There seems to be an app for everything these days. CNN’s blog on Education recently posted about some ingenious students at Metropolitan Academy in New Haven, CT, who are creating an iPhone app that lets students anonymously report bullying to school administrators.
The app, Back Off Bully, allows bystanders to let School Administrators know who the bully/bullies were, where the incident took place and who was victimized.
Adults can be victims too. Karen Klein, a 68 year-old school bus monitor from Greece, NY, was the victim of bullying at the hands of middle school students she’s responsible for. Ms. Klein appeared on the “Today” show this morning and discussed with Matt Lauer her experience of what happened.
The video shows several students mocking and publicly degrading her. I could only watch about 3 minutes of the 10 minute video. The language is sickening. Please be warned some may be offended by the language in the clip.
A few hours ago the Rochester Police Department and Greece Central School District held a press conference delineating the progress of the investigation. Ms. Klein has chosen not to press charges.
This week, all over the internet news, is this unfortunate incident of a Texas teacher asking students to strike another student who was known to be a bully.The student identified as a bully, Aiden, is just 6 years old. The teacher asked students to hit the bully, “to teach him why bullying is bad.”
Ironically, corporal punishment is legal in some public schools but as the Reuters article points out, teachers -and not students- are the ones doling out punishments.
Much of what is written about bullying focuses on what to do if your child is a victim. Little is written on what to do if your child is actually a bully. When parents find out their child has been bullying others, I have witnessed them initially respond in a variety of different ways: utter shame and guilt, tempered anger, quiet embarrassment or denial and defensiveness.
Neither response is ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ and frankly, I would never want to be in that position. We want our children to be viewed in the best light possible. Being labeled a bully can inadvertently foster a social role/expectation among a child’s peer group and school community, thus perpetuating the bullying cycle.
The first step to stop bullying is having child’s community at large - parents, school staff and most importantly peers – respond to it when it’s happening.
As I posted yesterday, two news stories caught my eye early this week: a mother attacking her child’s bully and Facebook taking measures to lower the age restriction on their site. I view both instances as ‘wins’ for cyberbullying.
Today, I’ll share some thoughts on why lowering the age restriction could be detrimental to our children.
In case you were unaware, Facebook’s age restriction is currently 13 years of age, complying with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Yet, 7.5 million profiles on Facebook are operated by users younger than 13-years old! I’ve found myself speaking to students in the 4th grade about online behavior, particularly on Facebook, then asking, “Does your mother know you have a profile?”
Usually, a precocious giggle answers my question.
I have my reservations regarding Facebook’s attempt to lower the age restriction. First and foremost, a child as young as 10 is, developmentally, eons behind a 13 year old. To fully conceptualize that social networking sites allow – literally – the whole world into the house is beyond the developmental capacity for younger children. Even teenagers (and some adults) have had a difficult time remembering this!
Most importantly though, I find the greatest danger is that the social and emotional skills children develop in real life, face-to-face, relationships will be circumvented if we allow younger children to do their socializing online.
I came across some news reports of a Florida mother choking her daughter’s Facebook bully. It seems that Debbie Piscitella was at her wits end! I cannot condone her behavior, but completely empathize with her feelings towards her daughter’s bully.
Some news reports have quoted what the bully wrote and suffice to say I don’t know any parent that wouldn’t want to strike with a vengeance.
But as adults we don’t. And we shouldn’t. We want to model behavior that we want our children to emulate.
Also in the news, it’s been reported by several different outlets that Facebook is taking measures to lower the age restriction on their site. More on that tomorrow.
Why write about these two news stories? I think both stories delineate a huge problems with social networking - the lack of resources parents have to help keep their children safe from online bullying.