Whose responsibility is it to keep kids safe online? That’s big question with many possible answers. First of all, there needs to be some level of responsibility from the parents. Just as any part of a child’s safety should first be the parents’ responsibility. Parents don’t usually allow young children to cook by themselves. They guide them and supervise them.
They don’t allow a child to jump off the high dive without first learning to swim.
Parents need to realize that freely accessing the world wide web can be “playing with fire” or “diving” in to a VERY big pool without a lifeguard.
Parents also need to remember that children often imitate behavior they have seen at home and on TV. As I thought about cyberbullying, I thought of various “reality” TV shows where judges are sometimes rather harsh in their evaluation. They may be “telling” the truth, but when children and teens watch, do they think they have the same “right” to judge someone with equally harsh words, that can quickly escalate to cyberbullying? I have also wondered why some people put themselves in the place of being judged and humiliated on national as well as international TV. A case of cyberbullying happened about 2 years ago in Palo Alto. A 12 year old published a singing video on YouTube. Some high school students apparently watched it and then decided to start an “I hate ___” page on Facebook that was quickly joined by about 100 other students and led to the notoriety. I actually found reading the comments on the original article and also on the community forum more interesting and informative than the article. Parents wanted to blame school officials, teachers blamed parents. I thought one student said it well “Also, I would like to point out that I see a lot of insulting of each other here on this website which is useless, and that since most of you are parents, you probably have better things to do.”(Posted by MM, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 3, 2009 at 8:48 pm)
Parents are often unaware, afraid or don’t know where to begin. As educators we need to help educate parents as well as students. A great resource we can guide parents to is Common Sense Media.
As educators it is also our responsibility to unsure students’ safety online as well as offline. When students have a problem with classmates on the playground, it is my responsibility to help students know how to deal with those problems. Who to tell, what words to use to resolve the problem, discipline if necessary. When I take students for a walk in the community or on the train on a field trip, we discuss proper behavior. It is my responsibility to see that they use proper behavior. I hope that I am working with parents on all of these behaviors just as I expect parents to support and work with me.
At what age should this begin? I believe we begin as early as possible by teaching students empathy, respect and responsibility for their own behavior and actions. I have begun having a discussion with our Guidance counselor on empathy lessons for the 2nd and 3rd graders. In my post here on copyright I mentioned the need to begin in kindergarten. Empathy also needs to begin in kindergarten and actually should begin at home from an even earlier age.
Waiting until middle school or high school is too late to begin dealing with cyberbullying. Danah Boyd in the article, “Bullying” Has Little Resonance with Teenagers, points out that teens don’t necessarily see it as “bullying” and won’t engage when adults address it in those terms. Middle school and high school students still need to deal with it, but in terms that will make sense to them and touch them. There are some very poignant YouTube videos that should become required viewing and follow up in middle school and high school.
We all have a responsibility to be positive role models online, talk to our own children(if a parent), talk to your friends’ children(those parents may not know how) and to teach our students respect and empathy. This isn’t someone else’s job it is everyone’s job.
Hands measuring together – photo by ES in my classroom
Boy on High Dive by cliff0166