Bullying is a problem in schools and communities nationwide. Social media takes face to face interaction from individuals and creates a breeding ground for shame, insults, and bullying to occur. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has defined bullying as an act “That occurs when a person is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself. It is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions. It involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time. It involves an imbalance of power or strength.” (“Coordinated School Health – Bullying and Cyber-bullying”, 2017)
Today’s schools are navigating in uncharted territory, addressing bullying tactics that began outside of the school, but have bled over into the school day. Parents and administrators are unsure how to handle some of these scenarios. While schools decide on what is appropriate, students remain the victim of pain and ridicule. TEA had set laws into place such as Texas Education Code Chapter 37, Section 37.001 which requires school to have a anti bullying / harassment policy with consequences that are enforced by district employees. Education Code Chapter 25, Section 25.0342 adopted by TEA allows a parent to transfer their child to another school if the student has been bullied. These laws do not stop the bullying itself, but reveal that the state is aware of bullying in schools, they see the problem it creates, and have attempted to take action. (“Coordinated School Health – Bullying and Cyber-bullying”, 2017)
Incidents such as the Tyler Clementi and Amanda Todd cases have opened the eyes of the public, and shed light on the importance of the consequences of bullying, and cyber-bullying. Today’s youth needs to realize that real people exist behind profile pictures or characters, digital citizens use as their avatar. The internet creates a false sense realism. This environment makes it much easier to confront, accuse, or tease an avatar rather than an individual. These scenarios which ended with tragedy for many have brought awareness to the seriousness of bullying and are now used as a fuel for anti bullying curriculum, camps, and support groups. (Ansary, Elias, Greene & Green, 2015)
Schools have seen bullying incidents decline when taking a proactive approach, instead of a reactive stance. Research has proven that preparing students for the dangers of the internet and teaching them how to respond when they are confronted with disrespectful comments or harassment is beneficial. Hollandsworth, Dowdy and Donovan share their feelings in the article Digital Citizenship K-12: It Takes a Village. They share the need to prepare our students for a digital environment, “Like a village, the K-12 professional community must develop common ground that advocates the use of technology in the classroom while preparing the student to make sound choices both for themselves and others in the digital world. (Hollandsworth, Dowdy & Donovan, 2011)
As leaders, we must gradually transform digital citizenship from a curriculum at school into a movement. Vicki Davis, co founder of digiteen.org shares “This is an opportunity to empower a new generation of students who will stand up and speak out when they see these things happening”. (Hollandsworth, Dowdy & Donovan, 2011) Teachers, parents, and community members need to model positive interaction while using social media. The negatives associated with the internet need to end. Ridicule and resentment need to be taught to be a thing of the past. Let’s empower digital natives with awareness, respect, and encouragement, and create a climate where bullying is not tolerated or accepted.
Ansary, N., Elias, M., Greene, M., & Green, S. (2015). Best practices to address (or reduce) bullying in schools. Phi Delta Kappan, 97(2), 30-35. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0031721715610088
Coordinated School Health – Bullying and Cyber-bullying. (2017). Tea.texas.gov. Retrieved 30 June 2017, from http://tea.texas.gov/Texas_Schools/Safe_and_Healthy_Schools/Coordinated_School_Health/Coordinated_School_Health_-_Bullying_and_Cyber-bullying/
Hollandsworth, R., Dowdy, L., & Donovan, J. (2011). Digital Citizenship in K-12: It Takes a Village. Tech Trends, 55(4), 37-47.