Last night I was involved in a youth group and some of the young people were chatting with me about Facebook. I think Facebook is great, but one of the youngsters was explaining how she didn’t use it anymore as one of her friends was cyber-bullied on it.
Schools struggle, at times, with dealing with bullying in the classroom, trying to change an aggressor and support a victim. But cyber bullying just blows that out of the water, it left me thinking how big the world is, how impossible it is to fully protect young people as they use the internet, how helpless we are.
There was an interesting article in the Daily Herald a few days ago on this. Here are a few clips:
“This is the new bullying,” said Gilda Ross, a guidance counselor at Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn. “It’s much uglier and much more hurtful.”
It’s schoolyard bullying gone high-tech, often with no adults around to monitor. Online, anonymity is the greatest form of power, allowing even the shyest kid to turn into a bully. Online, it’s also harder to get caught. The victim may not even know what’s going on, let alone who’s involved.
Trying to stop it, then, can be an impossible task, said Teri Schroeder, CEO of i-Safe Inc., a government-funded nonprofit and national leader in Internet safety education.
According to i-Safe, 52 percent of high school students report being bullied online. That same number said they themselves have bullied online. This could mean saying mean things or arguing, posting negative or funny videos, or spreading gossip.
Parents often lack the technical know-how to keep up with their kids. Schools are unsure of their role because cyberbullying mostly occurs off school grounds. Can they punish students for something they do at home?
“This ends up coming to school the next day and it affects the learning process,” said Phil Morris, technology director with the Kane County Regional Office of Education. “So whether schools want to deal with it or not, they need to.”
Many educators and lawmakers believe creating clear penalties will help.
A proposed state law, which has been passed by the Senate and is pending in the House, defines cyberbullying as harassing another person through electronic communication on at least two separate occasions or creating and maintaining a Web site or page that includes a “threat of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement or restraint.”