BUFFALO, N.Y. – Lady Gaga and other celebrities commenting
on bullying have the chance to teach young people about the horrors
of bullying abuse, says the director of the University at Buffalo's
Alberti Center for the Prevention of Bullying Abuse, a power that
makes it important they act responsibly.
"Lady Gaga tweeting about the tragic suicide of Williamsville
student Jamey Rodemeyer is going to reach a different audience than
the White House's summit on bullying," says Amanda Nickerson, a
licensed psychologist and an expert in school crisis prevention and
intervention, with an emphasis on violence and bullying.
"Lady Gaga is going to speak to the youth," says Nickerson.
"Whatever she says is going to reach these young audiences. It's up
to her and other well-known people who others look up to to say
Nickerson, who heads a newly endowed center in UB's Graduate
School of Education with a mission of becoming a national or
international resource for the latest research and advice on
bullying, says this week's suicide of the suburban Buffalo teen is
another example of a tragedy that might have been exacerbated by
Rodemeyer posted a lyric from the Lady Gaga song, "The Queen" on
his Facebook page the night before he took his own life. Since
then, the popular female singer has tweeted on the youth's death,
including this message to her fans: "Jamey Rodemeyer, 14 years old,
took his life because of bullying. Bullying must become illegal. It
is a hate crime."
Nickerson said New York State has a law that will take effect
July 1, 2012, called "Dignity for All Students" that prohibits
harassment and intimidation in schools on a wide variety of issues,
including sexual orientation, gender, race and weight. Many states
already have laws against bullying.
"Hate crimes, discrimination, aggravated assault are already
illegal," Nickerson points out.
Nickerson, who is available for media interviews by appointment,
offers these thoughts on frequently asked questions following this
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is using technology (computers, cell phones and
other electronic devices) to willfully harass, threaten, intimidate
or otherwise inflict harm. Examples include sending hurtful text
messages, spreading rumors, creating blogs or websites to make fun
of others, or taking pictures and sending them to others.
How is it similar and different from other forms of
As with other forms of bullying, cyberbullying can have
devastating outcomes, such as depression, anger, sadness and fear
of going to school.
It's different because it can be anonymous, viral (spreads
quickly), and potentially easier to be cruel given the physical
distance from the target and victim.
What can we do to tackle the problem?
Parents can model appropriate behavior in life and online about
treating others with respect and dignity. They can educate children
about responsible use of technology. They can supervise activities,
such as having the computer in a common room, going on the Internet
with their children, using filtering software and being aware of
passwords and contacts.
Schools can cultivate a safe and respectful school environment.
They can educate students about responsible use of technology and
They can also maintain and enforce clear and consistent policies
against bullying and harassment (including cyberbullying that
occurs off campus and results in disruptions in learning). And they
can then inform students and parents of these rules.
Young people can identify a trusted adult (such as a parent,
teacher, or someone else) to talk to about experiences with
bullying and cyberbullying, either as the target or a witness. They
can remember that having a cell phone, email, and other accounts is
a privilege and not a right. They can remember not to send online
communications (pictures, texts, etc.) that they wouldn't feel
comfortable sharing with parent.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, a flagship institution in the State University
of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus.
UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests
through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional
degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a
member of the Association of American Universities.