Combating Cyber Bullies

On Sunday, the New York Times published a good read on how cyber bullying in schools is becoming more prevalent thanks to the growing popularity of text messaging and Facebook. In the article, plenty of middle school educators provide their opinions on how to deal with and prevent students from running digital smear campaigns against their peers. Their solutions include suspensions, phone calls to parents, counseling and other classic methods of educational discipline. Texting aside, I did not read one mention of the processes Facebook has instituted to remove indecent material posted by users, cyber bullying explicitly included.
The polite folks at the world’s largest social network have provided users a way to report virtually any user-generated content as inappropriate. Photos, groups, pages, messages, profiles and even individual wall posts can be flagged as a violation of Facebook’s terms of service, under which the practice of cyber bullying falls, and submitted for removal by Facebook. Reporting and removing the harassing content in question through Facebook should be the first step in dealing with the issue in order to have it taken down as soon as possible, like cancelling your credit cards as soon as you realize you left your wallet somewhere. The flagging of hostile content coupled with the old-fashioned procedures of enforcing a code of (digital) conduct that parents and teachers may see fit makes for a solid all-angles counter assault on the wussiest of tormentors: the Facebook bully. To report someone on Facebook for cyber bullying, inappropriateness, hate speech, threats or just general unwanted contact, go to their profile, and on the bottom of the left section below their profile picture, friends list, photos, links and so forth is a link labeled “Report/block this person” just above “Remove from friends” (which I'm assuming is another measure that's taken when you are cyber bullied by someone. If not, think about it). The link opens up a window that asks you to be specific in your report by pointing out the location of the particular piece of user-generated content you have an issue with. Then the report is sent to someone at Facebook who determines whether or not the claim is legitimate and eliminates the content accordingly. It is not always the hastiest of results I’ve heard, but that’s all the more reason to report it as soon as the problem is made known. Parents and teachers should also consult the Facebook FAQ about protecting kids on the network and learn how to fight back against cyber bullying. Remember, if you mess with the bull, you get the horns.

Comments

I'm surprised that the teachers in this article are not talking about responding to cyberbulling by way of the medium. If I'm a teacher, and I know that my students are on Facebook, I'm going to start my own Facebook page and sent friend requests to every single student. Aside from the benefits of seeing various students going on to success, you also get to see what is going on firsthand, instead of hearing about it in the hallways. Further, once you see cyberbulling, as a teacher, you can report it yourself. And a savvy teacher would be able to use that ever growing network of students to report it as well. One complaint to Facebook may get a look in a few days followed by a judgment call. But I would think that 30 or more complaints about the same comment/statement would be convincing enough for Facebook and the like to take swift action. And I would state from a legal perspective, the US Court System needs to start considering the relationship that exists between bully and victim. It can be easily defined and proved that the relationship that exist between the two parties in these situations was formed on school grounds. So a bully is exploiting the means they were given to be introduced to their victims. Rather than argue that the event has jurisdiction because it happened on or off school grounds, the initial contact was on school grounds, and the bully is using that environment to carry over into further harassment that then reaches outside of the classroom. I believe this is a valid legal argument on the subject of how cyberbullying can be handled by a school district. That being said, when I look at the articles summation of Mr. Cohen's experience (Page 4), it goes to show that no matter what remedies are put into place, it comes down to parents enforcing rules and holding their children accountable. Whether Cohen was right legally or not doesn't matter to me. In this case he has demonstrated a clear lack of judgment in what behavior from a child you commend and what you discipline for.

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