In Cyberbullying, Who Is an Innocent Bystander?

16 Mar
Cyber Bullying

Ending Cyber Bullying

In teaching a class about web research to 8th graders, I brought up Mia MacMeekin’s infographic on Digital Citizenship.  I focused on only 5 items to start rather than to try to swallow it whole.  I chose “Engage”, “Cross Reference” [did you know how many students don’t understand what those words mean?!], “Respect”, “Stand” and “Give.”  The one that garnered the most conversation was “Stand Against Cyber Bullying.”

We started with an example where Student A sent Student B an email saying that Student C was “stupid”.  Who is at fault?  Everyone agrees that Student A is for sending the message.  Here’s my twist:  I claim that Student B is also at fault if s/he does nothing.  In general, I don’t believe that Student A is mean-spirited and vicious.  I think that Student A is trying to make a connection with another person.  It’s what we do in middle school – make connections.  So, I think that Student B’s silence would lead to 1) Student A thinking Student B agrees and 2) making a stronger push to more people to get a response by sending even more emails and to more people.   Doing nothing adds to the equation, not subtracts.

I believe that being passive is unacceptable when someone is being bullied.  The reality is that a simple reply “Please don’t say things like that” may very well turn an ugly situation into a connection (the goal!) and the conversation can turn to the week’s sport stats.

Interestingly enough, of the five classes I taught the other day with this discussion, only one child continued to argue with me.  The others had some comments initially, but then seemed to accept this and we moved on.  Only time will tell, but it was truly the first time many of these students thought that their action was required to be a good person.  And it absolutely is.


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