Friday, April 27, 2012

Define "Bullying"

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Danah Boyd's article, "Bullying" Has Little Resonance with Teenagers, really hit home with me. She points out that students often don't think of the situations they are experiencing around them as "bullying". The term reminds them of elementary school and the kids who gets picked on just because they are different. It becomes a question of semantics. If kids don't relate to the word 'bullying' then why are we using it?

The CyberSmart! curriculum has many well laid out lessons, but if we are not talking the same language are we really teaching our students anything. Especially in the realm of Digital Citizenship, if it isn't relevant to their lives students students are not going to engage with the material. Sure, they might complete the tasks we ask for, but it is simply busy work for them. We must find a way to connect with our students and help them deal with the issues they are actually facing.

Our students text. Our students chat. Many of our students (even the under 13s) have FaceBook accounts. What are we doing to help them learn to navigate these parts of their lives successfully?

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Tara Parker-Pope wrote about the struggle in her own family in the article, "When Dad Banned Text Messaging". She points out that, though she wondered about the meaningfulness of her daughter's 100 texts per day it was the messages her daughter received that stopped her in her tracks.

"That’s when I learned about the mean-girl texts, the ones no one would have the nerve to say to a person’s face but are easy to send from one nonconfrontational phone to another."

So, we don't call it 'bullying'. Perhaps we don't even name it. We explain situations and ask students if they can relate to what we are describing. I guarantee you they have either been directly involved or on the fringe of a conversation that has occurred because someone was mean to someone else via cyberspace.

Once we have shown students that we understand their world they will be more likely to hear what we have to say. Just as we had to teach them, when they were younger, to go directly to the person (taking an adult when needed), to use "I" statements, and to realize that they don't have to be friends with everyone, but they do have to show respect for everyone, we now have to transfer these lessons to their digital interactions.

Are we taking our role seriously?


  1. It's one of the bigger challenges today Kristi. I was just talking about this with colleagues last night. We don't allow any cell phones in class at our school, but there are even more lessons on line today using smart phones. I think you are right that this demands so much 'different' conversation. I know we're working on it, but also know that schools are full up with things they have to do & don't always want to take on something else. You've posed a big question here.

  2. An interesting idea. An important role, to teach, guide and protect.
    Thought provoking question at the end.