Recently a few parents asked for the school’s support in dealing with the issue of cyberbullying. Whether the problem arose at school or at home in the end is probably not the issue – its how to stop it in the first instance and then educate youth on the power of the positive use of the Internet.
In the same week a Melbourne mother was interviewed and blamed her 14 year old daughter’s suicide on cyberbullying. This was a tragic end to a young person’s life. I happened to be walking through a senior class that week and heard during circle time one of the students mention this story and whilst they had never been cyber bullied they knew of someone who had.
So the issue is known about by students and parents alike – so what can schools do?
Well, we are busy organising an evening forum with a well known speaker so that parents can become more informed on the issue. When asked personally I advise parents that I have one computer in my home connected to the Internet in a public place with a large screen – so that when things do happen it has a greater chance of coming out in the open so that at least we know and can talk about it. As a parent you also get to know the language used in chat rooms: e.g. POS means parent over shoulder. The downside with more than one child or my case adolescent in the family is managing their competing time demands on the Internet.
I have filters on my computer at home as does the school but filters by themselves are not the answer as Tom Woods a student in Melbourne recently proved. Tom who was able to get around the governments new filters to block porn in 30 minutes was interviewed recently on BTN, an ABC show for students, on how to stop cyberbullying. I recommend parents and their senior primary children watch the 7 minute extended clip so that they can discuss the issue.
The Age Newspaperran a story some 2 years ago about a similar youth suicide and cyberbullying which quoted some statistics which might inform the debate.
Our Education Department has some resources on this as do most public school systems around the world. As we increase our student computer access at school so must be increase our program of educating our students. But this happens on mobile phones as well as computers and the number of 9 and 12 years old students who have a mobile phone in our school is growing.
This won’t go away unless we acknowledge that this is happening: its happening in homes, in children’s bedrooms with access and its happening on mobile phones as well. I write about this to encourage us becoming informed, having the discussions, increasing our vigilance and stopping this negative element of a great resource affecting our children.