Students who post sex rumours online should be jailed: Parents

New York, Sep 22 (IANS) In an age when many parents globally are concerned about cyberbullying, one in five parents in the US feels that students who post online rumours about sex should be referred to police but far fewer called for the same punishment for rumours regarding cheating in exams.

According to an annual US survey, less than half of parents said sharing an altered photo to make a classmate appear fatter or posting online rumours that a student was caught cheating on a test was definitely cyberbullying.

In nearly all cases, mothers were also more likely than fathers to label actions as cyberbullying.

The poll included a national sample of parents of teenagers aged 13-17 who were asked for their views on hypothetical situations. Parents recommended the most severe punishments for posting online rumours about a student having sex in school.

While 21 percent of parents felt referral to law enforcement was an appropriate punishment for a sex rumour, only five percent said spreading rumours about academic cheating should be reported to police.

“We know that parents are concerned about the harms of cyberbullying but we wanted to learn if there was a consensus among parents about what actually constitutes cyberbullying,” said lead researcher Sarah J. Clark, associate director of University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, in National Poll on Children’s Health.

Does a social media campaign to elect a student for homecoming count as a prank? Definitely cyberbullying, 63 percent of respondents reported.

Posting online rumours that a student had sex at school? The majority again – nearly two-thirds – say there is no question that is cyberbullying.

“Not only are parents unsure about which actions should be considered cyberbullying. They also do not agree on penalties,” Clark noted.

Depending on the content of online rumours for example, parents recommended punishment ranging from making the student apologise to reporting the student to police.

“Schools should consider these differing opinions to avoid criminalising teenagers’ behaviour that is hard to define and enforce consistently,” the authors noted.

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