The Cyber-Bully and the Tattletale: How Should Schools be Involved?

Given the presence of cyber-bullying among today’s youth, schools nowadays have little choice but to ask themselves, “how, if at all, should we involve ourselves in this problem?” Answering this question is, of course, complicated by numerous intertwining and, especially in the case of technology, constantly changing factors. However, schools should almost certainly always play some part in addressing and coming up with solutions to these problems. After all, even if the problem does not take place within the school’s jurisdiction or sphere of influence, it can start or escalate there.

In the following link, an article explains one particular female gaming journalist’s approach towards halting (or at least decreasing) the sexual harassment she has been subjected to in cyberspace. To paraphrase, the journalist Alanah Pearce has been using social media networks to track down and contact the parents of young boys (who are the culprits in the vast majority of these cases) who have been making regular rape threats online. Understandably, parents are generally shocked to hear such news, and their responses have mostly been constructive. In fact, Alanah reports receiving far fewer threats since she has began doing this.

So my question is this: how can this be extrapolated to be included in how public schools choose to involve themselves with cases of cyber-bullying (especially when it involves sexual harassment or worse)? Surely, schools might be apprehensive to take on the role of tattletale themselves, as they are generally hesitant to take on any definitive stance in such ambiguous, sensitive issues. However, what particularly interests me in Alanah’s story is how she got the parents involved, and allowed them to handle things as they saw fit. So, why shouldn’t the schools take the initiative to collaborate with parents or parent-driven organizations (such as the PTA) in addressing such issues? Even involving student organizations such as the student government association could help school administration and parents to be privy to information and insights that they might otherwise not be able to find in such a personable, close-to-home form (if at all). This could also help lead to viable legal solutions. This is particularly important given the deficit of such (viable) legislation in the realm of cyberspace or online privacy. By getting involved here, parents and schools could help to create solutions that are enforceable, while allowing parents to engage their child in a private, personalized manner.

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