A boy is walking down the hall at the local school, and on his way to class, someone runs up behind him and shoves his books to the floor. Another student gets up from her desk to throw something away, when another student takes her pencil and throws it across the room. And in the bathroom, a student is being called “poor boy” because he isn’t wearing $50 jeans. We refer to these actions as “bullying.” And although these seem to be harmless pranks, the effects on others can be detrimental to their self-esteem and overall well-being.
There is another form of bullying, called cyberbullying, that can be just as traumatic to an individual, yet seemingly more widespread. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, cyberbullying is defined as “when teens use the Internet, cell phones, or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.” (NCPA, 2012). Cyberbullying affects almost 50% of the high school population in the U.S. (NCPA, 2012).
Sadly, this form of bullying happens all the time. I believe one of the reasons why it is so rampant is because of the fact that the harassment takes place through technological means, where it is not necessary to be face-to-face with the victim. There seems to be a false sense of confidence that allows the cyberbully to say whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and however he wants, because, hey…that kid is nowhere in sight! What’s it going to hurt? I’m not actually SAYING it to his face! He won’t find out it’s me!
Unfortunately, the harm that cyberbullying does to another individual could have the following lasting and devastating effects on that person: “Hurt feelings, sadness, anxiety, depression, anger, shame, fear, frustration, low self-esteem, inability to trust others.” And this could end up leading to “withdrawal, seclusion, avoidance of social relationships, poor academic performance, bullying others, and in extreme cases – suicide.” (Puresight, 2010-2011)
I took part in a webinar about a year ago called, “Cyberbullying – what every teacher should know.” (Honeycutt, 2011). During this webinar, Kevin Honeycutt discussed how we, as teachers, need to educate our students about their digital legacy. Students should ask themselves, “What do I want to be remembered for? How do I want to spend my heartbeats? Who do I want to be?” (Honeycutt, 2011). Our students must recognize that whatever they decide to post digitally remains.
Kevin also referenced that kids make decisions differently when they are behind a computer screen, as opposed to when they are in a social setting. Would you say that to my face? I was speaking to a friend about a month ago about current Facebook postings, and she brought up a good point – Facebook should be thought of as a playground – a place to share, reminisce and have fun – not a place to bait someone for an argument or cut someone else down. Again, I ask, “Would you say that to my face?”
According to Kevin, we should “never say or send anything you would be embarrassed about if the whole world saw.” He also brought up the point that, “as adults, we type an e-mail, we think about what we typed, and then we send it.” However, “kids type an e-mail, they send it, and then they think about it after it’s too late.” (Honeycutt, 2011).
So, it appears we have a job to do. We must educate our kids on how to take a proactive approach and learn how to stop cyberbullying. Here are some suggestions made by Larry Magid:
Francis, C. (Nov. 12, 2011). Anti-Bullying Awareness – Indirect, Cyber Bullying, Alienated – Lesson – School. [Web video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/user/chrisifrancis
Honeycutt, K. (Nov. 15, 2011). Cyber-bullying – What every teacher should know. [Webinar]. Retrieved from http://community.simplek12.com/scripts/student/webinars/view.asp?id=143
Honeycutt, K. (n.d.). It’s time to get on the same page as our kids. [Web resource]. Retrieved from http://www.mysafesurf.org/index.html
JOID’s Photostream. (March 6, 2008). Bad-Cyberbully. [Creative commons photo]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/winning-information/2314383724/
Magid, L. (n.d.). Tips to stop cyberbullying. [Web article]. Retrieved from http://www.safeteens.com/tips-to-stop-cyberbullying/
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children®. (2012). Cyberbullying. [Web article]. Retrieved from http://www.netsmartz.org/Cyberbullying
National Crime Prevention Council. (2012). Cyberbullying: A public advertising campaign aimed at preventing cyberbullying. [Web article]. Retrieved from http://www.ncpc.org/cyberbullying
Puresight ® Technologies Ltd. (2010-2011). The dangers of cyberbullying. [Web article]. Retrieved from http://www.puresight.com/Cyberbullying/the-dangers-of-cyber-bullying.html