I am scrambling to my get head (and wildly tapping fingers) around the enormity of cyberbullying. The short answer must be that everyone has a role in this (teachers, parents, peers, the students themselves). But the long answer is far more complex as we start to break down what it might mean to be “unsafe” online. (Check out the wikipedia page, don’t mock me, the list of behaviours is alarming/depressing/frightening)
In schools we tend to focus on the very real problem of bullying and cyberbullying. There is no doubt that we are talking about this more than ever but is it (bullying) happening more than ever or is the fact that it is hidden from our sight making it harder to intervene which leads to more painful results? Danah Boyd suggests that “Technology is employed in efforts to humiliate, deprecate, or isolate” but that the technology itself is just one tool that our kids are using to bully. So as teachers our responsibility here is get to the problem before the bullying begins.
But how do we see it? What does it look like? Watch the movie BULLY and you might start to see exactly what it can look like or listen to Shane Koyczan (video below) describe the impact of bullying as he reaches out to schools for help and, more importantly, change.
It is depressing to consider that right now, in the homes of my students, there might be some who just can’t hide from screens. Some great resources for tackling bullying in schools can be found here Bullying No Way and The Bully Project.
I want to share a story from our middle school. While it’s perhaps not directly related to cyberbullying, it certainly implies bullying, and it does suggest some unwanted behaviour in our school that might have have stemmed from internet usage. When our school year started up in August our middle school teachers noticed that the large world map in the hallway had been defaced. The graffiti was similar to what I had seen created by the people at www.boredpanda.com (you can see their maps here) but I think our students managed to make their comments even more offensive. I’m not excusing the racist nature of the maps created by BoredPanda but I am starting to think about how we can help our students make better decisions with what to do with the information they find online. Is it our responsibility to help our students monitor their own internet usage?
It would be remiss of me to not mention the fantastic turn of events that followed the map grafitti. Our MS counsellor wrote about the experience here and then helped create this short video that describes the events that transpired.
What do we do to guide our students? Our MS team certainly felt that it was their responsibility to tackle the map issue before it was hidden in text messages and chat rooms and I think it is a great example of how we tackle all issues of online safety (be it bullying, sexting, privacy, catfishing, copyright laws etc etc). We tackle these issues by being vocal and open and ready to talk about them, even if that seems like admitting defeat.