Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cyberbullying - A Growing Global Issue

There was a lot of attention a few weeks ago on a story from Florida in which some students planned to post a video online of themselves beating up another girl. Unfortunately, this is not a new issue, but is an increasing one. In fact, I recently typed in the search term “girl fight” into Google Video and it returned 5,863 videos! Now, I certainly can’t verify whether all of those results are actually videos of girls fighting each other, but it is an astonishing number. Obviously, it is a medium that people enjoying posting and humiliating others with, not only in America, but around the world. I see articles about cyberbullying every single day from newspapers and websites from Canada, the U.K., Japan and Australia. The common themes from most of the articles are:

1. Kids are being bullied online and can be significantly affected by the abuse.
2. A number of parents do not understand the technical lives of their children, what they are saying to others online and what is being said to them.
3. Kids aren’t going to stop using computers and cell phones because of cyberbullying.

60 Minutes in Australia published a story two weeks ago about cyberbullying. It is about a 12 minute long video and worth watching. It follows a girl who is being cyberbullied by classmates in her school. If it wasn’t for the Australian accents, I would think that this is the story of any American student that is being cyberbullied.

What can schools do? A lot of times, cyberbullying happens off of school property and off the school system's network. According to an article I read about a school in Georgia, schools need to show that cyberbullying that takes place out of school is having an impact on students while they are in school. Schools also need to be aware of freedom of speech issues when disciplining students for cyberbullying. Does this mean that schools and teachers are powerless when it comes to protecting students from cyberbullies? published an article written by Ryan E. Winter and Dr. Robert J. Leneway that explores the topic of a school's responsibility when it comes to cyberbullying. The article also includes some links to cyberbullying resources. One thing I completely agree with from the article is that there needs to be some education about this issue for both students and parents.

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