Sometimes I think Facebook is taking over the world. With the recent formation of the Facebook PAC, my conspiracy theory may be true, but that’s another story. The point is that being on the “The Book” is now the rule more than the exception. There’s real life, and then there’s “Facebook official” life. 

In an attempt to feel more connected, many broadcast the most personal details of their lives to hundreds of “friends” or to anyone, depending on privacy settings. Don’t get me wrong—I love Facebook. I love seeing pictures of weddings and reading about my friends getting into grad school or finding jobs that don’t require uniforms. Like any powerful force, however, Facebook may be used for good or evil. Sometimes, the online social network becomes a lion’s den. 

The highly personal nature of sites such as Facebook sets the stage for aggression, and in our age of smartphones, free WiFi, and ubiquitous social media, cyberbullying is an urgent and growing problem, with at least one in five children reporting victimization.  

Because most have daily (if not constant) access to the internet, young people are increasingly susceptible to victimization, regardless of location. Furthermore, a network of “friends” on sites such as Facebook creates an audience for a cyberbullying. Taunts and rumors can be spread and commented upon in a very public way, suggesting that everyone is in on the joke. Perhaps worst of all, because these cyberbullies often have the advantage of physical distance and cannot see the immediate reactions of their victims, the consequences can be easily ignored. As we all know, it’s far more difficult to say cruel things directly to someone’s face than to say unkind things about them or to deliver hurtful words in writing.

Unfortunately, these behaviors often go without reprimand due to lack of supervision. The Facebook Help Center has tips for responding to bullying, as well as procedures for reporting online abuse, but in light of the recent tragedy of Jamey Rodemeyer’s suicide, is a bullying prevention policy enough? Should social networking sites be held accountable? Do you think parents should monitor their children’s cell phone and computer usage?