Jessica Carol, guest contributor
School-yard bullying has taken on a whole new meaning in this day and age. Those fat kids who harassed you and took your lunch money have gone digital and the Internet is largely responsible for it. On the surface this may seem pretty harmless when compared to facing a menace face to face but as witnessed in the Amanda Todd case the problem that started off as just a simple way to have fun while hiding behind a computer screen has gotten worse, thanks to our own negligence.
Justin Patchin Speaks Out
In a recent Interview, Co-Director of the Cyberbullying Research Center and Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Justin W. Patchin stressed upon the threats cyberbullying poses to kids. While comparing regular bullying to the digital version Patchin remarked that “Using technology can be just as harmful if not worse for some teens.”
With technology penetrating our lives more and more each day the risk of our kids getting exposed to these digital felons continues to grow bigger. Parents might be able to keep a strict eye on their child’s technology time at home but the advent of portable smart devices like iPhones and iPads means that our kids can go online from school at any time they want and indulge in activities which can have a long lasting effect on their life. This is where educators need to do their part and not just limit instruction to the boundaries of a classroom.
Since kids spend a good chunk of their time at school the effects of cyberbullying can be easily seen inside the classroom. Sudden odd behavior and short temper can be a symptom. An educator’s involvement at that point can help keep their students on track and prevent their grades from slipping. Teachers can organize after school classes to speak about the use of technology and how students can effectively tackle a situation where they are made victim of hate speech. There might not be laws to prevent cyberbullies from harassing others but educators are certainly capable of advising students on how to avoid such scenarios. Speaking about the role educators can play Dr. Patchin is of the view that “Educators need to be more educated about the problem so that they can respond to it more effectively.”
A debate that has sparked up in recent years is that the internet and video games are preventing kids from developing hobbies and pursuing outdoor activities. Teachers can organize soccer or basketball games or encourage students to take up a hobby like drawing or skateboarding. This will not only provide the necessary mental and physical conditioning but will also keep them away from prying eyes.
Encouraging students to speak about their personal experiences with cyberbullying or reporting an incident to an adult to resolve an issue instead of keeping it bottled up inside is another useful technique educators can employ.
Jessica Carol has been working on internet security related issues such as Cyberbullying. Her articles have mostly landed on the Mobistealth blog, where she’s covered several aspects of parental control. She tweets @jcarol429