The Impact of Cyber Bullying on School Environments: Present and Future
By Gabrielle Arrowsmith, Author of “Concealed in the Shadows”
A school climate question that I’ve heard asked by fellow teachers during staff development days or staff meetings is where is a teacher’s place in cyber bullying that happens outside of school, but between students? How should a teacher face that type of situation?
The answer, in short, is that a teacher’s place is a listener, reporter, and mediator just like in any in-school bullying occurrence. This is because bullying is a serious issue that is not limited to one location, though it is mostly talked about in the school setting. When it happens on the Internet, what link does a parent have besides the school to protect their child against continued cyber bullying? Yes, they can delete their child’s social media page or what have you, but is that fair to their child? Not so much.
In the schools that I have worked in, the rule is that if any child’s learning is disrupted by bullying that took place outside of school (especially somewhere where no adult was present), then the school has a right to address that issue with the children and their parents. If a student takes the time to tell me about such bullying then, in my opinion, it has disrupted their learning.
I do get these types of reports from students from time to time, and I suspect that they will increase as students begin using social media, email, and smartphones with texting and picture messaging at younger and younger ages and with growing frequency.
In my futuristic young-adult novel, Concealed in the Shadows, the kids (and adults) in the year 2033 have come to live in the cyber world more than the physical one, so bullying has changed shape accordingly.
Traditional, physical schools are becoming extinct. Instead, students go to school through an online program called EduWeb. The benefits of EduWeb include the convenience of choice times and locations for school, learning plans that are generated according to a student’s level and pace, and flexible ‘grade’ groupings. Another advantage EduWeb has over traditional schools is that no physical harm can occur between students (and other building personnel) when classes are conducted entirely online.
In this futuristic society, physical bullying is no longer possible in the school setting, but did that eliminate the problem? Absolutely not. Verbal bullying can be every bit as damaging. It thrives in the cyber world because there is no chance that a teacher or classroom tattler (I personally don’t believe in the term much) overhearing the insults that pass from one classmate to another in private chat rooms.
So how is cyber bullying dealt with by EduWeb instruction monitors, you might ask? It’s not! The idea was that the cyber bullying because so commonplace and that instruction monitors (teachers) became so desensitized to protecting their students (since they never get to know them in person) that cyber bullying is essentially ignored.
I like to believe that we, a collective human race, are better than that, but it is true that my idea was born out of observation and speculation. Cyber bullying is a tricky issue–I hope we come up with innovative solutions to tackle it so that it doesn’t grow in accordance with the rate at which technological communication inevitably will.
Concealed In The Shadows by Gabrielle Arrowsmith
Sydney Harter has long awaited September 12th, 2033—her eighteenth birthday. She can finally apply for guardianship of her sister, who is her only family and entire world. She hopes they will be lawfully reunited, but is prepared to defy authority and risk everything to escape the captivity of Miles County so that they can be together.
Escaping will be difficult and dangerous. Citizens are bound to their county by sophisticated chip implants that deliver shocks to those who dare to cross the electric barrier. Sydney is very clever, but her trickery is limited against the all-seeing eyes of technology. Even if they were to survive the escape, disappearing into the forgotten forests and towns of the past seems an impossible task.
What Sydney doesn’t know is that she is the particular interest of two opposing forces. With deceit, fear, and warfare surrounding her—can she trust the party that aims to help with her fight against the other? Can she open her heart to receive and return unexpected love? When her sister’s life becomes jeopardized, Sydney will have to weigh a new love against the only enduring love she has known. The cost could be deadly…
About Gabrielle Arrowsmith:
GABRIELLE ARROWSMITH enjoyed writing her debut novel, Concealed in the Shadows, during a lovely Minnesota summer that she had off from her primary profession, teaching. Acting, playing and coaching soccer, reading, playing piano, and spending time with family and friends are among her other interests.
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