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Internet Discrimination & Social Learning Theory

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Internet Discrimination & Social Learning Theory
Ashley Bowers
SOCW 510
September 21, 2011

Everyone has the right to be respected, safe and free from violence, harassment and bullying. A life free from violence and from cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment is a fundamental human right. Bullying and harassment can also lead to violations of a range of other human rights. People have the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, work and fair working conditions, freedom of expression and to hold opinions without interference, and the right to be free from violence. People, especially the youth, have the right to feel free to go by their day without fear of persecution and bullying can affect these rights and this should be taken into consideration before people decide to sign into the internet.
People today have been using multiple electronic digital devices which provide a new means of communicating with each other and access to the worldwide Internet. While these devices should be used as positive tools in educational and other settings, unfortunately, these devices are also sometimes used in very unsafe and irresponsible ways. When people start resorting to bullying and harassment via the Internet and other electronic communication devices, these behaviors are called “cyber bullying.” Recently, there have been many public service announcements (PSAs) trying to stop the use of discriminatory slurs with little or no effect. There were articles in “The Nation” and “The New York Times” about polls taken by MTV on the effect these slurs have on young people with a few surprising results. They found that half of young people say using discriminatory slurs is wrong but 54% say it’s okay to use such slurs as “fag”, “slut”, or “retard” when they are in their individual circle of friends. With the growing use of social networking sites as a means to communicate young people who should be more concerned with how they speak are progressively becoming more and more offensive. As face-to-face conversations decrease the bullying has increased. How do we come to the conclusion that these slurs are okay to say at all? I believe that Social Learning Theory bests answers that question. Albert Bandura believed that people learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modeling. This outlook would explain the way young people talk to one another and why they do not see it as demeaning to onlookers. These behaviors are starting younger and younger because children are observing the slurs being used on all media basses, by older siblings, and even parents. As children use these slurs the first reaction should be stopping the use but instead some promote the slurs or do not see some uses as demeaning. For example, there is a growing us of the phrases “That’s gay!” and “That’s retarded!” instead of simply saying “That’s dumb!” Most do not see a problem with this replacement but there are people who are offended. It doesn’t matter how hard parents try to stop the use of these slurs if the child is hearing them in other outlets. In order to end the slurs people must be prepared for a long battle with media and social networking sites. This issue has been in the press a lot in the past few years and I wonder if bullying is actually increasing or if the use of the Internet is making it easier to catch.
I hear all the time not to take things so serious online but discriminatory language and other bullying should be. There have been many deaths as a result of cyber bullying and there should be more to protect the rights of all people. Monitoring Internet use is the first step of many in fighting this battle and I personally am hoping to see a decrease in this issue in next few years.


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