Is Cyber Bullying the Issue?

I can still remember, clear as a bell, walking up to the yard duty.  In my eight year old voice I said, “they’re making fun of me again.”  Without any hesitation, the yard duty looked back, and almost yelling said “What do you want me to do? You tell me this every single day, what do you want me to do about it?” With my eight year old logic I thought, “Make it stop, you’re the adult.” However, my perceived protector did not share my viewpoint.  So, my tormentors proceeded to call me names and chase me around the school yard.  It wasn’t until I did something about it, and got in trouble, that the idea was brought up that I change schools.  When my mom asked me how I felt at my school, I said “it’s like everyone got invited to a party except for me.” Bullying has been around a long time – the fact that bullying or its reach is enhanced by technology does not change it’s severity or impact. 

I know I may be somewhat unpopular in this statement, but technology is not the reason we have bullying.  My tormentors in the third grade did not have cell phones.  The bullies I knew in high school did not have laptops nor access to the web to spread their message of hate and embarrassment.  This is why it frustrates me to see schools banning cell phones and other technology to combat bullying on the web.  If cyber bullying is the direct result of having access to technology, let’s get rid of every piece of technology at our school: phones, computers, smart boards, mp3 players, projectors and anything else with a microchip.  If the kids don’t have access to anything, then they will not have the ability to go online and tease, hate or ridicule anyone.  Sounds logical, in the education world, if someone is getting hurt of if it creates a problem, ban it. 

There is another thought, what if we teach kids what is appropriate? I know I might be perceived as crazy, new age or too progressive, but I have always thought that in school we teach the behaviors we want our kids to exhibit.  I know when I ban something, I tend to get students who find ways to sneak around or hide their devious behavior.  In contrast, if I set up an expectation, and discuss why, and the kids and I reach an agreement/understanding – the behavior is a non-issue.  Now, there is an understanding of rules and there are clear consequences. 

Currently, most schools ban the use of cell phones.  How successful is your school is supporting this policy? How many phones get taken on a daily basis? Most of our students engage in “ninja texting” often getting messages sent and received under desks, in bags, binders, books, and in pockets – often without even looking at the key board.  In doing so, a student who brings out their phone, or is caught, is dealt with on a technological level, not a personal one. 

Our current school culture is one that promotes sneaky behavior and poor decision making.  At no point do we address the issue of what is right and wrong, at no point do we teach our kids about correct behavior and consequences.  We should develop a school policy that supports teachers in educating students in the right and wrong things to do with technology.  Our goal is to correct the behavior, not to bring down the medium used for its exhibition. 

Today’s post was contributed by Matt Soeth, technology coordinator for CADA.  Matt has eight years experience in teaching English and leadership at the high school level. 

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~ by cadaleaders on May 19, 2011.

One Response to “Is Cyber Bullying the Issue?”

  1. Matt.
    Great take. At the turn of the century we went from Horse and Buggy to the Automobile. The speed of transportation increased, thus did the amount of accidents and injury do to reckless driving. The reckless driving was the result of Human Behavior, not the car! We taught our kids the dangers and ultimately the people on the road policed themselves until Law could catch up. We are there again, but now with technology and communication. Ultimately we need to continue to teach our kids what is good “driving” and what is bad “driving”. The difference is that adults were on the roads with kids when the automobile became Norm. Unfortunately, with the cyberworld there are not too many adults on these “roads” with the kids. Therefore, we need to elevate Youth Leadership to another level and use our young leaders to set the Norm in their community and model the appropriate behavior. We need to create a branch of youth leaders within every student community who serve as these role models to the behavior that is intended. These leaders need to be credible in the eyes of their peers and in a system where they can identify what is Norm or Abnormal. They model the Norm behavior and they change in their community what is considered abnormal behavior.

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