On-line bullying has been a concern as long as the web has been around. Yet only now, with the proliferation of social networks, is it really getting its due. Today’s New York Times has an outstanding article on cyberbullying and the confusing and inconsistent ways that schools are being asked to respond. I highly recommend this well written piece.
The central conundrum is that cyberbullying almost never takes place on school sponsored networks and equipment. Yet the bullying clearly has a direct impact on students, their interactions in the building, and their academic performance.
In old fashioned bullying physical presence was required. Because kids spent most of their day at school a great deal of it happened in the building. That gave schools a clear and well defined role in intervening and managing bullying – even if many didn’t do a great job of it. At least the law and the expectations were clear.
From a school’s perspective the rules for when and how to intervene in off-campus cyberbullying are unclear.
Further complicating matters is that the students themselves are developmentally at an age when they are experimenting with social interactions and often unaware of the consequences of their actions. The real goal should be educational, not punitive, so that as they mature they learn to manage these tools well.
Take it Kurt:
Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.
Implications for Publishers
When I interviewed teachers for the Best Practices in Implementing Video Games & Simulations in the Classroom white paper a couple of years ago they all told us that they had not experienced any bullying problems with software provided by the school. Most of the time the bullying takes place after hours and on equipment and networks that the school doesn’t own.
So for publishers the good news is that if you build a system that schools will deploy this isn’t likely to be a major issue. You should be ready to address it with research and a solid suite of administrative tools.
If you are encouraging kids to use external social networks and resources you may have think twice about how you introduce them and whether it would be possible to do on school sponsored sites like Nettrekker.