Ex-victim of Cyber Bullying Works to Bring Awareness to the Growing Epidemic Amongst Teens

By Jasmine C. Dobbins

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courtesy of Elizabeth Long’s Facebook page (pictured above)

 A study done in 2014 by McAfee, part of Intel Security, revealed that more than 87% of today’s youth have witnessed and/or been a victim of cyber bullying. And Elizabeth Long, a student at the University of Mississippi Ole Miss, unfortunately was also a victim of this growing epidemic, witnessing hateful comments on Yik Yak saying, “they didn’t care if she killed herself.”

However, Long has been working to ensure that no one ever has to resort to self-harm despite the hateful things said about them online, and more importantly, through Yik Yik.

About a year ago, Long took to the internet and social media to let everyone in on her story of how cyber bullying almost ended her life. She talked off how she was bullied all through school because of her appearance and her choice of friends. Long also admitted that she hit an all-time low when she finally decided to resort to self-harm.

And it should come as no surprise that Yik Yak was one of the many places where these online bullies would attack.

After the many years of countless experiences with bullying, Long made the decision to take her life, but ultimately failed in the attempt. And after being released from the hospital, Long decided to make a change, and was on the search to find an organization that fought against suicide and self-harm, but was unable to find anything. That is when she decided to take matters into her own hands and start an organization herself.

“I started the organization because after I got out of the hospital I wanted to help others who had been through what I went through. I couldn’t really find one so I decided I would start my own and share my own story and help others by sharing my experience,” Long said.

Long’s organization is called Life Worth Living, a non-profit organization created in 2013 out of Atlanta, GA, and includes people speaking in churches, schools, offices, etc. against self-harm, suicide and bullying. Long is the founder and CEO.

But Long didn’t stop there. She also started a petition in 2014 asking the founders of Yik Yak, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, to take down the app because of the negative impact it was having on teens across the country. And as of today, the petition has been signed by more than 82 thousand people.

“I decided to start the petition because I saw how many people it had affected at my school and I wanted it to stop hurting people so I decided to do something about it instead of just sitting there watching it destroy people,” Long said.

However, Long’s hesitations were put to rest after she and her father were personally invited to meet with the founders of the app, who assured her that there were precautions being taken to ensure that cyber bullying did not occur as often on the app. And Long was quick to make all of her followers of the petition aware of the meeting.

“I don’t necessarily want the app removed as I just want better safety precautions put in place and I want the safety precautions to be foolproof as well,” Long said.

Though Long had a change of heart about the removal of Yik Yak, she is still as passionate as ever about spreading awareness about the causes of cyber bullying, and not letting what almost happened to her, happen to any other teen that has been a victim of this cruel act.

 

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Towson Behind Locked Phones

By Jasmine C. Dobbins

It’s almost next to impossible for at least one student on Towson’s campus to go a day without being personally offended by something someone said on Yik Yak, an app created for people to post their thoughts anonymously living in the same vicinity.

If one were to take a stroll around Towson’s campus, they would notice a variety of different people. Whether it is their sexuality, gender, race, culture, style, etc. There are an abundance of things that set the students at Towson apart from one another.

In fact, Towson encourages diversity among its students, having a multitude of culture clubs such as the Black Student Union, FCAT, German Club, etc. However, maybe Towson students find it more challenging to embrace people different from themselves than they are letting on. Yik Yak is a prime example of the discrimination that goes on behind the scenes at Towson.

“I see discriminatory comments being made on Yik Yak pretty much every day at night,” Erin Frias, 19, a sophomore at Towson said.

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A screenshot taken on Erin Frias’ phone from Yik Yak.

Whether it is hateful comments being made about a specific race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. All of these issues have been addressed and criticized over the app and many heated debates have occurred because of this epidemic. However, the question as to whether or not this affects the students outside of the app in their day to day interactions is still up in the air.

“It doesn’t really make me look at anyone differently because you don’t know who is and who isn’t saying offensive things over the app, so you can’t really look at anyone different when you don’t even have proof they’re the ones responsible.” Christopher Cherrie, 19, a sophomore at Towson said.

And the question students who use this app may wonder is if, the people that claim to be their friends during the day anonymously post “yaks” criticizing something that is a part of their lifestyle at night?

“I think people are too scared to say these things in person so they resort to this anonymous app because yaks do not trace back to them,” Frias said.

Due to the fact that this app is not ran by Towson, students feel that there isn’t much administration can do to prevent this sort of issue from continuing to happen. However, they did have ideas of their own on how more students can be aware of the problem.

“Maybe the university could have an event/campaign raising awareness on the problem or they could have lectures talking about the impact negative yaks have on other students, and how students should properly handle a yak that may personally offend them,” Cherrie said.

 

 

 

 

Death Threats on Yik Yak

By Jasmine Dobbins

Yik Yak creators, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, struck gold when they came up with the idea behind this anonymous app, most popular amongst college students who actively use it in the same vicinity.

However, the idea of an app being anonymous has left room for college students to speak more freely than Droll and Buffington may have intended. What was meant to be a positive outlet for college students to express themselves about whatever was on their mind, has turned into a social media app that has college students across the country fearing for their safety on their campuses.

Several death threats have been reported on this app attacking a specific group of people or the entire campus. Yik Yak brought in more than a dozen death threats on college campuses in 2015, according to The Maneater. The most recent case being a student at Missouri University who posted over the app that he was going to “bomb” his test.

It was reported that Western Washington University shut down for a week after a 19-year-old student threatened a select few ethnic groups such as, Native Americans, Jews, Blacks, Muslims, etc. Students at WWU expressed their frustrations when this threat occurred because of their previous efforts to make the faculty aware of their lack of protection throughout the campus, and criticized the universities failed solution of the “buddy system”.

There have been no solutions made for school administrations can permanently exterminate this problem. There have been cases where security has monitored the app for an “x” amount of time, but due to the first amendment, the role of officials and administration pertaining to this app is limited. However, most educators suggest continuing to have open communication between students, parents, and teachers in regards to these concerns.

About Me

IMG_0535Sophomore at Towson University majoring in Mass Communication, Journalism track. Hobbies include reading, writing, singing, watching movies, hanging with family and friends, and watching netflix. Favorite movie is Sixteen Candles, favorite food is pizza, favorite pass time is going to the movies, favorite ice cream flavor is cookies and cream, and favorite animals are dogs. One day hope to be a journalists traveling around the world, and maybe write a screen play for a movie.