Cyberbullying in South African and American schools : a legal comparative study
Smit, D. M.
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Bullying conjures up visions of the traditional scho olyard bully and the subordinate victim. However, b ullying is no longer limited to in-person encounter, having come to incl ude cyberbullying, which takes place indirectly ove r electronic media. In this electronic age, cyber platforms proliferate at an astonishing rate, all attracting the youth in l arge number, and posing the risk that they may become subject to cyberbullying. Far from being limited to those individual learner s being cyberbullied, the effects of this phenomenon extend to the learne r collective, the school climate, and also the enti re school system, man- agement and education, thus requiring an urgent res ponse. This article first provides a general overvi ew of cyberbullying and its impact on learners, schools and education. This is done through a comparative lens, studying the e xtent of the phenome- non in both the United States and South Africa. The focus then shifts to the existing legislative fram eworks within which the phenomenon is tackled in these respective jurisdict ions, particularly the tricky balancing act require d between learners’ constitutional right to free speech and expression, and the protection of vulnerable learners’ right t o equality, dignity and privacy. The article concludes by proposing certain possible solutions to the problem.
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