Cyberbullying still an issue for college students

By Lanthorn Editorial Board | 4/5/18 3:26am

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Cyberbullying is not an issue that stops in middle school. It is happening right here and now among college students. Though the discussion of cyberbullying is generally centered on middle and high school students, college students are the most frequent users of social media and digital technology sites, according to CNN

With so many digital platforms to choose from, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, cyberbullies are able to spread negative messages easily with little culpability. People are also more likely to spew hate when hiding behind a computer screen or a username that protects their anonymity. There is no direct retaliation, and people can often skate by without being held accountable for their cruel words.

One example that comes to mind is the app Yik Yak, which featured an anonymous, location-based feed. At first, this app was just a fun way for people in the same area to share news and silly comments. However, as most good things do, this quickly turned bad. People started using the app as an anonymous way to say terrible things about other students, and even professors. 

According to the Psychiatric Times, cyberbullying among college students may be representative of a continuation of behaviors from middle and high school but in new contexts. Per the same source, aggressors may use more subtle attacks that are meant to exclude or leverage power over others rather than being overtly aggressive. 

These more passive forms of cyberbullying can often fly under the radar of those not involved, but the victim is still greatly affected. In a college setting, too, it is easy to brush off cyberbullying as a nonissue. This is because, for the most part, college students are autonomous in their handling of cyberbulling. Parents and professors are not commonly involved, and students feel a personal responsibility to handle things on their own.

Still, college campuses should have policies in place to deal with cyberbullying, as it very much exists in this stage of students' education and lives. Grand Valley State University maintains a policy of collegiality, which reads, in part, "In order to foster a healthy and diverse environment, we will act with integrity, communicate respectfully and accept responsibility for our words and actions.”

This policy advocates that students having issues with other students should first try to resolve the issues with the offending person. If that is not possible or too challenging, the student should then seek assistance from the Dean of Students Office, where a representative can also recommend other available resources. If this process does not help fix the matter or the student so decides, they may file a complaint using the appropriate process in the Student Code.

If students would feel more comfortable seeking assistance from other organizations on campus, such as the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center, Gayle R. Davis Center for Women and Gender Equity, Division of Inclusion and Equity, or others, they can do that, too. 

So let's keep it classy online, Lakers. Cyberbullying and mental health are serious issues, even at GVSU, and the university provides several resources to help students out in these areas. Let's do our part and be supportive of others online.

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