Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Meaningful Meme: Bullying

"st stanislaus is beaten by his brother" by antmoose


Clay Burell has once again challenged bloggers to think, respond, and make a difference.

In "A Meaningful Meme: Your 'Bullied Then, Successful Now' Stories" he re-links us to a podcast posting about his personal experiences with bullies and asks readers to share their own stories.

To be honest, my childhood was undramatic and largely uneventful. I was subject to some teasing about being chubby, which caused a lot of pre-teen angst, but my strong sense of self was able to bring me through this period relatively unscathed. I'm still conscious of my weight, but my eating habits are moderate and I don't have unreasonable expectations about my appearance. One positive result of my less-than-lean years is that I'm sensitive to the weight anxiety of others, particularly young females, and take care never to make any remarks that might be interpreted as critical of their body type.

With motherhood came an unexpected surge of rage and aggression when dealing with bullies: anyone who taunted or tormented my children had to deal with my militant protective instincts. My son and daughter have each fought their own battles with bullies, but the story is theirs to tell, if they so choose.

Now, as a teacher, I have come up against the latest, most vicious, form of bullying, cyber bullying. A school social worker told me that this is a very real danger, more traumatic than face to face bullying for a number of reasons:
  • it occurs 24/7 so the victim can not escape even if physically removed from the bullies
  • the (perceived) anonymity of the Internet encourages people who would not normally engage in bullying behavior to become cruel and verbally abusive
  • others join in and goad the "combatants," frequently expanding the number of people involved, sometimes even drawing parents into the fracas
  • online confrontations can spill over into real life, resulting in fights at school
  • for those who are unable to cope with cyber bullying, there can be tragic results
There are a number of excellent online resources that deal with cyber bullying, cyber safety, and good digital citizenship. NetSmartz, WiredSafety, and the National Crime Prevention Council provide information on these issues.

The company for which I am a consultant, CyberSmart!, offers a free K-8 online curriculum with standards-based lesson plans and activity sheets that cover all aspects of responsible Internet use. There will be additions made to existing CyberSmart! lessons on bullying to create a complete bullying package of lessons for grades 2-12 available by beginning of the 2008-09 school year.

If you haven't done so yet, be sure to watch Growing Up Online, the PBS documentary about how the Internet impacts the lives of our children.

Even those of us who weren't personally victimized by bullies recognize their power for evil. Whether face to face or online, bullying is unacceptable at any age. We all need to be aware, alert, and ready to intervene wherever, whenever, however bullying appears.

4 comments:

Clay Burell said...

Thanks for this, Diane. The cyber-bullying angle is disturbing indeed.

I saw a video recently I thought I bookmarked, but can't find, narrated by a British (?) teen boy about being cyber-bullied. The bullies here were girls.

It was so well-done (though fictional, I think). Do you know the one I'm talking about?

Gotta run. Much love.

A Keeper's Jackpot said...

I'm having a hard time picturing you chubby...

pc said...

Hi Diane,
Thanks for your meaningful thoughts about cyber-bullying and your link to CyberSmart. I reflected on the meme and provided a link to your site today.
Best regards,

diane said...

pc,

The focus on adult online sexual predators shifts attention from the far more prevalent instances of cyber bullying.

The result is that students are blocked from the tools that they need at school..and go home to use unsupervised computers without having a clear idea of how to be safe and appropriate online.

diane