I was really struck with the article by Danah Boyd (2010) in which she talks about how bullying and the programs we put in schools just don’t resonate with the average teenager or child for that matter. It’s true. Think about the multitude of anti-bullying programs and plans we put in place in schools to combat the issue. I was a part of an anti-bullying program in Canada and initially we saw a decline in the number of principal visits and concerns from students, parents and teachers. However it didn’t last for long. Initially these cases declined but in no time the bullying continued and it was as if the “programs” didn’t even exist.
Bullying is the imbalance of power that one person has over another. I see it all over the place and it occurs amongst adults just as much as it does with our kids. It happens in the work place, across cultural groups and in our families.
I get confused with the separation that we place on cyber bullying as if we have bullying under control but now we have this new monster to deal with : cyber bullying. Cyber bullying is just bullying as we have known it for years through the devices of technology. It needs to be treated the same way as we deal with bullying. It just seems to have larger effects because the audience is larger and it multiplies faster. The students we teach are growing up in the world of technology like we have never experienced. We have kids on computers, interacting online through communities, and sharing with each other and the world. In the same way that we have discussions with our students about representing themselves online in an appropriate way and being careful to protect themselves and their privacy we also need to be teaching them about how to treat each other. I think they go hand in hand.
It is our responsibility to teach this to our kids.
Let’s rethink bullying programs and create a climate in our classrooms and families that encourages respect, dignity and humanity. I was bullied just like the fellow in the video below and it didn’t have long-term effects that it has for so many that are bullied. I owe that to my teachers and my family who told me that I could be anyone and anything that I wanted to be. We need to do this for our students and we need to give them the tools to rise above it.
I think that schools teaching digital citizenship is in its infancy and light years behind the advances that technology has made in our lives. We really haven’t been talking to students about this stuff for as long as we should have and we haven’t had these important conversations about “cyberbullying” for as long as the internet has been around. I think that if we are teaching our kids how to behave appropriately online at an early age then we are sowing seeds for responsible behavior in the future.
However, I had a grade 3 student just last week skype another student of mine and tell her how much she was the scum of the earth…..I have some work to do!