Honestly, this post has taken me a while to write because, like many of you, I’m just not sure what to say on the subject. Of course I think bullying in any form is wrong and of course I understand the long term harm it can cause the victim but what do we do about it?….
I think part of the problem is that the tools kids use for cyberbullying and the ways they use them to bully have only been around a sort time compared to the much longer history of bullying in general but they’ve been around long enough for kids to become adept at using them. The methods we as adults have created and championed for trying to combat bullying within kids haven’t evolved as quickly as the kids methods and now, we’re playing catch up.
I think in many ways, our best course of action is to educate ourselves so we can educate the kids. We need to know what we are looking for so we can be vigilant in guarding against it and we need to set firm, specific guidelines for acceptable behavior and punish students who go against those guidelines. And we need to work education about bullying not just into the code of conduct and the curriculum, but the punishments as well. If a student breaks the online conduct code and takes part in cyberbullying not only should we temporarily remove their online privileges, we should also require them to attend a workshop/seminar on cyberbullying to earn their privileges back. I think we can get the message across and make strides with this but it will take time, persistence, and education on a mass level. Think about smoking. 50 years ago it was acceptable and widespread-doctors did and recommended brands in advertisements. Now, through a long term campaign of education and facts, smoking is much more frowned upon in society. We still have people who participate, but there are less and the activity itself is less acceptable and even looked down on. Maybe with enough time and effort we can make bullying and cyberbullying the smoking of the future (of course, we’ll need to be prepared and on the lookout for the next wave of bullying methods so we can try to head them off at the pass…).