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A Personal Perspective on Cyberbullying

Michelle Lynn Nelson, Intern, U.S. Department of Education

Back when MySpace was popular, almost every student at my high school had a profile. For us MySpace was an online-place where we could thoroughly express ourselves. We would post pictures from our latest and greatest adventures, update our status to our current mood, and choose backgrounds and music that represented who we were as a person. However, at one point during my high school MySpace became less of a space for self-expression and more a place of cyberbullying.

Tina Fey’s Mean Girls made popular the “Burn Book,” where a group of popular girls, known as “the Plastics” would write rumors, secrets, truths and lies about their fellow students and teachers. My high school’s “Burn Book” took the form of several online MySpace pages, spreading rumors about students across the campus including some of my friends. Many of my friends who were talked about on the page denied the rumors and were upset by the false information that was being spread around the campus. Most of the students saw the “Burn Book” and the rumors about them spread even further. The rumors became additional fuel for those who bullied to make fun of students. Students were now being cyberbullied in the comfort of their home on a site that was once a method of self-expression. 

The student body knew very little about what the administration was doing to address the situation. Students did not see or hear about students being punished or facing any negative consequences for creating the “Burn Book.” The administration failed to reinforce policies designed to create a safe school climate. It left students feeling unprotected from unacceptable behavior. The MySpace “Burn Book” profiles stayed up throughout most of the year. As the school year moved on the profiles were talked about less, but continued to have negative effects on the student body.

During my sophomore year at the University of California-Berkeley, I was given the opportunity to participate in UCDC- Washington Program and write a 30-page research paper on a topic of interest to me. I chose to research cyberbullying due to both my high school experience and the increasing interest surrounding cyberbullying over the last few years. Cyberbullying is a growing problem due to the increased use of technology, especially among younger teens. Thus my research will be focusing on states’ implementation of cyberbullying policy and how this has affected students and rates of cyberbullying. The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Healthy Students’ interest in bullying provides me not only with a vast array of research on cyberbullying that has helped me in conducting my research but also allows me to help make an impact in the field through other projects. 

Learn more about cyberbullying

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