“It is through the individual choices we make in our day to day interactions that foster an intentional and safe social environment both online and off” – Erica Dobber, The Ophelia Project Part 1 , Intro:Cyberbullying
This subject really interests me as a parent as well as an educator. My children are both of the age where bullying is seen in the school and on the internet and we have had numerous discussions on it. I have both a son and a daughter and our conversations end up being quite different between the two of them. In my observation as a parent, girls are MUCH tougher, meaner, rougher on each other verbally/emotionally. The “mean girl” syndrome is real. I have bought several books for my daughter to read and movies for her to watch to make sure she understands what it can look like as well as help her remember SHE has the power to stop it. I also wanted her to be aware of the responsibilities she has as a friend to others. My son almost rolls his eyes when I bring up bullying. I get the “Mom, we don’t hold grudges!” Really in what I have witnessed at school and at home, he is right. Very rarely is there a “mean boy” case that I can think of. I know they are out there, but from what I have heard and read about they seem to be more physical bullying issues than social/emotional (not that, that is any better..bullying is bullying.. I am just stating the difference in the way it seems to be displayed).
Through my COTAIL class, I was directed to an article by Danah Boyd, “Bullying” Has Little Resonance with Teenagers, that I think every educator/parent should read. This is certainly not the only article I read. I will share a few of the others later, but in all the articles/videos and podcast I read and listened to, I heard… “Julie, the best way to help your children and students is to teach them to respect themselves and others and be empowered and confident to stop it when it is happening to them.” Obviously no one really said that exactly, but honestly… there is SO much bullying going on that we do not see…until the “drama” gets so big that parents, teachers, administrators get involved.. but then what do they/we do? When they ‘stop’ the bullying have they stopped the behavior? Who’s to say they learned their lesson and will not do it again? The student/child is the only one who can really STOP the behavior. How do we as parents and teachers help the child understand how to stop it if they are the ones doing it, and if they are the ones who are the victim, how do we teach them to stop it? Empathy can be taught, but how can we work towards really instilling it in a child?
Danah Boyd states in “Bullying” Has Little Resonance with Teenagers:
“We need interventions that focus on building empathy, identifying escalation, and techniques for stopping the cycles of abuse.”
Danah Boyd also states:
“Empathy-NOT TECHNOLOGY-is the core of the problem and solution”
I agree with this. Bullying is bullying, no matter where or how. The technology only brings it more “in our face” and gives it different avenues, but there is a deeper cause. Now what do I do as an educator about this in my class, school and in the community. First as a school there should be some very clear procedures in place dealing with bullying to include cyber-bullying. In the article I read about one cyber-bullying case: School heads called parents in cyberbully case by Chris Kenrick, a new law is mentioned (in the United States) that will give schools the right to;
“..suspend or expel students for bullying fellow students over the internet, in text messaging or by other electronic means.”
I believe that when a student of a school at any time threatens the safe social climate of the school, on or off campus, online or off, the school should be able to act. What does that mean though for most of us that are living overseas? What are the laws, if any, of the different countries on this issue. Nepal does not even have a constitution at this point, much less laws on cyber-bullying. Is our school protected if they choose to act on or expel a student for cases in cyber-bullying? Am I?
I think the best that I can do now is educate myself, my own children, my students and their parents. COTAIL included a great website called Common Sense that has lesson plans to teach children how to be “Cyber Smart”. I will certainly be incorporating many ideas from these lessons into my teaching. I will not lecture my children/students on bullying/cyber-bullying, who wants to hear ANYONE lecture anyway..(as Danah Boyd refers to us ‘old people’). I will instead do my best to help INSTILL and model empathy, respect, accountability and foster inclusion, healthy relationships and civility.