Bullying – cyber and otherwise (UPDATED with stats from my school)

Wow. What a powerful topic and I’m so glad it’s being covered in the program!  But I’m not really even sure where to begin. It seems there are constant headlines over and over and over about students committing suicide because of bullying, often heightened because of technology.  Recently, there was quite a discussion about the rating for documentary, Bully which was re-edited for a PG-13 rating.  I haven’t seen it but am very interested.  Has anyone had the opportunity to see it, yet?Some rights reserved by TheBeachSaint

The cyberbullying questions for this week are deep and important but they must be broken down:

  • Who’s job is it to teach these skills?
  • When and where should we be having these conversations with students?
  • Are we taking this seriously?

Are we taking this seriously? Like anything, some are taking it seriously but my gut feeling is that most aren’t. 1 in 5 Americans aren’t even online plus cyberbullying is fairly recent so I think most can’t really wrap their heads around it. It’s just too “out there” for alot of people. However, it is here and it is a problem, so…

Who’s job is it to teach these skills? When and where should we be having these conversations with students?

As educators, it’s our responsibility to teach students to be safe online and off – not solely our responsibility though.  We must also be role models and be aware of our own actions to co-workers and students.  Bullying is not something that only children do to each other.

CommonseSense Media’s lesson plans look great but we can’t just have a few lessons in the classroom and think it’s done.  Maybe that would be enough, I’m not an expert but I think it will take much more than that.   The conversations need to be authentic, ongoing in the classroom and out and, most importantly, they need to meet students where they are.  As Danah Boyd’s article illustrated, that it is incredibly important that we understand how kids see bullying.

The last 2 paragraphs of  Boyd’s article really resonated with me and her suggestions to build empathy and not validate people for negative attention would do a good deal towards fixing many of the evils in the world – not just cyberbullying.

And here’s where we run into another major component of bullying… attention. In a world of brands and marketing, there’s a sentiment that there is no such  thing as bad attention. Countless teens are desperately seeking attention. And there’s nothing like “starting drama” to guarantee both attention and entertainment. So teens jump in, adding fuel to the flame because it’s fun. They know that it hurts, but it also feels good sometimes too. And this is what makes music videos like Eminem & Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie” resonate with both adults and teens. The drama is half the fun, even when it hurts like hell.

Combating bullying is not going to be easy, but it’s definitely not going to happen if we don’t dive deep in the mess that underpins it and surrounds it. Lectures by uncool old people like me aren’t going to make teens who are engaged in dramas think twice about what they’re doing. And, for that matter, using the term “bullying” is also not going to help at all either. We need interventions that focus on building empathy, identifying escalation, and techniques for stopping the cycles of abuse. We need to create 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. The issues here are systemic. And it’s great that the Internet is forcing us to think about them, but the Internet is not the problem here. It’s just one tool in an ongoing battle for attention, validation, and status. And unless we find effective ways of getting to the root of the problem, the Internet will just continue to be used to reinforce what is pervasive.

*****

Updated May 2, 2012

I like to talk with my students about what I am learning in COETAIL.  Although we don’t have the time to get into anything really deep since I only get 30 minutes with them, I think that it is important that they see teachers as life long learners (so we practice what we preach) and I like to just reaffirm that the topics are on target (not that I don’t believe you, Jeff but…)  Anywhoodle, today I just wanted to see what the bullying numbers were and, to be perfectly honest, I sort of thought it wasn’t that much of a problem with ‘my kids’.  Wrong!!  Out of 2 classes with a total of about 40 kids, 8 students said they thought that bullying was a problem at the primary level (that’s 20%!) or had been bullied themselves (a few thought it was a significant problem at the secondary level but I think that 20% is pretty significant so I wonder how they define significant) and 5 students (10%) thought cyberbullying was a problem or had experienced it themselves.  After taking a moment to digest that, I did have the wherewithal to say that they should talk to an adult about it and I was ready to listen and help if they wanted to talk with me.  This has definitely opened my eyes a bit more and I am going to write the teachers, milepost leader, ICT teacher and Heads of school.  No school, no matter how great the kids are, is immune to bullying and cyberbullying.

 

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2 Responses to Bullying – cyber and otherwise (UPDATED with stats from my school)

  1. After going through your reading and reflecting on Cyberblogging I do want to validate the point that you have raised about Internet is not a not a problem but a tool that we can use effectively with interventions and there by diving in deep especially where the waters are turbulent.

    • Yes! I was thinking of adding something about technology being similiar to guns – guns don’t keill people, people kill people and technology is not what is hurting people…But i couldn’t really phrase it right so I just left it out. But yes, to get back to your point, you are very right. I think that many people feel overwhelmed about the what and the how of interventions and so we end up feeling outraged but not doing much else; not diving in deeply in turbulent waters…

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