Monday, June 13, 2011

Combating Cyberbullying |

Combating Cyberbullying | I addressed a question form a Parade reader about cyberbullying in the June 12th Parade Magazine. A commentator at the Parade website indicated that the solution is easy, "just keep the teens off of Facebook," But it isn't that easy. I wish it were.

1. Many cases of cyberbullying occur when the preteen or teen are attacked online or on digital or mobile devices by other young people who use the networks as a weapon to target the reputation of their victims. The other students who see the nasty posts, embarassing images or fake rumors then help by tormenting the victim offline, in school or at the mall.
2. Some directly cyberbully their victims, sending threats or extorting them.
3. Others get third parties who have no idea they are being manipulated to do their dirty work, as they pose as the victim and do things to get them into trouble or send them thousands of text bombs so their cell phone bills go through the roof and parents do their ditry work.
4. And some spy on their victims, share their secrets or use digital surveillance tools to violate their privacy.

It's a complicated and many-faceted issue, that involves digital and information literacy skills, digital hygiene (passwords that are easy to remember, but hard to guess) and not sharing passwords with others.

It also involves contempt for others in some cases. Students looking for entertainment when they are bored. Students looking for their 15 megabytes of fame or for attention form their peers. It may be over a boy, a girl or a gripe, or being in the wrong network at the wrong time.
But, it is growing at an alarming rate and we all need to tackle it whenever we can.

Two readers wrote me today (I was the expert in the article).

One, a technology educator, thought I was adding one more thing to an already overworked and over-burdened school system. While he may misunderstand the lay of the current law and where the law appears to be going, he is right about schools being over-burdened and how parents need to play a more decisive role. On the legal issue, the suggestion I gave in the article was for school administrators to make a call to the parents. The legal lack of clarity covers suspensions or expulsions, not conversations. That suggestion had actually come from a teacher who said she used this tactic to avoid having the student re-targeted by those other students who accused them of "taatling." Few can object to being called, if the teacher witnesses the attacks.

The other emailer thought I was saying that students who report cyberbullying are "tattletales." That couldn't be further from the truth. I hope that impression was not left with anyone else. When a big topic is covered in a couple quick paragraphs in a popular magazine with a broad general audience it can never do full justice to the subtleties of these kinds of issues. (The writer did an amazing job fitting in as much information in as small a space as she did!) All you can hope for is to let the readers know where to get more information and teach them one or two things to help. The rest is left to another article, websites like, books, longer articles and TV specials. The purpose of this article was to help one mother understand whether she should call the other parents. I think she now has enough information to be more comfortable about what to do and where to go for more information.

Students who report cyberbullying are brave and when they report the cyberbullying of others, can be heroic. Our new Don't Stand By, Stand Up campaign on Facebook encourages bystanders to report it, not support it. And our "Stop, Block and Tell!" theme at and, instructs young people to "stop" and not answer back, "block" the person or message and "tell" a trusted adult.

The great thing about this article is that people are reading it, looking for answers and are passionate about the issue. People read Parade. Lots of them do (including me!) Hopefully, this article will help parents grappling with the same issues.

And if you need more information, don't worry. It wasn't their first article on cyberbullying, nor, hopefully, their last. And in the meantime, check out our site and the other great resources recommended in the Parade article.

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