Cyberbullying

This has been a good week in my DL&L class 5316. We have discussed and researched cyberbullying. This has opened up a lot of avenues for discussion.  My thoughts on cyber-bullying may not set well with some of you. I have been teaching for 16 years and I have seen so much bullying from students and teachers that it blows my mind! We have been trying to stop bullies for many, many years. They are still bullies. Unfortunately, I feel that no matter the resources we have at our disposal we will never stop cyber-bullying. The cyber world makes it easier for these bullies to do what they thrive on. They want to hurt others, this is much easier to do when sitting behind the computer versus face to face. I can think of a lot of ways to help people who are being bullied, but in my opinion, the bullies are the one we should be focusing on. They are the ones that have issues that need to be addressed. If we could stop the bullies, then the people who are being bullied would not need as much help.

Our school system or law enforcement systems are not ready to combat cyberbullying. No one knows how to handle it because there are no legal consequences for the cyberbullies. This is a new realm of bullying that needs to be addressed immediately. A school can hand down punishment to a student for harassment, stalking, sharing inappropriate content, etc, but there are no laws against cyberbullying because legally the bully is protected under the freedom of speech amendment. If we really want to make a difference then there is going to have to be some laws that protect a person being bullied and punishes the cyberbully.

One that same note I know we can slow down and help the students who are being bullied if we are more aware, alert, and involved as friends, teachers, parents, and community members.

I have learned that people of all ages can be cyber-bullied but the most susceptible to be harmed by the inappropriate behavior are teenagers. Cyberbullying occurs more in the ‘online’ generation, which predominantly consists of children and adolescents (Kowalski et al., 2012). A teenager is very vulnerable to what others say or think about them. They spend a lot of their time trying to “fit in” or gain others approval. This not what they should be doing, but it is often difficult to get students to realize that it is ok to be themselves and not be concerned with what others think. It is often a self-confidence problem. A bully can see this weakness and feeds off of it. It is often easier for a cyber-bully to harass others because they are in their private domain and not in the public eye. Students tend to be a little bolder and use bad judgement when conversing digitally versus face to face. Kowalski & Limber (2007) state that “Technology may attract more socially anxious personalities and those that would not engage in bullying offline.” The cyber-bully is not necessarily the mean, big guy on campus who takes lunch money. The cyber-bully can just as easily be the pretty cheerleader, the star basketball player, the introvert that never talks, or even the most intelligent most liked person in the school. Cyber-bullies can hide their identities from the person being bullied and the public.

In order to bring awareness to cyber-bullying we must first of all realize and accept that it is a problem in our schools. There are many students who are bullied and no one ever knows about it or the teachers/administrators do not take it as serious as offline bullying. I think that this occurs because no one really knows what to do. It is easy to stop someone if they are bullying someone in class or in person in front of us. But cyber-bullying is not so blatant, often the bully is anonymous. As teachers we have to reach out to our students and encourage them to come forward to us. If they do not make us aware of a problem, we will never know it exists. This 21st century problem is one that we have to accept and learn how to curb the cyber-bullying. It is not going to go away on its own.

We have to make our students aware of the consequences of cyber-bullying and that it is not acceptable because they are not physically harming someone. Cyber-bullying is more of a mental abuse than offline bullying. It can be done through something as simple as stalking, the bully does not actually have to be verbally attacking anyone to be bullying. The root of the cyber-bully problem is the bully. If we can make them aware of the danger and harm they can cause others and the possible consequences they can suffer from bullying I think we will be moving in the right direction to combat cyber-bullying.

References:

Kowalski, R. M., & Limber, S. P. (2007). Electronic bullying among middle school students. Journal of Adolescent Health, 41, S22–S30. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/ j.jadohealth.2007.08.017.

 Kowalski, R. M., Limber, S., Limber, S. P., & Agatston, P. W. (2012). Cyberbullying: Bulling in the digital age. John Wiley & Sons

 

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