With Power comes Responsibility

Posted: May 10, 2014 in Course 2
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Pull the Plug on Cyber bullying by Nicki Hambleton

Pull the Plug on Cyber bullying by Nicki Hambleton

Power, Control and Relationships

In my school we are lucky that physical bullying is so small an issue – but today bullying  takes so many different forms that does it go unnoticed or recognised?

Taking to my tutor group, I challenged them to find me on Facebook to see how my Privacy settings are and I searched for them too. It is clear some of them have a way to go when securing their online activity and need some lessons in ethical posting and commenting. Through this I stumble on ask.fm, a site I abhor for its blatant abusive questioning and how students respond in a way that they clearly wouldn’t F2F. Its problem lies in the option to ask and respond anonymously and it this feature that leads to its abuse. Back in August 2013, a British teenager committed suicide following a tirade of bullying abuse on the site and it came under fire to close down to prevent such behaviour happening. A petition to stop the site allowing anonymity appears on change.org but currently with few signatures. Father of the victim, Hannah Smith says stricter rules should apply to social media and that stricter guidelines are needed to prevent cyber bullying. the BBC reports that “Mr Smith has called for tighter controls to be applied to social networking sites such as ask.fm. “I have just seen the abuse my daughter got from people on ask fm and the fact that these people can be annoymous is wrong [sic].” BBC leicestershire, 6 August 2013

In light of so many incidents, Facebook and Formspring (the US site that ask.fm was modelled on) have brought in extra moderators to police commenting and track down perpetrators but ask.fm appears to be running as it always has.

But it is not just in the UK this such anti-social behaviour happening, it is worldwide as this video shows:

What can be done – is tougher action needed? Who is to blame?

“Cyber bullying is a secretive and growing behaviour among children and teenagers.  It has replaced the piece of paper that used to be passed from student to student across the back row of a class-room while the teacher wasn’t looking. This new medium has enabled a victim of bullying to be targeted in her own bedroom and at any time of the day or night.  Teachers are often unfairly blamed for not responding to bullying in school.  The reality is that most teachers are unaware of any animosity between two girls or groups of girls, as teachers have no control over what a child/teen is engaged in while that child/teen is at home in her own room!  Yet teachers are blamed.” Robert Pereira, Why we Bully Bullying Prevention 

How can we as educators police it? We cannot access their sites or read their pages. All we can do is educate them advise them.

In the article on Hannah Smith’s suicide, The Department for Education said in a statement that “no-one should have to suffer the fear and victimisation of bullying. The law is clear that what is illegal off-line is also illegal on-line. Perpetrators of grossly offensive, obscene or menacing behaviour face stiff punishment. Through the UK Council of Child Internet Safety we are working with social networking sites and internet providers to make the internet a safer place for a young people. It also added that under the new curriculum children would be taught from the age of five how to stay safe online, and how to communicate safely and respectfully”. BBC Leicestershire, August 6 2013

Another angle we should be aware of is the age laws of social network sites. The law is there for a reason and despite this parents allow their child to sign up. In many situations though, parents are not aware their child is on these sites so they cannot protect, monitor and advise them accordingly. As educators we MUST advise students from an early age; to guide them through the labyrinth of behaviour online and its problems and pitfalls. Leo Kelion reports that Ask.fm says “users must be at least 13-years-old to join and requires them to provide a valid name and email address when they register, although reports suggest younger children sneak through using fake credentials.”

Sticks and Stones

Throughout the Grade 6 programme through Life Skills and the tutor, a key skill is taught; that of being an upstander rather than a bystander. The following video demonstrates the ongoing issue the public has with taking a stand against others and it is through this sort of resource we work with our youngsters to help them understand their responsibilities as a part of our community. One such task is Rings of Responsibility where students explore their relationships and subsequent responsibilities on and offline.  (Common Sense media)

What is a good citizen? How can we change others?

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 07.50.25Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 07.50.08

Kevin Honneycutt‘s posts on Twitter last week rang true to me and he points out that awareness is crucial in helping to stamp out bullying online. Back in the UK, I remember a bullying policy of No Blame, yet it has progressed further since then in addressing the issue before it develops. Helping youngsters to think before they post is an important step towards preventing such harm to an individual and encouraging students to speak out confidently. It all boils down to a matter of ethics and teaching this is our job as educators.

Think before you post

Grade 7 Bullying poster courtesy of Frank Curkovic

Grade 7 Bullying poster courtesy of Frank Curkovic

The story of Amanda Todd cannot fail to touch everyone yet still people are posting hateful comments even now. To what lengths do individuals go to to upset or continue the pain? This is a lesson all students should be taught and hopefully put a stop to such awful behaviour. You can see how Amanda’s story affected teens on this video link.

Pull the plug on cyber bullying

Writing this post, as not only an educator of youngsters but as a mother, has really affected and upset in me and I feel compelled into action to prevent this happening in our school or others. What will you do to help spread the word and to stamp out cyber bullying?

My Action:

I will use these stories and videos to spark understanding and to inspire action. In Life Skills I will get students to work together to produce a PSA about cyber bullying, teach empathy and the consequences of actions online.

Leave only positive footprints

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Comments
  1. Anne Dirilgen says:

    Hi Nikki,
    Reading about Cyber bulling got me down too. I really had no idea. I live in a bit of a bubble, small school, don’t hear about it much and my kids are way too little but it is out there. The story of Amanda Todd really broke my heart. I have since talked with my students a bit and see how prevalent it is. More then I thought. My action will to bring this up to our middle school coordinator about starting a program next school year in regarding to awareness online. I don’t think my school does much in that regards. It is on my to do list first thing Monday.

    • Nicki Hambleton says:

      I am sure I was not the only one who felt so strongly about this. I am not even sure that I wrote the right blog post but it got me thinking how bad it can get for some poor kids. I am sure so much is behind closed doors too, do we even know half of what goes on? The Internet is so visible yet so invisible to us teachers/parents. How can we possibly help other than by educating them in best behaviour?

  2. Clint Hamada says:

    Nicki, thanks as always for a very heartfelt and passionate response to an important topic. I’m looking forward to seeing the product of your action with your students. I’m sure it will be amazing. But more importantly, I think it will be empowering to the students themselves to realize that they are the most important elements in breaking this bullying cycle.

    • Nicki Hambleton says:

      I know – that is so true. As a Head of Grade for our next academic year and currently dealing with a very complex version of this, it is a daunting prospect as it is so difficult to track if it goes unreported. So many kids just put up with it, bury it or think it is their fault rather than talking about it. I think they believe it is part of growing up and that it will only escalate but no child deserves to feel like this. Thanks as always for your encouragement!

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