girl’s suicide. What happened to Rebecca is awful, but it’s even worse to consider that she isn’t the only one who has been attacked this way.

Cyberbullying is an issue that unfortunately society has seemed to turn its cheek on. On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media outlet, it requires little effort to harass someone. While many of these sites were created for harmless networking and fun, they have instead turned into some of the greatest tools to harm others with. Oftentimes, those responsible for misusing social media are not even aware of what they are doing wrong. The popular “subtweet” on Twitter allows for users to make references to people without directly tagging them. Subtweeting allows a user to be hurtful and seemingly blameless all at the same time — a deadly combination if you ask me. Similar programmes such as Tumblr and allow users to send anonymous messages to anyone else with an account. I have seen these messages include snide remarks and hateful comments aimed towards innocent people. The animosity of these comments makes it very easy for users to be ridiculed, harassed and shamed. Still, the attacks occur on a regular basis to multitudes of teens, and no confrontation ever takes place between victim and bully.

I believe that teenagers should start using social media responsibly. Hateful remarks should never find their way into places that were created to be useful sources of information and fun pastimes. Users should remove anonymous settings from sites that offer them to decrease the amount of hate that comes from them. Teens should stop hiding behind smartphones and plotting to take down their next innocent victims. Bullying is not a joke, whether it takes place in person or behind a keyboard, and it’s time for teens to begin acknowledging that.

(By Katie Atkinson)