Going into this week’s topic, cyberbullying, I knew it would be tough. Along with many others, I struggle to find the line in identifying what really is cyberbullying and what is just a result of a decision. What I did determine this week is that at the core issue with all of this involves empathy and a societal belief that it is acceptable to publicly shame other people. Whether a bad decision was made or not, what gives others the right to make someone feel badly? Why are people, including myself, so obsessed with drama? These are the struggles I had to face this week, and I think through it all the best possible solution is still the most common solution to all issues: education.
Understanding what cyberbullying is and why it is so incredibly dangerous for our schools helped me with coming to the conclusion that we need to educate our students better about its effects. It is “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices” (Hinduja and Patchin, 2015, p. 11). This means that any time anyone is purposefully and repeatedly hurting anyone through technology, they are cyberbullying. Something even scarier about it is that it is impossible to escape since “is not restrained by time or space and can use multiple media platforms” (Brewer and Kerslake, 2015). Because of this, self-esteem is directly affected, and youth are naturally more susceptible to self-esteem issues. This is what happened to Ryan Halligan (Ryan’s story, 2015) and Kylie Kenney (Stuglinsky, 2006) years ago and what unfortunately still happens to teens despite the knowledge we now have with preventing it.
One of the strongest realizations I had occurred because of the videos for our discussion this week. One of the ways people are cyberbullied is by someone taking what they thought were private conversations and making them public for people to them shame them with. Monica Lewinsky’s (TED, 2015) story is one I am familiar with, and when I originally listened to her tell her story I thought about how I would feel listening to my own regretful private confessions out loud. Throughout the media, adults are showing our children that it is alright to attack others online for their mistakes and no one is taking control and teaching them otherwise. Our students are mimicking what they see online, but the effects on children are often more devastating because they are still discovering who and what they wanted to be (TED, 2013). They also do not have the coping skills yet to deal with this sort of painful attack. If we expect them to stop hurting one another online, we have to be the ones to consistently teach them the importance of reporting and preventing cyberbullying.
Empathy is a necessary skill that is often skipped over so that teachers make sure they cover tested content within their classrooms. I attempt to address it whenever possible with my students but am aware that it is not a central focus. If we expect to see a real difference in the upcoming generations with how they treat one another, we have to make empathy and digital citizenship a priority. They need to see and feel the ramifications of cyberbullying regularly in required K-12 courses. I just hope we are able to make this change before more struggling students turn to violence or are permanently affected for the rest of their lives. Being kind is one of the simplest things a person can do, but for it to be a consistent trait it must be reinforced.
Brewer, G., & Kerslake, J. (2015). Cyberbullying, self-esteem, empathy and loneliness. Computers in Human Behavior, 48, 255-260. Brewer_Cyberbullying_Self-esteem_Empathy_Loneliness.pdf
Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (2015). Bullying beyond the schoolyard: Preventing and responding to cyperbullying. (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Ryan’s Story Presentation LTD. (2015). Ryan’s story. Retrieved from http://www.ryanpatrickhalligan.org/index.html
Struglinski, S. (2006, August 18). Schoolyard bullying has gone high-tech. Retrieved from http://www.deseretnews.com/article/645194065/Schoolyard-bullying-has-gone-high-tech.html
TED. (2013, March 8). “To this day”…for the bullied and beautiful | Shane Koyczan [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sa1iS1MqUy4
TED. (2015, March 20). The price of shame | Monica Lewinsky [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_8y0WLm78U