Why schools & parents need to fight cyberbullying together

Maybe it's obvious, but for anyone who's not sure the line between school grounds and what happens at home should be crossed, here's the view of a UK researcher who has been following the rise of cyberbullying closely:

"We know from research that bullying puts the emotional wellbeing and educational achievement of pupils at risk and has a significant and lasting negative impact upon children’s lives. In addition, it impacts on truancy, exclusions, participation in further or higher education and the incidence of self-harm and suicide," writes Dr. Denise Carter at the University of Hull in TeachingExpertise.com.

Why a home-school joint effort? Because this problem is not about technology or even behavior and discipline alone. One of Dr. Carter's findings in a survey she conducted was young people's "lack of life experience to deal with these issues on an emotional, psychological and social level." Young people gain life experience wherever they are – at home, at school, and everywhere in between – and adults in these learning environments know that there is no cookie-cutter way all children develop their street smarts or life literacy.

We know, too, that removing risk is not the solution to cyberbullying. It's teaching youth to "anticipate, recognize, and deal with risks as and when they arise," Carter writes. She also refers to their need to develop emotional resilience, as in helping them internalize that "this is not the end of the world," "I won't let this get to me," "I don't need to react," "there is more to me and my life than these people and what they're doing." These very basic concepts I'm tossing out as suggestions are mine, not Dr. Carter's – she may not agree – but they do illustrate her point that because life literacy is the solution, both problem and solution obliterate any boundary between home and school and deeply affect academic learning and success.

I'd add one more essential element: teaching citizenship, or social behavior. Our consumers or students of anti-cyberbullying education are not just potential victims or potential bullies (one can turn into the other in a matter of seconds on the Net); they're participants. In effect, they're stakeholders in their own well-being and education as well as their peers'; aggressive behavior hurts them as well as others because it can come right back at them and then create a downward spiral within the peer group and beyond (see also this article in the Archive of Pediatrics ). So the cyberbullying curriculum necessarily includes life literacy and citizenship. For a lighter but thoughtful take on cybercitizenship ed, see Vanessa Van Petten's "13 holy cybercitizen laws." [Thanks to California tech educator Anne Bubnic for pointing Dr. Carter's article out.]

Related links

* "Another Teen Beating Videotape, This One in Indiana"
* "Police think Indiana teen beating inspired by Lakeland [Fla.] case"
* Tennessee fight video: "Two Southwind Middle School girls were suspended Monday after their locker room fight was posted on the Internet," reports the Commercial Appeal in the Memphis area.
* "Video Beating Stokes Debate Over Fame, Violence" in TechNewsWorld.com.


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