Why is it OK to bully on-line?

If bullying is an inherent part of human nature, how do you curb or combat it?  I am sure most of us have either been bullied, witnessed bullying, bullied or assisted to some degree in the bullying of someone else. In varying degrees most people desire some kind of social capital or power.  People who either feel that their power is being threatened or want to demonstrate their power may bullying or put down a person who they believe threatens their status .  I have witnessed bullying as a young girl, as a teenager and continue to see it in the work place today.   The question for me is…”how does technology change the face of bullying?”

In the article titled “When dad banned the text messaging”  the author discusses how text messaging is both good and bad and how you can send messages of both love and hate through them.  As a parent she liked to be able to stay connected with her children through texting as she could check where they were and who they were with and tell them she loved them.  On the flip side, her daughter was addicted to messaging, so much so she was ignoring the people physically in her presence and had also received hate or bullying type messages.  So although text messaging can be used for bullying is it also a great way for parents to check on their kids safety, be more a part of their world and send messages of love and support to them. But technology changed the face of bullying because her mom could also see exactly what was said and by who.

I think that that article titled “Bullying Has Little Resonance With Teenagers” really hit the mark.  To begin with the term bullying is not term that teenagers today even really identify with.  What we call bullying they would call “starting drama” or “getting into fights” or “getting into my business” or “being mean”. According to the article girls bully or start drama to “humiliate, depreciate or isolate” and boys move toward a physical encounter or “intimidate or humiliate”.  There is nothing new about this behavior, but what is new is that is can be documented, escalated and played out with the aid of technology. Many of readings for this class regarding bulling have discussed the fact that in some cases teenagers can be more comfortable behaving badly online than in person.  For example, they may not swear in real life, but fill their on-line entries with swear words, they may be very quiet and shy in person, but show a very wild and extrovert side on-line. This seems really strange to me, considering I am far more prone to swear in person but would not consider swearing on-line.  To me swearing just seems so much worse written down than when you hear it depending on the context.  Is this difference of on-line behavior due to a difference in personality, a generation gap or because on-line behavior whether it be Facebook or TV is due to a shift it what is acceptable behavior?

From Flickr by Ange - stopcyberbulling.ning.com

As a way to combat bullying the author recommends working with the students to build empathy, identify escalation, and develop techniques to stop cycles of abuse.  However it is the last one that got me thinking ”….. creating environments where young people don’t get validated for negative attention and where they don’t see relationship drama as part of normal adult life”. Why do teenagers today think it is OK to behave badly on-line and that there is no such thing as bad attention?  It is social networks teaching this or is it garbage reality TV and the entertainment media?  Why do teenagers not feel the need to maintain their dignity?  Bullying or “Creating Drama” is a part of life, as much as we do not like it, middle school girls will always have their Queen Bees and Wannabees and bully to get there.  BUT I wonder if reality shows, like Jerseyshore of young adults behaving badly and then being rewarded for it by getting celebrity status and payment does nothing to help with cyberbullying and therefore make it acceptable to mimic that behavior online?

Bullying is awful and although it will always be around, both parents and educators should do their part to try and curb it, but not only should we be addressing the deed itself, but also asking why is it OK to put behave like this on-line.  I think the author’s suggestion to build empathy etc., are all good, but perhaps an additional way to curb this behavior is when we see silly reality shows on TV point out the negative behavior to our kids, and how classless and immature that behavior is.  We know that cyper-bullying can be even worse for the victims, so if we can teach our students and children to have some class and dignity on-line it might make them see how not only harmful cyberbullying is for the victim, but how it also reflects on them.

One thought on “Why is it OK to bully on-line?

  1. America’s fascination with reality television and shows like the Jersey Shore scare me. Why do they exist? My children have been obsessed with watching Little House on the Prairie lately, and I wonder if a show like that has an audience in today’s society. We used to teach and reinforce values by modeling those values in a multitude of venues, but I struggle to see where that is happening today. Have we gone so far to the other side that we watch these reality shows to talk to our children about choices they shouldn’t make instead of the ones the should? We need to build empathy if we wish to see an end to bullying.

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