Mark Reford, head of St. Luke’s Episcopal School, San Antonio, TX, writes on what can be done about cyber-bullying and how churches, parents, and schools can play a role:
Cyber bullying is distinct from playground bullying in critical ways: Anonymity allows more cowardly forms of attack and far more vicious behavior. The bully knows their victim but the victim is rarely certain of their attacker. Their ability to trust in others is not only put at risk but may be irreparably damaged. And while Texas and most states have laws that provide penalties for cyber harassment, by the time the bully and the victim see its effect, the damage is already profound.
Most adults carefully edit e-mails so misunderstandings don’t occur, yet they still happen. Children are just learning the socialization skills that teach them right and wrong ways to interact. It is vital for them to learn that the web can be a dangerous place; that they must be considerate of the impact what they write can have on others.
The web is rich in resources to help educate and increase awareness. Among them are StaySafeOnline.org, a joint effort of many of the Internet’s leading corporations; Cyberbullying.org, perhaps the world’s first website wholly devoted to the issue; CommonSenseMedia, and the Cyber Bullying Research Center, with ongoing blogs by experts.
For our children, we must create communities founded on the belief that all are loved, and that we have a responsibility for the well-being of others. A successful anti-bullying program must grow organically from our core.
The New York Times covers this subject in As Bullies Go Digital, Parents Play Catch-Up. Reasons for continued cyber bullying are the gap between computer knowledge of parents and their kids, parents unwillingness to see their children’s bullying as anything other than a joke, teens and parents unwillingness to confront the behavior for fear of more bullying, and authorities – school and police – unwillingness to act.
And another article from the NYTimes on how the anonymity of the web breeds contempt. And why Episcopal Café asks for a name signed to your comments.
What have you experienced? Is it just life and growing up or is it more serious and can churches play a constructive role?