Defending Debbe

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As I was casually cruising through week four’s readings, somewhat distracted by an incident that happened with my students last week (I’ll get to that later), I read Debbe Geiger’s article “When Dad Banned Text Messaging” . While looking at the heading of this article, I noticed that 495 comments had been posted. This woman Geiger must be extremely provocative: I thought to self… Before getting to the article, I felt compelled to read a few of the comments.

I was/am absolutely shocked by the seriously wicked, immature comments that show zero empathy for a mother who is sharing something that is clearly difficult and confusing for her and her husband. Her daughter is out of control and there are clearly deep, deep social issues going on with her daughter who is receiving text messages saying “We All Hate You”. Honestly, all girls go through this crap when they are kids/teens and sometimes even young adults. Before we learn to set boundaries, we females use our verbal skills the way boys use their biceps. We hurt and get hurt with words, but grow up already… Reading the comments to Debbe’s article brings clarity to the teenage issues of limited text etiquette. Teens don’t have too many role models around from the looks of those comments…

Here is a snippet of the Debbe’s response to the comments left about her article:

I do have one observation that has surprised me about this experience. It seems that cyber-bullying is not just a problem for teens sending text messages, but also for people who write on newspaper blogs! I’m surprised by the number of anonymous posters who threw rocks at my family. While I understand you may not have liked my use of words like “hip” or you may have disagreed with my opinion in general, I don’t think that warrants some of the insults spewed here. I am, however, appreciative of the many readers who shared thoughtful insights about this issue and parenting in general. Thanks for taking the time to join the discussion. (posted 4/1/09)

I could not agree with Debbe more!

Now, as for the issue that I mentioned early. Last week, three of my students came in during recess to tell me about an incident that happened a few weeks ago. My three students said that they had recently watched a grade 5 student take the cell phone of her friend, another grade 5 student, to crank call a grade 7 student. The cell phone owner did not take her cell phone from her friend who was making the calls nor did my three students leave to get an adult or leave to simply walk away from the situation. As my three guilt riddled grade four students confessed the error of their ways, I was overcome with the uncanny fact that just minutes before my students arrived with their tale, I had been reading through a lesson plan from Common Sense Media. org about cyber bullying and teaching kids about being a “bystander” vs. an “upstander”. I’m not kidding! It was minutes earlier that I’d been reading through this lesson.

What responsibility do I have as a teacher when it comes to children and digital citizenship? Like all things children, I feel that parents and teachers need to work as a team at all times. In grade 4, we read There’s a Boy in The Girls’ Bathroom by Louis Sachar and we have a character education program around the book from Steps to Respect. How clear it is that this new world of children having email accounts and cell phones has led to another form of communication and hence another form of possibly using that communication to hurt. Classroom teachers must absolutely address digital citizenship issues and make it extremely clear to kids that bullying is bullying no matter the media used. Yet, I close with thoughts about Danah Boyd’s article, which my fellow Coetailer Matt Kelsey articulately addresses. Both the Boyd article and Kelsey’s blog about it have left me feeling that I need so much more than a lesson plan, but I also need a place to begin…


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2 Comments on “Defending Debbe
  1. Thanks for the story. The common sense media lessons are a great place to start. It’s a constant conversation that needs to be happening with students at school and at home. This is the world the kids live in and we need to help them learn how to live in it with empathy and respect.

  2. Hi Brit,

    I could not agree with you both you and Jeff more. Digital Citizenship and responsibility are important concepts that need to be addressed by all parties involved (schools, parents, children, and society). I believe we all need to be informed and schools need to make the time to not only teach the students but also the parents. I sometimes wonder about the the parents who complain about cyber bullying and want to ask them how the represent themselves online and model good online behaviour.

    There are of course many methods to help get the conversation started but one of the most powerful methods of instruction is modelling good behaviour ourselves. Allow the students and parent to see how you present yourself online and hopefully they will follow our examples.

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