Bullying, whether cyber or real, whether adult, or child is unacceptable and a violation of human rights covered by the “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”(UN, 1948) and the “Convention on the Rights of the Child” (UN, 1990). In the eyes of the law, where prosecution takes place it is usually in terms of harassment or an assault. Bullying is a serious issue, because it leaves victims feeling not only feeling abused, but also feeling helpless, scared, and intimidated, consequently victims are often unwilling to come forward and venerable to further abuse. This vicious cycle has lead to a teenager committing suicide.(BBC, 2009)
In respect to the bullying of children the United Nations “Convention on the Rights of the Child” (UN, 1990) is explicit in the protection of children, Articles 2,16, and 19 all serve not only sp specify the right of a child to be abused but additional specify the obligation of adults to ensure the safety of children in their care. For example article 19.1 states;
“States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.”(UN, 1990)
Critical elements of the article are “all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse….” and the statement “any other person who has the care of the child.”, their first statement ensuring the inclusion of bulling and the last statement ensure to protection of children in all environments, to which I would interpret virtual or real. It is my view that all parties, parents, schools, police, and ISPs all have both an obligation and role to play in the prevention of abuse and the protection of victims.
Unfortunately, because of the nature of bullying and the often reluctance of victim to come forward, bullying is often hard to detect. Systematic monitoring for cyber bullying is in danger of falling foul of data privacy laws(EU, 2002). However as a result of pressure resulting from recent events in the news(BBC, 2009) YouTube, FaceBook, MySpace, now all have policies in place in respect to bullying and cyber intimidation
There has been commentary within the press and media with regard to the apparent conflict between the prevention of bullying and the freedom of speech. Indeed the “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”(UN, 1948) also contain this paradox protecting both freedom of speech and freedom of harassment and abuse. Both sides of the argument carry merit but anti-bullying laws need considerable care in their development (Kalman, 2009). There is a real risk of the creation of poor quality law being developed in a similar fashion to the COPA (US_Govenment, 1988) law which eventual had to be over turned
Bulling whether cyber or not in a direct infringement of human rights, and it is the obligation of all parties to ensure the it is dealt with appropriately. Whilst some may be running in the direction of special anti bullying laws, it is my belief that education, should be the first recourse. All too often people are simply un aware of their rights and what can and can be don’t when situations arise.
BBC (2009) Cyber bullying case sentence due [Online]. Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8127533.stm (Accessed: 21-8-2009).
EU (2002) Directive 2002/58/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 July 2002 concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector (Directive on privacy and electronic communications) [Online]. Available from: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2002:201:0037:0047:EN:PDF (Accessed: 10-8-2009).
Kalman, I. (2009) Psycology Today : The Tragic Death of Freedom of Speech and the Growth of Intolerance [Online]. Available from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-bully-witch-hunt/200907/the-tragic-death-freedom-speech-and-the-growth-intolerance (Accessed: 22-8-2009).
UN (1948) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights [Online]. Available from: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml (Accessed: 25-6-2009).
UN (1990) Convention on the Rights of the Child [Online]. Available from: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm (Accessed: 22-8-2009).
US_Govenment (1988) Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 [Online]. Available from: http://www.ftc.gov/ogc/coppa1.htm (Accessed: 23-8-2009).