Cyberbullying still affects college students

Matt Grahn

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Even though many perceive cyberbullying to just be a grade school issue, such phenomena as the “QU Nudes” Twitter account and Yik Yak app may show otherwise.

Cyberbullying is bullying through an electronic means, like a phone or computer and through various channels, like texting and social media, according to the website.

One of those who feel that this issue should be looked into deeper is Dr. Gary Giumetti, a psychology professor here at the university. In a 2012 study he contributed to, 21 of the 100 college student participants from the southeastern United States had experienced cyberbullying.

QU Nudes is a Twitter account which allegedly contains pictures of Quinnipiac students. People could anonymously send in nude pictures through “Direct Message” and the administrators of the account posted them publicly.

Yik Yak is a social networking app, which is known for its “anonymous” posting. Some students, like freshman Ryan Cimino, feels that aspect of the app can do more harm than good.

“I think with it being anonymous…it could be anybody writing it, and you don’t know the intent behind what’s being written,” he said.

Giumetti believes that the “perceived anonymity” of social media can lead to more hurtful behavior.

Freshman Keara Walford shares a similar sentiment to Giumetti.

“I think the people who write mean things on there are cowards and if they can’t say it to someone’s face, then don’t say it at all,” she said.

Brian Kelly, the Chief Information Security Officer of the Information Technology (IT) department, said nothing online can truly be anonymous due to one’s “digital exhaust,” which is how someone interacts online.

However, that doesn’t mean finding who did something online is easy, as having law enforcement resources may be necessary, Kelly said.

In addition to that, the school can have problems taking down fake accounts like the “QU Nudes” Twitter, because they pretend to be associated with the school.

“Twitter tends to be fairly liberal about its takedowns,” Kelly said.

Kelly explained there is a parody clause tied with Twitter accounts. For example, in the case of the “QU Nudes” Twitter, students could easily recognize that the university is not officially affiliated with the account.

Senior Christina Larkin had a negative reaction to the “QU Nudes” Twitter account.

“I think that’s horrible,” Larkin said. “I don’t know why people feel the need to do that to somebody.”

Kelly also said there are ways students can protect themselves online. He said students should enable privacy settings whenever possible. He also wants students to be aware of what content they put online.

“Social networks are kind of like bathroom walls and once you start putting that information out there… they become material,” he said.

If a conflict arises, there is action that can be taken.

A good first step in resolving these kinds of issues would be talking to one’s Residential Assistant (RA), according to Associate Dean of Student Affairs Seann Kalagher. If that doesn’t work, the student can go to Public Safety, who can act as a liaison to law enforcement. And the school can remove individuals who may be a source of the harassment while an incident is being investigated.

In spite of the fact that issues can pop up from time to time, Kalagher feels that Quinnipiac is a safe space.

“I feel as though we absolutely are a safe community, and when things happen that jeopardize that, we act in a way [to] preserve that safety moving forward,” he said.