Cyberbullying

One of the traditions at my high school was for the school newspaper to devote much of the final issue of the last year to “wills” from the seniors to students in other classes.  My sophomore year, the advisor of the newspaper got into trouble because the newspaper editors – all seniors, all good students going onto expensive colleges – had co-opted that tradition in order to publicly print lists along the lines of “girls I’d like to…” you get the idea.

From Totally Wired:

Teens have also used blogs and Web sites to post lists or rankings of other students.

Yeah, so what else is new?  In other non-news people are still nostalgic for the past, despite the past having poorer health carer and more discrimination.

I’m not trying to say that cyberbullying is not a specific problem that presents unique obstacles, just that a certain amount of the issue – as Goldstein alludes to when she talks about people finally studying bullying – is that we are finally starting to care. Sometimes.

That kids do this isn’t new, it’s just that the scale is finally forcing us to pay attention to it, when we didn’t before. That same advisor is still teaching.* He also gets good reviews at ratemyteacher.com, because, like a lot of bullies, he’s very personable. I don’t think he’d still be teaching if the story had made the news because it was posted online. But the fact that the outside world didn’t hear about it didn’t make it any less damaging to the students that were at the school at the time, it just made it infinitely less embarrassing for the school district.

I also think it’s worth pointing out that a lot of the bullying that kids do is often copying the bullying that adults do – even if the frequency is higher. If we want to teach boys and girls that, for example, they should not be passing around private photos without the permission of the person in the photo, then we need to stop acting like adults who find themselves in this situation deserve what they get. Making it about the worthiness of the victim instead of the action of the bully makes it easy and likely that the victim will be blamed and the bullying will continue.

*no, I don’t know that he knew about it beforehand, but I was around at the time – I was a member of the junior class writing staff – and I saw how he handled the aftermath. With lots of smirks and smiles.

Advertisements

Totally Wired: Chapters 1, 2, and 3

[Regarding the actual question, with regard to technology – while my tween years were much more like the author’s teen years than modern tween’s experiences, my current day to day life is much closer to modern tween’s than my own tween or teen years.  Except with fewer video games and texting.  Lots of chatting online and blogging, though.  Also, we had a computer in our house from when elementary school on, it just didn’t connect to the internet until I left for college.]

I don’t have kids, but I do have a niece and nephew.  My nephew is only five, but my niece is in first grade and is turning seven in January.  While she is clearly a year or two away from being even a young tween, she has been reading since she was in preschool and is already composing and sending emails to her grandmother – using her own email address.

I bring her up now because of a conversation my sister and I had a few months ago regarding the Mom’s Club that my sister volunteers for and has been a member of since my niece was born.  Part of her job is helping Mom’s Club presidents within her chapter, and part of that involves explaining to them the website guidelines – the rules they have to follow if they want to have a link on the main website.  At least some of the rules involved privacy – not naming the children of the mothers in the club, for example – and she’s always shocked by the number of seemingly tech savvy clubs that don’t feel this is a rule worth following.

Goodstein talks about kids not understanding the public nature of the internet, and what that means.  I think she’s right, and I think that an important part of our job is to help teach kids safe practices, but I don’t it’s just the kids that don’t get the public nature of the internet.  Like the stereotype of teens talking loudly on cellphones, I think a certain amount of the panic is projection.  After all, it’s generally adults that I see talking loudly on cellphones.  The teens and tweens are either texting quietly or talking loudly to the person standing next to them; they’ve picked up on the etiquitte that one texts in public places rather than talking, yet most adults have not.*  Likewise, much of the fear of what will happen to tween and teens who are public online comes from adults’ mistakes of forwarding email to the wrong person – or showing up in an politically embarrassing picture online.

What I find even odder than the Mom’s Clubs who ignore common sense privacy suggestions is that many of those same parents would consider giving a six year old her own email address to be a disaster waiting to happen.  However, like with everything else, learning to navigate the inernet responsibly takes practice.  Much better for her to spend some of her time now sending private emails to a trusted person now, and then in another few years start learning about message boards and other places to post information publicly on the internet, and how that is different – rather than trying to get a handle on everything all at once at age 12, 14 or 16.

 

Unfortunately, one of the problems of the internet is that, right now, everyone is pretty new at it – even if you’ve been wired** your whole life.  As Goodstein points out (it’s one of the main purposes of her book) this makes it hard for parents to know how to guide their children.

*and don’t say “well, adults have figured that any talking on the phone is rude in certain situations!” cuz if enough adults had figured this out, I wouldn’t have to tell so many of them that the public library is not an appropriate place to have a cell phone conversation that can just as easily take place outside.
**or wireless :p