This week’s topic really struck a chord with me. Now that I am a mother, I find myself putting my son, RJ, into the shoes of the children we learned about this week. I learned by reading through the discussion board that there is a mother in our course whose son was heavily bullied as a child, and it makes me so sad to think that I can’t always prevent harmful or hurtful things to happen for my son one day when he’s older. He is only fifteen months old now, but I know that one day he is going to be going off to elementary and eventually middle school, and who knows where we will be with technology by then. In ten years, so much has changed from 2007 to 2017, so I can only imagine where we will be in 2027.
Something else that made me think a lot this week is how little schools have set in place to deal with cyberbullying. I took this opportunity to look up my own school district’s bullying policy. There is a list of possible consequences for students who are determined to be cyberbullies, as stated in the Owen J. Roberts School District High School Student Handbook: 1. Counseling within the school. 2. Parental conference. 3. Loss of school privileges. 4. Transfer to another school building, classroom or school bus. 5. Exclusion from school-sponsored activities. 6. Detention 7. Suspension 8. Counseling / therapy outside of school. 9. Referral to law enforcement officials (OJR Handbook, 2017). Most of these potential consequences seem insignificant to me. Why would a bully be sent to counseling without any kind of actual consequence like a detention or suspension? Also, to some students, suspension is not even a consequence. It is a time when they get to stay home (usually without parents because parents are working) and relax while being allowed to make up all of the school work they miss.
There just HAS to be a better way to address the problem. I wrote about in my discussion post this week that I think the one way to make a difference is to strongly promote kindness and doing the right thing rather than just promoting the potential consequences for doing the wrong thing. Maybe if we focus more on the good and less on the bad, students will be more likely to step up to the plate because they’ve been taught how to take the high road and be the good guy, rather than just being threatened with nine potential consequences listed in the handbook. Bullying is something that has been around since the first day of school, ever, but cyberbullying has a more dramatic, lasting, and global effect. It is one thing to be humiliated in front of 10 students on a playground and it’s forgotten the next time someone else trips and lands on their fact. It’s another when it’s in front of 1000 students or more online and never disappears because it becomes a part of your forever digital footprint that anyone can relive any time they want. I think back to when I was in high school and the internet was JUST starting to become common place, and how much simpler my life was in relation to my students’ lives because of this. I am happy I didn’t have to go through this myself, but I am sad that my children will.
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