In my work I often have the opportunity to speak with large groups of tween and teens. A popular topic these days is cyber bullying. The good news is that all of the kids I have talked with agree it is not only an important topic but one about which they are mindful.
By definition cyberbullying implies a behavior behind which there is malicious intent. What is not clear however is from whose perspective this should be determined. It is this very grey area that is at the center of much concern and controversy in schools today. The kids with whom I have spoken have affirmed their understanding of the real or initial definition. Some of these same kids however, have also been accused and or even punished for cyberbullying.
The truth probably lies with the interpretation. It is not uncommon for kids to banter back and forth via texts and social networking sites such as Facebook. I like to call this cyberbantering. The problem however, is that this banter can easily morph into sarcastic and even demeaning content aka: cyberbullying, but, through whose eyes?
Well in the current climate it seems it is through the eyes of the recipient, not necessarily through the eyes of the sender. When I ask the kids with whom I meet if they would consider a sarcastic yet insulting post to a friend as cyberbullying they usually almost unanimously agree that it is not. And yet, these same kids agree that on occasion, when they have been the recipients of such content, they have felt upset, angry and on occasion fearful.
It is quite a difficult dilemma. Parents and school personnel often seem locked in a dead heat about where the answers lies and even more importantly, how and when and what should be the response.
In reality, we need to begin with a clear set of guidelines that our kids understand and accept.
Cyberbullying could be defined as any message or post which can be perceived as hurtful or malicious (e.g. insults, putdowns, criticisms) by the individual about whom the content applies.
We need to start with a redefining of the definition. One possibility:
This implies that the definition is no longer dependent on the intent of the sender.
If the definition is to be changed, we must ensure that our children are fully educated and aware of the re-definition.
The downside of such a definition however, is in setting the boundary between a seemingly honest comment with helpful intent such as: “I don’t like that dress you wore you look better in red,” to a seemingly rude and hurtful comment such as “You looked like a fat pig in that dress.”
In addition should we consider the sender of the comment, before deciding on a label? Is there a difference in receiving a comment from a friend or a foe?
More from GalTime:
- Teaching Kids How to Protect Themselves from Bullies
- 3 Tips for Strengthening Sibling Bonds
- 'I'm Afraid My Daughter's a Stalker': 7 Tips for Parents
- Schools: A Breeding Ground for Bullies?