Friday, October 10, 2008

Education Week Holds Live Chat on Cyberbullying sponsored a live chat focused on cyberbullying today. The chat featured Sameer Hinduja and Justin W. Patchin who are Internet-safety experts who are co-authors of the new book Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying. They also created, an information clearinghouse on cyberbullying.

One educator asked how can a teacher know that a student is being bullied, if most of the bullying happens out of school, online? Dr. Patchin answered that educators are very good at sensing when a student is distressed and to ask them what is causing their distress. He also says to make the student feel safe and welcome, so that they feel comfortable in talking to the teacher about the issue. This is extremely important as research shows that most kids do not tell teachers or their parents when they have been cyberbullied. I think another tell tale sign to look out for is if you have a student who is all of a sudden, chronically absent, or withdrawn from the other students in the class.

More than one participant in the chat asked what grades/ages are most affected by cyberbullying. The answer was that they seemed to see the most evidence of cyberbullying happening in 7th and 8th grade, which is also true of traditional bullying. They also suggest that cyberbulying prevention education should take place in elementary school.

Another educator asked a question, that I myself ask..."1. By definition, what is bullying? 2. What is cyberbullying?"

The answer to this question was:
Bullying can be defined as unprovoked aggression often directed repeatedly toward another individual or group of individuals. We define cyberbullying as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” Conceptions of cyberbullying victimization must stem from the target's perspective.

Net Family News
had reported on a very interesting article from the Journal of Adolescent Health a couple of weeks ago questioning the definition of what cyberbullying is. Is it automatically cyberbullying when a kid gets an email or text message from someone else insulting them? Or is cyberbullying repeated harrassment of a victim over and over again? Are there levels of cyberbullying compared to cyberharrassment?

Another very common question that was asked was, "At what point does what appears on the Internet become a school issue/responsibility in terms of discipline?"

Dr. Hiduja answered:
"When it substantially or material disrupts learning, interferes with the educational process, compromises the value system that the school district and school are trying to foster, infringes upon another student's rights (civil rights or their ability to learn without distraction and harassment), when it is obscene, when school-owned technology is used to mistreat others, and when it involves a school-sponsored activity or a school-sponsored resource. With this said, we encourage informal responses and only suggest formal responses (changes of placement, suspensions, expulsions) in severe cases."

Other questions and topics that were discussed were about online gaming and cyberbullying as well as parent education, acceptable use policies, teacher and student education. I encourage you to read the entire transcript of the chat, it is full of information about cyberbullying.

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