Combating Cyber-Bullying: A Combined Effort
October 05, 2010
What Steps Can Parents Take to Safeguard Their Children?
Parents play a key role in cyber-bullying prevention. Executive Officer Devine explained that rules must be set in the home. The computer should be in a common room of the home, not in individual rooms. Children should be taught not to engage in online arguments. "Parents must be a model of good behavior," Executive Officer Devine noted.
The digital generation divide is another concern, according to Executive Officer Devine, who said parents must also make themselves technologically savvy, or at least somewhat knowledgeable of the social websites.
"Folks under the age of 25 talk differently than I do," Executive Officer Devine insisted. "Many adults do not know how Facebook works."
Many adults are not aware of newer sites such as Formspring, which allows users to post anonymous comments on the pages of account-holders. "You open up a Pandora's Box - anyone can say anything they want," Smokler pointed out.
Parents must also understand that they are responsible for their child's internet use. The panel noted that a social media site's terms of agreement is a contract. When Megan Meier committed suicide, MySpace sued the parents of the bully for violating their terms of service.
The New Law: Involvement of the School and Law Enforcement
Actions are being taken to halt cyber assault, aided by the new law on bullying and heightened school involvement. The new law covers bullying in general, and contains several components. It prohibits bullying, requires every member on the staff of the school to know what an investigation looks like, written documentation and procedures, and necessitates professional development, with yearly anti-bullying education for both teachers and students.
The schools "have a lot more leeway in disciplining children for bullying that is technically taking place outside of school," Smokler said. The new law says harassment outside of school still disrupts a student's learning. Smokler condones the law, saying "the other thing the new law is forcing us to do, which I think is great, is providing some kind of counseling for both the victim and the bully."
When asked if schools and law enforcement should have less concern and allow parents to handle these situations, Executive Officer Devine said that if the police get involved, the child gets into more trouble and the parents are forced to take notice, often taking their children to court.
"Parents should be more involved, but they easily get caught up in other things, in which case the school needs to step in," said Executive Officer Devine.
The event, held in Stonehill's Alumni Hall, was sponsored by the Alumni Council Academic Committee.
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.