The news has been full of stories lately about cyberbullying and children committing suicide due to online taunts. Here in Wisconsin, there have been several shocking cyberbullying cases which prompted our district to call in an expert who spoke to grades six and up about what is possible out there in cyberspace, how to stop a cyberbullying situations, and what would happen to a student if they were found to be harassing another student online.
As the law stands right now, any behavior that disrupts class or threatens a student can be stopped by the district. A student who is engaging in bullying behavior online from his home computer can be reprimanded by the school. I suppose it is legally akin to suspending a student for drinking even if it is off of school grounds. As scary as this may be to parents, few of them seem to show up to meetings to become informed. I suppose they think that it could never affect them, or they’re unaware of the potential of the problem.
There are two things, in my opinion, that make this kind of bullying worse than the standard variety that most parents and teachers are aware of.
1. The Internet is anonymous. When a child logs on to the Internet, he is not Billy in science class; he is Bcrasher153, or some other secret identity. This gives children the idea that they can say anything on the internet and get away with it. The whole World Wide Web is a giant bathroom wall, where anything can be said, or responded to, or carried on by anyone. Rarely does the victim have a name or a face to attach to the bully. A parent asks, “Who is picking on you? I’ll call their parents.” The child can only say, “I don’t know who they are.”
2. The Internet is unavoidable. The first reaction that a lot of parents and teachers might have to a student being bullied online is, “Don’t go on the computer.” But a child does not need to have a computer to be bullied; rumors and harassment can be posted on Facebook pages by other students and seen by other students. The victim might never know that a bully has made an “I hate Kathy” Web site, for example. In short, once a bully has decided in using the Internet, the bullying is unavoidable.
With everything that is happening out there and the news stories of bullying and suicide, I am wondering how many districts have an online component to their bullying or harassment policy. What are some of the roadblocks that you have run into in trying to combat cyberbullying? Or successes in overcoming it?
NetsafeUtah.org is a site that has done a lot of good in creating programs for children to educate them about online bullying.