Cyberbullying: Do We Understand It

Typing in the term cyberbullying on Google brings up lots of hits.  There are tons of examples of children and even adults who have bullied over the Internet. There are examples of the types of bullying; the consequences to the people who are bullied and to those who are the bullies.  You can type in dealing with cyberbullying and get lots of advice.  The advice varies and is sometimes is not as helpful as it could be.  Some advice is directed at parents while others is directed to teachers.  However, is cyberbullying more complex of an issue that many of us are able to deal with?

The tragedy of Jamey Rodemeyer highlights how quickly things can get out of control and how powerless people can be to deal with this on their own and how powerless people can be to help.  What is very interesting in this article are the comments that have been posted.  There is a lot of sympathy for Jamey and his family.  There is also a lot of discourse on what could have been done to help and the need for this type of incident to never happen again.  However, are we as adults, parents and teachers trained and prepared to help children when incidents of cyberbullying occur?

In the article Bullying is True Drama,  Danah Boyd and Alice Marwick talk about how

“adults are failing to recognize how their conversations about bullying are often misaligned with youth narratives. Adults need to start paying attention to the language of youth if they want anti-bullying interventions to succeed.”

In another article by Danah Boyd she states that

“For most teenagers, the language of bullying does not resonate. When teachers come in and give anti-bullying messages, it has little effect on most teens. Why? Because most teens are not willing to recognize themselves as a victim or as an aggressor”

So in this day an age, do we understand what students are talking about when it comes to bullying?  Do we understand what they mean about “drama” and other teenage terms?  Would it not make sense that as adults we have to have a better understanding what our children are thinking and talking about in terms of cyberbullying before we can act on it or help them?  Ms. Boyd goes on to say

“To complicate matters more, although school after school is scrambling to implement anti-bullying programs, no one is assessing the effectiveness of these programs. This is not to say that we don’t need education – we do. But we need the interventions to be tested. And my educated hunch is that we need to be focusing more on positive frames that use the language of youth rather than focusing on the negative.”

Like most teachers, I have received some training about what to do when you become aware of a child that is being bullied.  However, cyberbullying is different.  As we get further into the digital age I want to make sure if I am confronted by cyberbullying that I have the proper tools to work with so that I can help the people who need it.  It takes time to deal with any new issues that can have a big impact on education.  It might be a good idea that since we all work in international schools here in Tokyo that our schools get together and pool their resources and knowledge in an effort to have some consistent strategies in place for the short term.  It might also be a good idea to get some experts to come in and share their experiences, ideas and knowledge with us.  I hope something like this can happen as I want to know more about what to do when cyberbullying happens and I am confronted with it.

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One response to “Cyberbullying: Do We Understand It

  1. I like the idea of schools in Tokyo coming together to discuss cyberbullying, but I wonder how different the individual school responses would be. Each school community is unique and the way they handle these situations will be different. Does that make one better or worse? Or is it the right response for the right population? It’s an interesting thing to think about. I’m sure there are responses that are flat-out wrong, but I’m equally sure that there are many different facets of “right” or “best” in this situation. Interesting to think of all of us coming together to discuss how we would handle these kinds of issues though – certainly would be eye opening!

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