A technology issue occurring among all ages

It’s a tale as old as time but in recent times it has found a new home: bullying.

Justin Patchin, UW-Eau Claire criminal justice professor is the co-director of the cyberbullying research center. He is internationally known for covering cyberbullying issues.

Patchin’s expertise is in high demand after a recent cyberbulling

In early September, twelve-year-old Rebecca Sedwick, of Lakeland, Fla, committed suicide after a series of online bullying attacks by classmates.

Patchin said cyberbullying happens in a multitude of places and among all ages, including college students.

“I mention my research in classes a lot and I have students come up to me and tell me about their experiences,” Patchin said. “It’s definitely happening on college campuses.”

While the case against Sedwick’s bullies continues to unfold, Patchin said it raises new questions about how to deal with this tech-age issue.

“The big discussion is whether or not it is appropriate to charge teens or preteens with a criminal offense for their behaviors,” Patchin said.

Patchin said the criminal justice system is not the place to deal with most cyberbullying cases.

“I think it’s something handled within the school and parents working together to stop the bullying,” Patchin said.

He said he understands the public’s desire for justice and accountability in this case, but he doesn’t know if pursuing criminal sanctions against a child will result in other children not cyberbullying the way the sheriff in Sedwick’s county has publicly hoped for.

Patchin believes criminally punishing other children is unlikely to create a deterrent effect for other children.

Instead, Patchin believes if cyberbullying can be dealt with in its most minor states by school officials and parents, then hopefully it won’t escalate to cases like Sedwick’s.