“Cyber bullying.” We’ve all heard the term. And chances are, we all think that it couldn’t happen to us, that we wouldn’t let someone’s online actions drive us to take our life, that nothing we say about another person via our Facebook status is serious enough to provoke depression or violence in them. And I’m willing to bet that most of you won’t read past this opening paragraph and that some didn’t even bother to read beyond the title of this article. But I challenge you to read on.

Cyber bullying is defined as ‘the electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person, often done anonymously’. In September 2010, an 18-year-old freshman at Rutgers University in the United States committed suicide after his roommate secretly filmed him in his dorm room engaging in sexual acts with another student and then broadcast them on the Internet. And that was not an isolated incident. An 18-year-old woman took her own life after her ex-boyfriend distributed explicit photos of her; a 13-year-old hanged herself over a MySpace relationship; and, perhaps the incident that brought cyber bullying into the public spotlight, a 13-year-old boy in Vermont committed suicide in 2001 after being ridiculed by his ‘friends’ online (the World Wide Web had only been widely available at that point for about a decade).

Let’s face it: The Internet isn’t going anywhere. It’s here to stay, and we’ve got to learn how to use it responsibly. As intelligent and responsible members of the CityU community, we must take a step back and question the effects that our online actions might have on ourselves and others. When the automobile was first invented, it was considered a potentially dangerous piece of technology. It had (and still does have) the power to take lives, but we learned how to use it safely and to our advantage. The Internet should be treated with the same reverence. It is an incredibly powerful tool that has probably changed our lives for the better. Let’s work together to make CityU a community of smart and responsible digital citizens.