Interesting look at cyberbullying

The NY Times this morning has an interesting article on the phenomeon of children being harrassed through cell phone text messages and other online or electronic means. The basic argument of the article is whether parents should be able to ask schools discipline children who are caught harassing other children through online sites or “texting.” The basic idea of the article seems to be that if harassing texting or other online bullying is occurring outside of school, it is not the school’s responsibility to step in. Other alternatives offered were going to the police, or simply approaching the family of the suspected bully.

The article brings up a few thoughts: Is middle school too young to give children liberty with texting, where short messages, and also photos and videos are sent from phone to phone is seconds? As the step-mom of a 15 year old girl, I have to say that when texting has consumed my daughter, we have made the decision to disable the feature until things get back to normal. She’s had a cell phone since the sixth-grade. Now that my own children are getting ready to start school, I feel like waiting until at least 9th grade would be best. And I strongly believe online time should be limited for children, as well as supervised.

Bullying is not a new phenomenon, but the introduction of the online world and technololgy has added new wrinkles. Has anyone heard of Formspringme.com? It’s basically a site where users answer questions posed by often anonymous people. Popular with teens, it is likened by some people to an online bathroom wall smeared with nasty comments.

Any thoughts out there on the topic?

One thought on “Interesting look at cyberbullying

  1. As someone who was bullied in person (though not online) during my freshman year of high school, I take stuff like this very seriously, and not in the customer-service “we care about your feedback” sort of way. It’s a subject that strikes close to home. I also remember middle school, and not exactly fondly. It was the adolescent usual: angst, more angst, nasty comments and plenty of time spent talking to counselors and administrators. That is, unfortunately, the way of things.

    When it comes to cyberbullying, here’s my two cents: first of all, parents can do a lot. As a middle schooler, I didn’t have a cell phone until my second semester of eighth grade. I survived. If your child doesn’t have a compelling need for a cell phone in middle school, don’t give them one. When it comes to social networking, be smart. No middle school student should be on formspring.me. The questions are, for the most part, unintelligent, sexual in nature, and just plain bad. I’m not sure anybody needs that, but your kid can decide for themselves when they’re older. (Think sophomore or junior year of high school)

    What I think is a bad idea is an overly broad cyberbullying statute at either the state or federal level. Governments all over the world have shown that they have a) no clue at all how the internet works and b) that they are ineffective, at best, at regulating the content therein. The Times article already shows how one girl borrowed her friend’s cell phone to bully another girl, so the friend took the fall instead of the bully. A boy who lost his cell phone had it used by someone else to send threatening texts, but he was called out for it. If a misunderstanding takes place in a criminal proceeding, that’s ruining someone’s year, if not their life. And aggressively prosecuting bullying will only make it harder to get victims to come forward.

    My take: give schools the tools they need to responsibly handle bullying complaints brought by students. That means: students need to bring the issue to administrators, with digital evidence, before anyone does anything else. I think that’s the sanest, simplest and most responsible thing to do.

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