Technology has made inflicting abuse more convenient for abusers because it allows for constant contact. Many of our clients (from students in high school to Baby Boomers) have been abused through technology via text messages, e-mails and Facebook. With the constant advancement of technology, various forms of abuse including bullying are no longer restricted to locker rooms and cafeterias.
Indeed, technology is proving to be just as harmful for some as it is useful to others. The New York Times recently published an article about the effects cyber-bullying (bullying through the means of technology) among middle and high school students. As children begin to have greater access to cell phones, Facebook, and group sites like chat rooms at younger (and some might say, inappropriate) ages, bullying behaviors such as gossiping, rumor-spreading, and the exchanging of insults are spreading through cyberspace faster than the swine flu. According to thesafespace.org, 30% of teens in relationships have received text messages 10,20,30 times an hour by their partner, demanding to know where the are, who they are with, and what they are doing!
The NYT article explores how cyber-bullying affects all parties involved – the victim, the bully, teachers, administrators, and parents of both the victims and bullies. Readers may find their responses alarming, I did. Questions arise like: who is responsible for reprimanding the hurtful acts of these young children? the parents? school counselors, administrators, teachers? And- what if the text message or Facebook post was sent on a weekend or after school hours?
One of our volunteer community educators has this to say about the questions that this article raises: “Why can’t we ban phones in schools? Phones and personal computers are being used as weapons of social violence and should be banned from schools, much like guns and knives have been. ” She believes that it is not the responsibility of teachers or administrators to monitor cyber-bullying that takes place outside of school, indicating that parents should be responsible for the actions of their children. Adding, “schools should intervene only if the incident happened at school, or is brought in to the school and disrupts lessons and distracts students from the main purpose of school: learning.”
The issue of cyber-bullying is troubling because of its abusive nature. Every abuser starts somewhere, usually not with a physical incident. Many abusers become controlling in their youth with behaviors that might not seem dangerous in the beginning, like acting jealously or monitoring a partner’s phone calls. Now, with cyber-bullying, it’s just easier to start sooner with one more behavior that doesn’t immediately seem like a big deal.
What do you think? What can be done to deal effectively with cyber-bullying? Post a comment below and share your thoughts.