As I continue to expand my knowledge base about digital citizenship, cyberbullying was the topic for this week. Cyberbullying is cruel, unthoughtful, and has lasting effects on many involved. Cyberbullying did not exist when I was growing up. I am very glad it didn’t exist. Traditional bullying did exist when I was young. I guess I was lucky because I don’t remember being bullied, so I probably wasn’t. I was probably considered a bully at home, though. I was pretty mean to my younger sisters and brother. I look back at that time of my life and wonder, “What the heck was I thinking?” Thank goodness I am nice now.
Technology is a wonderful advancement, but with all the good it brings, it also allows for bad. Cyberbullying is the willful and repeated harm to others by means of computers, cell phones, tablets, social media, and other forms of electronic communication. While traditional bullying still exists, cyberbullying is on the rise. The youth of today grew up with digital devices. They know all the ins and outs of communicating online. Unfortunately, some will use that knowledge to hurt others. There are many forms of cyberbullying. The goal of cyberbullies is to make their victims feel ignored, disrespected, hassled, and ostracized. Cyberbullies many times do this while hiding behind the anonymity of being online.
I believe that ultimately it is the parents’ responsibility to teach their children about how to be kind and not to cyberbully, but as educators know that enlightenment doesn’t always happen at home. Therefore the school is the next best place to learn about empathy, kindness, and the lasting effects of cyberbullying. I teach 6th graders. Most are too young to legally have social media accounts, but soon they will. I do my best to teach my students about cyberbullying. I like to be proactive and focus on prevention rather than what will happen if cyberbullies are caught (although students must realize in Texas, cyberbullies can get into a lot of trouble). This year the junior high I teach at is focusing on kindness. If children are taught to be empathetic, this will reduce cyberbullying.
Sometimes I wish my students were a little older. I would share the Monica Lewinsky video with them. Her story is a prime example of how things can easily get out of control and do harm to a person’s being. There are examples I can share with my 6th graders, but I guess her video is more meaningful to me because I followed her story years ago.
Our school district doesn’t have an anti-cyberbullying network in place, but we do have something. Since I believe that teaching children the value of kindness would help reduce cyberbullying I will share the Rhett Revolution with everyone. Rhett was one of the kindest kids I have ever met. He had a way of being kind to anyone and everyone. Everyone was his friend. Unfortunately, when Rhett was 15 years old he had an ATV accident that claimed his life. Rhett’s parents and the McGregor community have done such an amazing job sharing love and kindness throughout the community through that tragic event. I use the Rhett Revolution as an example of kindness in my class. I believe anything good students can be exposed to will in some way reduce the tendency to become cyberbullies.