Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cyberbullying: New Laws+No Tolerance+Education=A Solution?

A coworker hit me up with a problem that she observed in her classroom this past week - cyberbullying. Apparently, she had given an assignment to her class and they were to work on it during class time. As she was wandering the room, she noticed another student making fun of a student sitting right next to her on Facebook. Why was she making fun of her? For doing her assignment.

The student was asked to leave class but now the coworker isn't sure what she should do to combat future issues like this. I guess I never really thought of the concept of cyberbullying in a college atmosphere - perhaps I have given too much credit to students thinking that leaving high school would force them to leave high school behavior.

Grammar schools through high schools I am sure have taken proper measures to make the public computers not be able to access several social networking sites server-side, but colleges and universities give the students a much greater freedom (as it should, let's face it the students are adults even though they may not always act on it).

The Phoebe Prince story has brought cyberbullying into the limelight worldwide (if you don't know the Phoebe Prince story may I introduce you to a friend of mine named Google, you two will hit it off). It has caused several states (44 to be exact) to take on legislature to prevent cyberbullying - most of it focusing on education.

To start with, education for cyberbullying has about the same chances of working as sex education has had on teen pregnancy and health class has had on obesity. Students will be spoon fed ideology on how to treat others and what is proper behavior but anyone who remembers high school knows that will not have much of an impact on a rather large body of the high school population.

Several schools have started a no tolerance policy for both cyberbullying in and out of school. And, local authorities will also take part in prosecution, sort of. If you remember two years ago Victoria Lindsay was beaten by several classmates on YouTube and all they got was a slap on the wrist which showed that the authorities are not taking this seriously. On a side note, how many times has Mercedes Nichols (the one that beat the hell out of Victoria Lindsay) been arrested during her three year probation where she was restricted to not use social networking sites? Just via some search engine searches I saw she violated a restraining order and beat and stabbed an ex-boyfriend.

I am rather curious how the judge planned on monitoring that she is restricted from social networking sites. It doesn't take a master computer sleuth to find public computers and create a new account. And if she has a little computer savvy, she can break out the Tor network and get her cyberbullying on with a network that would be a real pain to monitor.

Grammar through high schools that have a no tolerance rule in place are going to be met with a fight from both students and parents who will say it is a first amendment violation and this is going to not be the last you have heard about that battle.

Personally, to help protect myself and as advice to my coworker, I will be adding a nice long paragraph to my syllabus explaining that use of Facebook, etc. is prohibited in class and any cyberbullying will be met with forced withdrawal from the class. It is a rather weak solution to a tough problem but childish behavior requires childish actions.

What do you think? What tips would you use to help prevent cyberbullying in the classroom for both college aged students and younger? Feel free to use the comments section.

1 comment:

  1. As a middle school teacher, I have found that cyberbullying is a huge issue. Yes we have filters, etc. to block social networking sites, but of course they always find some proxy site to use...not in my class though, I'm too savvy for those sneaky teenagers!  The main issue we have with cyberbullying is outside of our school. In fact, we have had several fist fights break out during school hours due to cyberbullying that occurred outside of school. Unfortunately, in the community I teach in, “no tolerance” is not a scary phrase to the majority of our students. I feel that being a computer teacher, I have to take on the task of educating our students about cybersafety and cyberbullying. It’s surprising to see how many students jump at the chance to tell me their story relating to the cyber world. That shows me that not many students have a tech savvy adult to talk to about these issues. I find that most parents of teenagers don’t have a clue about social networking sites or how to keep tabs on their child and what they are doing/saying online. I feel that the parents are uneducated when it comes to the computer world and many parents allow my students to have their own computer in their bedroom and they are up until all hours of the night chatting away. Unfortunately, I don’t know that we’ll ever see an end to cyberbullying, but I think not only do we have to do our best to educate our students, but not forget about the parents that need to know and see what is going on online with their child and peers.