Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., Co-Director of the Cyberbullying Research Center and Associate Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University, recently wrote another in a series of blog posts about cell phone and mobile devices in schools. In this post, Sameer points out why “even with a suspected or actual policy violation by a student, it may not be in your school’s best interests to seize that student’s device.”
In a commentary in Education Week, Jim Bosco and Keith Kreuger of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) call for a switch in thinking from the outdated and negative approach of traditional acceptable-use policies (AUPs) for technology use in schools towards a more positive and proactive responsible-use orientation.
Most AUPs were created in the one-way world of Web 1.0 or in the early stages of the two-way Web 2.0 environment. They were devised to protect kids from harm being done to them by exposure to inappropriate content, conduct, or contacts.
I recently saw The Bully Project at the Silverdocs documentary film festival and stayed after to hear a Q&A with the film’s director, Lee Hirsch, and one of the families featured in the movie.
The Bully Project is a feature-length documentary film that covers a year in the lives of five families affected by bullying and traces the impact that has on their lives. Two families struggle with the suicide of a son and how to turn that tragic loss into something positive for others.
Larry Magid writes that it’s time take the cyber out of cyberbullying. As he says:
“We don’t call it ‘pencil bullying’ when someone uses a wooden stick with lead inside to write someone a threatening note. When a person shakes her fist in front of someone’s face, we don’t call it ‘fist bullying.’ And when kids don’t let other kids sit at their lunch table, we don’t call it ‘table bullying.’
Yet when someone uses a cell phone or the Web to harass, demean, defame, or annoy another person, we give it the special name ‘cyberbullying.’”
The fundamental point here is that we’re talking about behavior – bullying – that takes place in a variety of locations.
In an interesting piece in The Washington Post last week, psychology professor Susan Swearer debunks five myths about bullying. While all are important to understand, one, in particular, deserves more attention.
Myth #1 concerns the prevalence of bullying, particularly cyberbullying. Professor Swearer notes that surveys of the percentage of kids who have been bullied or cyberbullied show a wide variety of results. One may say as few as 10 percent of students have been bullied. Another study shows 47 percent.
A blog posting by Bill Boushka about a December 5th New York Times article on cyberbullying concludes with this statement:
“The tone of the long article suggests that adults, for their own communications purposes, have let kids in on a technical infrastructure that they may be incapable of using without unacceptable risk to everyone.”
It’s an interesting take but one that is, I think, overly pessimistic. The two-way nature of the internet can give anyone a powerful platform without any of the constraints of traditional media. A publishing house or a TV or movie studio have legions of fact checkers, editors, lawyers, and so on who vet content for accuracy, quality, audience reaction, and potential harm. In new media, there is nothing between a kid with a smart phone and a worldwide audience.
Interesting story on cyberbullying in Sunday’s New York Times points to some of the issues faced by parents in dealing with this issue, both as parents of the victims and parents of the perpetrators. I’m left wondering who is educating the parents about these kinds of issues.
By default, schools have been left with the responsibility of providing some minimal level of awareness about internet safety issues. They are the one place where all kids can be reached, where all kids can have internet access, and where there is at least some level of expertise about the internet.