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Following the suicide of Tyler Clementi, a gay 18-year-old student at Rutgers University, commentators are ratcheting up calls for stricter guidelines and policies regarding "cyber bullying." Clementi tragically jumped off a bridge after his college roommate uploaded a video of him having sexual relations with a man. The footage was recorded from the roommate's webcam, unbeknownst to Clementi. Are schools failing students by not seriously addressing issues of cyber bullying and online etiquette?

  • We Can't Let This Continue,  writes TV host Ellen Degeneres on her blog: "I am devastated by the death of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi. If you don't know, Tyler was a bright student at Rutgers University whose life was senselessly cut short...My heart is breaking for their families, their friends and for a society that continues to let this happen. These kids needed us. We have an obligation to change this. There are messages everywhere that validate this kind of bullying and taunting and we have to make it stop. We can't let intolerance and ignorance take another kid's life."

  • There Is No Official Online Etiquette, sighs Bonnie Rochman at Time: "Maybe we are where we are because we've had no teachers. No one has instructed us how to use the Internet. We've learned on our own, pointing and clicking, blogging and tweeting. There are no rules of the cyber-road. In a lawless Facebook-Twitter-chat-room culture with scant etiquette and 24/7 saturation, it can be hard to know where to draw the line."
Everything that makes being young and vulnerable today potentially horrendous -- access to a video camera, the postings on a Facebook page -- can also be the very tools that can save a teenager's life. After the death of Billy Lucas, columnist and author Dan Savage decided enough was enough and launched the It Gets Better Project, a YouTube channel of messages of encouragement and survival aimed at gay and lesbian youth...

The YouTube channel, which should be required viewing in every middle and high school in America, has, in a just one week, become crammed with hundreds of videos from both gay and straight adults, from celebrities and regular folks, offering light at the end of tunnel of hell that can be adolescence. Perez Hilton admits, "I went through a point in my life where I was suicidal daily ... But you know what got me through that? Time." And Adrianne Curry recounts being called a "worthless dyke" in school and says, with the beautiful distance of hindsight, "These people were insignificant pricks. And I have never seen them since then."

  • It's Time to Lay Down Some Rules, writes Denise Ryan at The Vancouver Sun: "Can there be any question that educating students, parents, (and yes, school officials and teachers) about responsible social networking, and cyber-bullying is urgently needed?"
  • Let's Not Blow Online Bullying Out of Proportion, writes Jessica Bennett at Newsweek:

The larger question may not be whether these students should be held accountable—they should—but whether the bullying of today is truly any worse than the bullying of past...

The reality, say social scientists, is that bullying is neither more extreme nor more prevalent than it was during the days of pigtails dipped in inkwells—and in fact, over the past decade, it's even gotten better. "The picture created in the media," says Norwegian psychologist Dan Olweus, a world-renowned bullying expert, "simply does not fit with the reality."

...None of this is to say that bullying is not a serious problem, or that tackling it is not important. But like a stereo with the volume turned too high, all the noise distorts the facts, making it nearly impossible to judge when a case is somehow criminal, or merely cruel... We are a culture for whom bully spotting has become a sport, bullying itself a ubiquitous label (and damning accusation) fueled by a breed of helicopter parents who want to protect their kids from every stick and stone, and of cable news commentators who whip them further into a frenzy. When it comes down to it, anti-bully crusading has become almost evangelical in its fervor.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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