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2018 Essay Scholarship Winners

The first annual Adras & Altig Criminal Justice Essay Contest received many qualified and compelling essays. While we wish we could give an award to each applicant, we are proud to announce our three winners:

  1. Drianna Dimataluc
  2. Felix Moisand
  3. Keelan McConkey

Read the three winning essays below and check back here to apply next year!

1st Drianna Dimataluc

The first time I was the victim of bullying I was a mere seven years old. I remember the grass stains on my overalls and the bruises on my temples. I remember the hurtful remarks and spiteful comments, despite not understanding the words “tomboy” and “dyke” at the time. Still, it was obvious to me that the words were fueled by hatred rather than kindness.

Fast forward five years later and I am reunited with these cruel words once again, but this time in the comment sections of my Facebook posts. Unlike the grass stains and bruises that washed away and healed when I was seven years old, these words leave a lasting impact on me, and on the infinite amount of people with access to the internet.

These remarks weren’t simply a one time occurence. Every time I logged into my account I’d be bombarded with notification icons accompanied by an oppressive ding!, conditioning me to prepare for the worst. Clutching the mouse in my hand and clicking to read the comments made about me felt like the equivalent of holding a gun to my head and shooting.

Eventually it came to a point where I deleted every presence of my existence on any social platform, barely able to participate in class discussions online because of my fear of being ridiculed. From middle school to present day, I still struggle with issues concerning my sexuality because of the immaturity of children who hid behind a screen. Unfortunately, my story is only a small portion of the number of people who have been a victim of cyberbullying.

In a world comprised of social media and digital forums, it’s nearly impossible to ignore the inevitable harm that comes our way. In order to solve this matter, I propose to start by supplying children with the resources they need in order to cope with negative situations.

I believe that social media companies should work together to create an application called Social Media Safety, or SoSafe. This application would serve as a platform for children to vent their distress anonymously and receive feedback from qualified therapists on how to express and control their emotions healthily.

This application will be efficient in taking advantage of the platforms children already use religiously, their phones. But instead of using their phones in a detrimental manner, children will benefit from the application made to improve their overall emotional intelligence.

For example, a child who feels as if he lacks a trustworthy adult to confide in would most likely let the cyberbullying escalate, which can lead to harmful effects such as depression, eating disorders, and suicide. With the application SoSafe, children can freely seek help from professionals without worry.

Growing up, I always wished I had someone I could trust with my deepest secret—being gay. If I had a medium such as SoSafe, I wouldn’t have had to hide in the closet, so to speak, about my victimization to cyberbullying because I would have been given social support and the proper resources on how to take action.

My hope is that the next generation of children living in fear or confusion with their own lives can find answers through a simple yet efficient phone application.

2nd Felix Moisand

Social media companies are well aware of cyberbullying and harassment, and tend to have a set of policies to deal with these situations as they arise. They allow users to block or mute other users to prevent abusive chat; they have report functions on posts or users that allow for removal of content, suspensions or bans from the platform, or even the contact of local authorities, depending on the severity of the harassment. They are not simply turning a blind eye to the cyberbullying that occurs on their platforms. However, this is not to say that they have perfect enforcement. Bullies can use alternate accounts to continue to harass their victims. Harmful or humiliating content can be publicly seen and do its harm before the social media company slowly churns its way towards acting on a reported post. Though I would love to see social media companies crack down on all these tactics, it simply isn’t feasible for these companies to spend all their time and resources on this sort of whack-a-mole.

Instead, I believe that more of a focus should be placed on the support of victims of cyberbullying, rather than just punishing and deplatforming their abusers. The public bulletins that social media companies post about cyberbullying recommend that cyberbullying victims ignore their bullies and search out help from a trusted adult such as a teacher or school counselor. While this can work for some victims, it does not work for them all. Many cyberbullying victims, whether accurate or not, perceive the school administration as unhelpful and unwilling to intervene in their situation. Additionally, they may fear reprisals from their bullies for going to authority figures.

Social media companies have access to the minds, voices, and resources of millions of users. By supporting or sponsoring the formation of groups that can connect with cyberbullying victims aside from the traditional authority figures, social media companies can support victims in a much more profound way. Members of social media communities who faced bullying or cyberbullying in their past should be encouraged to come together to create support networks for those challenged by cyberbullying today. Where these groups exist already, social media companies should do more to promote their efforts and share them with potential victims of cyberbullying. There is no one better equipped to console a cyberbullying victim and guide them out of that sort of environment than someone who suffered the same experiences in their past.

An expanded access to alternative support networks will aid cyberbullying victims to feel confident enough to come forward with their experiences, especially to authorities that they may have previously mistrusted or been fearful of seeking out. In the end, I would expect this to help to curb the impact of cyberbullying on victims, and help them to prosecute their bullies. And instead of having to marshal their own resources, social media companies only have to spend a small amount of effort to bring the power of their community to bear on the issue of cyberbullying.

3rd Keelan McConkey

Cyber bullying and harassment are major problems the world faces today, and social media platforms can and should be doing more to monitor cyber bullying and harassment. I believe that these platforms should set up a more through process to open an account. A system that allows every individual to have only one account per platform, requiring identity verification. This system will hold each individual accountable for the things that are posted to their account. In addition to that I feel that certain keywords or phrases should be monitored. The keywords could consist of things like die, kill yourself, fat, ugly, and anything that could be hurtful or threatening. Some words that most of us use jokingly, but these words really influence the way people feel about themselves. Words and phrases that can be the breaking point for some people.

Once people use these keywords that gives the social media platform the right to review your profile. When they are reviewing your account, they have access to everything, such as your posts, pictures, and your messages. The more times you use the key words the more likely they are to view your profile. If they find anything that would link you to cyber bullying and harassment you will be punished depending on how bad the situation is.

These punishments should be a five-step system. First the person would get a warning. The second time you get a small fine and your account is suspended for a week. The third time the fine would be bigger and your account is suspended for a year. The fourth offense the person should have to go to classes discussing the effects of cyber bullying and harassment. Finally, if you continue these negative actions then you go to jail and permanently lose all access to social media. Depending on the severity of the crime, each offense could skip steps directly to the proper punishment for the action.

We need to work together to reduce the amount of cyber bullying and harassment in the world. The negative effects that it has on its victim is extremely real and the consequences to the person causing the harm needs to be real too. People need to be held accountable for their actions on social media the same way they would be if they were to say these things at work or school. With the advanced technology that we have today we should be able to monitor the use of social media more closely and hopefully prevent more people from being hurt in the future.

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