The Commentariat: the role of schools, students, and parents in dealing with cyberbullying

Cyberbullying brings up a bunch of emotions: parents who want to protect their children from bullying, who were bullied themselves, whose children were accused of bullying weighed in on the issue. Some issues raised included: the role of the school as an anti-bullying enforcer, students’ free expression, and parental monitoring. Here are some unabridged comments from ambivalent critics and more resolute critics of cyberbullying laws:

School considers punishing bad online behavior (Des Moines Register, December 21, 2008)

  • tigerhawk: I am a student at Valley. I am in every way against schools monitoring/punishing online activity, it is nothing short of a breach of our first amendment rights. What if Valley administrators read this and decided to punish me? Decided that this comment was disruptive to the school day/students? Of course this is not a nude picture of myself, but this is where the concept of punishing online behavior is headed! The school would read this, decide their interests do not align with mine, and they punish me by keeping my opinions out of public sight. For Christ’s sake, this is something you would hear about happening in China! I think it is a very slippery slope.
  • alphakat: An interesting article & a complex issue. I’m inclined to think that schools have plenty on their plates as it is & monitoring Facebook or MySpace is out of bounds. At the same time, the school is not always able to simply ignore what happens online – let’s say, for example, nude photos of a student get passed throughout an entire school. Does anyone think that won’t disrupt the school day? They shouldn’t necessarily have the power to consequence because of it, but ignoring it completely is no answer & certainly doesn’t prepare students for the real world where employers WILL check your Facebook page. And what if the student who’s nude photo gets passed around posts on their page that they are suicidal because of it? Wouldn’t it be worth the school knowing so they can get help? Ultimately, I think it is primarily the parents responsibility to monitor and I cringe at any constraint of free speech, but I’m also not naive enough to think that this is a black and white issue.
  • Crazygirl: I am a mother of an 18-yr old and 11-yr old. I remind them constantly that anything they put on the internet can come back to get them later, and to be cautious about what they do and who they meet online. I do not look over their shoulders, per se, but each of them knows I can, and will, pull up the temp files at any time. And if they try to clear anything, it would be an admission of guilt in our home, and privileges are revoked. I really don’t need any schools policing my kids as well, and punishing them for something unrelated to their school. That is a Big Brother tactic.My kids know if they put indecent or disparaging things online, I WILL find out and there will be consequences, from me and my husband.
    And for the father that says kids think this is the new playground and it’s not monitored, perhaps he is not monitoring enough? We can’t watch our kids every minute, but since when do schools have the right to appoint themselves as private detectives and personal guardians?

It’s the law: Schools gain a tool to halt online cruelty (The Sacremento Bee, December 28, 2008)

  • dquijote: The solution to cyberbullying is vigilant parenting. I raised two teens through the MySpace phase and we all lived to tell about it. I put one PC in a central room in the house with no doors and with the screen facing a direction where it was easy to see. I monitored their PC and MySpace accounts, not in a Nazi SS fashion, but occasionally enough to keep them aware that Dad was never too far. If you give your pre-teen or early-teen kid a PC and put it in his/her room with no monitoring or supervision, then I’m very sorry but you are asking for certain trouble.These stories are so tragic that well-meaning citizens often give into the temptation to give the state powers that we never ever should give. The more we look to the state to care for and protect us, the closer we ourselves come to living in the “open-air prison” Theodor Adorno spoke of.
  • ghardy68: I remember being bullied for several years in Jr Hi and Hi School. Kids made fun of my name (and it was easy, let me tell you) by calling my sexuality into question. I talked to my father about it one day and he asked me – point blank – if I was gay (yeah, that’s the gist of my name being messed with). I told him, most emphatically, that I was not gay. He finished with, “then what do you care what they say?” That was the beginning of my growing past them. If parents were to take the time to help their children deal with these matters intelligently, the problem would largely go away, leaving the smallest percentage of the problems – the physical abuse – to be dealt with as it should be: as a criminal offense (assault and battery; look them up if you don’t agree).
  • jctaylor: I am really undecided about this bill. On the one hand it sounds like an unconstitional abridgement of freedom of speech. If we are talking about name calling or jokes, I think kids should be able to stand up for themsevles. At the same time if we are talking about threats than the kid should be thrown out. The biggest issue I see is right to privacy. As one blogger said. how do they trace down the people posting? Does a person recieving a copy of a bullying message giong to be expelled?
  • Inanity: While I sympathize with families that have suffered severe distress as a result of bullying, I do have to wonder: isn’t it the place of the parents to discipline their children for activities that take place outside of school grounds? What place does a school have in the homes of students outside of, maybe, homework? Incidents that take place on actual school grounds certainly falls in the realm of the school, but “cyber-bullying” should absolutely not.

In Several States, A Push to Stem Cyber-Bullying (Washington Post, January 1, 2009)

  • familynet: I have no problem coming down hard on cruel bullying whatever the source, but I totally reject the premise that cyber-bullying is a school issue (unless they use school computers to post their hate). Every social problem gets law makers to direct the work to school districts. Then, everyone wonders why the schools aren’t doing enough to educate our children! Let the schools do what the schools are intended to do and let the criminal justice system do what the criminal justice system is intended.Laws, for example, can make it easir for a victim’s parents to obtain a stay away order that has the effect of expelling the offender from the school. A law need only require that the school district abide enforce the order by transferring the offender. The difference is that the expelling issue takes place in a court and not involving school principals and administrators with all of the many administrative appeals that go along with such actions. My argument is especially relevant since, as this article discusses, most cyber-bullying occurs outside of the school grounds-so why are they charged with stopping the crime?!

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