I really enjoyed reading Danah Boyd‘s article about bullying, “Bullying Has Little Resonance With Teenagers“. Boyd asserts “The cultural logic underpinning bullying is far more complex than most adults realize. And technology is not radically changing what’s happening; it’s simply making what’s happening far more visible”. That really resounded with me – it reminded of the article read in Course 1 – Mark Prensky’s Shaping Tech for the Classroom, where he wrote about the 4 step process of technology adaptation. One of his steps was “Doing old things in new ways”. Cyber bullying is just another way of bullying which has been going on for years. I agree with Boyd – I think technology is now bringing more things into the open. I’m sure all of us can remember a time growing up where bullying was prevalent. There was a kid on the football team in my high school, I’ll call him Chris. He was not the best football player but wanted very much to be part of the team and have friends. Some of the older members found out he worked at McDonald’s and demanded that they be given free food at the drive thru at McDonald’s - it was common knowledge that if they went to the drive thru they would check if Chris was working, then go and order food and drive off without paying. Of course, McDonald’s figured it out, and poor Chris got fired. Everyone at school knew what happened – but we forgot about it after a week or so, which is quite unlike today where people might video it, broadcast it online for all to see.
What can we do about it? How does this transfer over to cyber safety? How can I help with this? Who is responsible for teaching students to be safe online? I realize that I don’t teach teenagers and by the time they reach middle / high school they have many learned behaviors. I do teach 6-7 year olds, and at this point, they are not really using social media and I haven’t seen any online bullying. However, I feel it is my responsibility to give the students a good understanding of positive communication – this way as they get older they will (hopefully) try to talk about their problems instead of resorting to negative online behaviors. I used to teach in a girls school, and being on duty outside during recess with the 4-6 year olds was very disturbing and distressing at times. The biggest complaints were “She’s not my friend”, “She’s being mean to me” “She told the other girls not to be my friend” “She is pretending I”m not here”. Those complaints sound exactly like the comments the teenagers make later in life, just in different words! My colleagues and I felt we had a duty to help these students try to solve their problems more positively. We developed the TAG system for students to use in conflicts.
T – Tell the other person how you feel
A – Ask them to stop
G – If those steps don’t work, Go tell an adult.
We also bought a Friendship Stop, and installed it on the playground to encourage more positive play. The results of this were quite good. In the beginning, I was called in to mediate and model using the TAG system very often, but as the year went on I could hear the kids using it more and trying to solve conflicts more positively. I still use the TAG system in my teaching. This year during a unit of inquiry about communication, I introduced it and have been quite happy with the results. Here is a video that I made with my students to explain it a bit more. It is my hope that children are able to learn more positive ways of solving problems and explaining without resorting to negative behaviors - and keep it for the future. I feel it is the responsibility of parents, teachers and the whole school community to model positive behaviors and proper etiquette online.