Cyberbullying

Technology has made communication exponentially faster and further reaching than it was just five years ago. People are networked (and wired together) in so many new an intricate ways. Within moments (seconds), I can reach several different groups of people with specific information or request information from them. This has made discussing concepts and sharing ideas so very easy. The information or opinion I need is always just a few keystrokes away. Incredibly convenient and liberating! People are using social networking sites like Facebook to keep track of each other as well as connect with people they do not normally have contact with. Although the richness of the contact cannot match a face to face meeting, the contacts made using the Internet and cell phones has made communication and keeping connected so very easy. All of this networking is great if used correctly but unfortunately this instantaneous communication can also be used to harass and bully others. It is often too easy to send a disparaging message from a distance using a cell phone or posting a message or picture to a webpage that sometime students (and adults) do not really consider what they are saying or doing. A hurtful message or compromising picture can be sent to hundreds of people by simply hitting enter or send. The consequences can be deadly! We cannot take away progress nor hope to limit electronic communication effectively. What we must do is instruct our students on how to use the technology for every one’s benefit and teach them the consequences of misuse.

We must teach high school students the following about cyberbullying:
• It is very likely that students will be involved in a cyberbullying incident sometime during their teen years and beyond. They are exposed to this possibility 24/7 or as long as they are allowed on the Internet or to carry a cellphone.
• Because text-based messages are often either ambiguous or sarcastic it is hard for the receiver to understand its message or its intent. Sometimes what is funny when together is hurtful in a text message or email.
• Many teens try out new identities online. As a result they can post very damaging information or pictures. Once posted they can be considered online forever….even if deleted!
• Social networking sites, blogs, wikis, chat, messaging, and video sharing are great means for self-expression. However, self-expression that is intentionally at the expense of other teens may cross the line into bullying behavior.
• Even if a teen posts a single mean comment or photo intending to embarrass or humiliate only once in anger, it quickly gets passed around online, sometimes creating a cyberbullying situation.
Cyberbullying and threats online can lead to criminal prosecution
• Self-control and respect for others should be valued online as well as in face-to-face relationships. Never post or send anything in a text that you would not want your grandmother to see or read. Chances are she might just see them!
• Bystanders, or witnesses, to cyberbullying can have a positive effect in helping the targets of online harassment.
• Save harassing or threatening messages and print them out. Then get help from trusted adults.

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