Worried About Internet Bullying & Predators? Props to Danah Boyd!

Hi Folks! Here’s rydtedhfsf
a great profile
of Danah Boyd, an Internet researcher who hops over hysteria to look at how young folk really use social media. I heard her speak at a Family Online Safety Institute conference, and, as the NY Times profile points out:

“She was the first to say that the teenagers at risk off line are the same ones who are at risk online,” said Alice Marwick, a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft who works closely with Dr. Boyd. “It’s not that the Internet is doing something bad to these kids, it’s that these bad things are in kids’ lives and the Internet is just a component of that.”

This is something I try to remind parents about: The Interet is a lot like the real world. In fact, it IS the real world: It’s where kids hang out. Most hang out with their friends. But some kids, often the most troubled, go to where trouble congregates — chat rooms where strangers are talking about sex.  It’s like kids going to the baddest part of town. Some will, but most kids just  go to the mall.

And one of the main reasons they ARE gathering online, rather than at the mall or even — I know this sounds crazy — the PARK, is that:

“Children’s ability to roam has basically been destroyed,” Dr. Boyd said in her office at Microsoft, where a view of the Boston skyline is echoed in the towers of books on her shelves, desk and floor. “Letting your child out to bike around the neighborhood is seen as terrifying now, even though by all measures, life is safer for kids today.”

Children naturally congregate on social media sites for the relatively unsupervised conversations, flirtations, immature humor and social exchanges that are the normal stuff of teenage hanging-out, she said.

As for the fear that predators and bullies lurk everywhere on the Web, Boyd says there is no evidence that bullying is more prevalent on line than in the “real world,” nor is there any evidence that it is on the rise in either place! And predators?

“The most deadly misconception about American youth has been the sexual predator panic,” she said. “The model we have of the online sexual predator is this lurking man who reaches out on the Internet and grabs a kid. And there is no data that support that. The vast majority of sex crimes against kids involve someone that kid trusts, and it’s overwhelmingly family members.”

So basically, we have become afraid of our kids hanging out beyond the home, for fear of predators, bullies, sexual situations, etc. Meantime, we are afraid of our kids hanging out inside the home, on line, for fear of predators, bullies, sexual situations, etc. And it’s all part of the same thing: An unrealistically grim perception of anything our kids try to do on their own.

That’s why it’s so lovely to hear this honest-to-God, Harvard-sanctioned researcher point out: Things are far less ominous than we fear. Thank goodness. And thank Danah!  — L.

35 Responses to Worried About Internet Bullying & Predators? Props to Danah Boyd!

  1. GSE January 23, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    The CS Monitor has a great set of articles about ‘relearning how to play’ at http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2012/0122/Toddlers-to-tweens-relearning-how-to-play that I think this community would be pretty interested in.

  2. staceygill January 23, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    Read the article, too. It was very interesting and true. And sad that kids can’t just get together and hang out like normal people. Boyd got it completely right.

  3. CWH January 23, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

    There is so much talk today about bullying, and it’s almost universally accepted that A) bullying is worse today than it’s ever been, and B) the remedy for this is for parents and teachers to crack down even more on kids’ freedoms. Intuitively, this has always seemed wrong to me, but it’s almost impossible to find any real information out there to contradict it. I’ve often wished Lenore would address this issue some more, so I’m thrilled to see this article.

  4. Cheryl W January 23, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

    CWH, I think that you are quoting “common wisdom” but I think the research shows that your B is incorrect. There are anti-bullying programs out there (for schools and such) that have been studied and shown to be effective. Most of these are not “adult based.” Rather they teach kids to stand up to each other and tell kids when behavior crosses a line to bullying. Many of these programs also have peer counselors – instead of going and talking to an adult, the kids talk to each other and handle situations together. Peer pressure in reverse. Now, those proven effective programs are out there, but there are a lot of schools that try to adopt the adult led and wonder why it doesn’t work. Adult led is cheaper, does not mean training kids (or oftentimes adults.) It makes the schools seem like they are doing something when in fact they accomplish very little beyond putting up some posters.

    What I am wondering about is the statistics for kids cyber-bullied. What percent? How often? What genders? Just like kids who are kidnapped, we hear about the horrible cases of mom’s bullying with the daughters and it seems like it is everywhere. But, as I recall from a while ago, the mom who killed or harmed other girls so her daughter could get a spot on the cheer team was a major exception, not the rule.

  5. Sera January 23, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

    It’s an art, really, isn’t it? Hurting someone so much that they find that they’d rather take their chances with whatever’s on the other side of the veil rather than stay here? I mean, killing somebody is at least simple – but making somebody hate themselves and their life so much that they end it? That’s difficult, and far, far more sinister. Typically it takes months or years of persistent hurtfulness – by word and deed, by humiliation, exclusion, insult, punch and theft – to achieve that result.

    And yet, we blame one of the many mediums through which this hurtfulness is propagated, rather than the people who are causing the hurtfulness? The internet is evil because it allows hurtful messages to be sent, rather than the children are evil because they hurt another for fun?

    Yes, of course.

    Bullying has existed – to suicide-causing levels – long before the internet was really a thing, and still occurs today, to suicide-causing levels, with minimal or no internet or phone involvement. The thing that upsets the adults around the situation is not the fact that the bullying is occurring, but, rather, the fact that they can SEE it. It’s very easy to trivialize or ignore vast swathes of bullying – humiliations, exclusions and insults leave no evidence. When you dig through chatlogs, forum posts and facebook(etc), you can see them. If a video gets posted on YouTube of your daughter getting attacked by three other girls at a park, you can see it. It’s hard to ignore or trivialize. That makes you uncomfortable. That makes you want to make it go away. The best way to do this, is, of course, to make sure your daughter never does anything on the internet that you can’t see – and neither do the bullies’ parents. That way, everything stays nice and underground and is far less distressing for all of the adults involved. The problem, thereby, is solved.

  6. pentamom January 23, 2012 at 11:29 pm #

    I don’t know much about anti-bullying programs in schools — my kids didn’t go to school for elementary/middle school. But one thing I see about anti-bullying programs in the media that bothers me is that it always seems victim-oriented — here’s how to protect yourself from bullying or stop it if you see someone else doing it.

    This problem is not going to be addressed if we refuse to admit that there are actually some bad kids who bully, who need to discovered as such, and to be made not to do it. Why the kids are bad is an issue too — I’m not saying we just tar kids as “bad.” But we have to at least face up to the fact that bullying happens because there are bullies, not just because people don’t have all the tools to respond to bullies properly, or to properly intervene in bullying situation.

    Maybe in reality, the anti-bullying programs do address this. But this is not the impression you get just from popular media.

  7. BMS January 24, 2012 at 12:00 am #

    My older son has been bullied for years. Combine a kid who is a)a minority, b)adopted and c)disinclined to change his ways to fit in, and you’ve got a kie who is a target big as all outdoors. He has had to change cub scout packs to get away from these kids, avoid some activities to get away from them, sees the counselor at school, etc.

    He’s in fifth grade, and this is the first year that the school is actually doing something to combat this that WORKS. But we had to get to the point where he got in trouble for hitting a few of the bullies before anything changed. The new vice principal is wonderful, and makes sure that yes, you get in trouble for hitting, but you also get in trouble for tormenting someone to the point that hitting is his only recourse. Things have improved, but I have seen firsthand that bullying in some schools can be a massive, pervasive problem and some administrators are not effective at dealing with it. Given my son’s history and what I know about the darling little miscreants in our area, I am disinclined to let him spend a lot of time online with these kids.

  8. wingsnroots January 24, 2012 at 12:24 am #

    BMS, you are also not inclined to let him spend time with these kids in real life, right? So it’s not the internet that this the culprit, its the bullies.

    A child of the 80’s, pre internet, I was mercilessly bullied through middle school. In high school I transferred to a charter school that had a social justice mission. One of the most treasured principles of the school was the ‘anti harassment’ policy. Teachers and students alike were allowed to bring a harassment claim to the administration, consequences were very real and you could be asked to leave the learning community depending on the severity or frequency of the infraction. In 4 years at the school, 2 students and 1 teacher were asked to leave. There was such a culture of treating differences with respect and dignity that students and staff who couldn’t walk the line self selected out. I never felt that our freedom was infringed on, in fact there was an open campus and we had tons of freedom to speak our mind and explore new ideas.

    I don’t think that anti bullying programs necessarily infringe on kid’s freedoms. Sadly, many of these policies target the symptoms rather than the cause. Strict internet policies, anti free speech rules, banning books and ‘hot topics’, limiting unsupervised interaction- how about teaching people to interact with one another respectfully? We are raising adults, are we not? I have seen these former bullies enter the workplace, they are ill equipped to interact with coworkers. If they can’t adjust, they are fired, not because they can’t do the job, but because they can’t interact with others.

    If we remove the opportunity for interaction every time something bad comes out of it, we will raise a generation of social idiots.

  9. kiesha January 24, 2012 at 12:31 am #

    All I can say is that I’m really glad there was no Facebook or Myspace when I was in high school. There were chat rooms, but I was one of the few kids in my high school class who got into that stuff (it was still considered pretty nerdy at the time).
    My high school bullies were smart, well-liked kids. They were incredibly creative in coming up with ways to torment me, and because they were smart and well-behaved, the teachers loved them. But they were devious and devised incredible ways of emotionally torturing me. It finally came to an end when one of them took it too far and left a sexually harassing message on our home answering machine. My dad finally called his dad and threatened to get the police involved if it didn’t stop.
    I shudder to think what my life would have been like if we’d all been on Facebook. I would have friended them in a heartbeat because I had a crush on one of the two bullies. I put up with everything he did because I thought by ‘being game’, he would eventually like me. Turns out he was just a sadistic little [email protected]#$ (and from what I hear still is).

  10. pentamom January 24, 2012 at 12:36 am #

    “I have seen these former bullies enter the workplace, they are ill equipped to interact with coworkers. If they can’t adjust, they are fired, not because they can’t do the job, but because they can’t interact with others. ”

    And this is why the stuff about not pursuing and punishing bullies because kids have to learn to deal with stuff “in the real world” is such absolute garbage. Fortunately, I think that mentality’s fading, but it was predominant when I was growing up, at least where I was.

    It’s actually doing the bullies some good to teach them that such behavior patterns are counter-productive, anyway! Better learn it now, than when you’re grown up and can’t figure out why you can’t hold down a job, or can figure it out, but have never learned appropriate ways of dealing with people.

  11. Suze January 24, 2012 at 12:40 am #

    My son was bullied for several years in school (5th grade to the beginning of high school) There were no anti-bullying programs except teachers being vigilant, if you could even call what they were doing to be passed off as such. It was brutal on our whole family as school just didn’t basically deal with it properly and the bully seemed to be “protected” while my son was told to “act differently”, “don’t hang out in certain places”, etc. Why should he have to change his behaviour or where he wants to be at school for the convenience of a bunch of bullies? The only people it was bothering where this set of bullies and no one else. Shouldn’t it be the bullies that get inconvenienced? But where school was concerned this was easier for them but not for my child or in his best interest plus it sends a message that the bullies run the school. But where social media was concerned, I kept a watchful eye on what he was doing and saying because I was figuring that these kids would be cyber bullying as well but I was happy that this wasn’t so. I only saw one comment from one child that was negative and none of the rest of the kids online even bothered with it. Yes, things got better for my son and it didn’t do too much damage in the end but social media/cyber bullying is something that parent’s need to be mindful of especially if the child is bullied otherwise.

    May I also add that bullies have access to the school computer just like any other student and if they’re cyber bullying on school time, I would hope someone would catch this in the school’s IT department and report it.

  12. kiesha January 24, 2012 at 12:46 am #

    There are a lot of former bullies who grow up and get jobs and hold them down just fine. They may be douchebags, but they’re not walking around pushing people into walls or saying the sort of outrageous stuff they did in high school. They tend to just become those people who climb the corporate ladder and then take advantage of those below them or catty women who sit around the lunch table talking smack about coworkers they don’t like, but never to the point that HR would need to get involved.

  13. BMS January 24, 2012 at 1:39 am #

    @Suze – that was the advice my son was getting from kindergarten to fourth grade, to change his behavior. Didn’t help a whole lot.

    I have always been torn. I do tell him that sometimes, he has to suck it up, accept that some people are jerks, and go on. But when your kid comes home angry and/or in tears 2-3 times a week for a year, and those same kids are excluding him in activities at scouts as well, there aren’t a lot of options. In the end, the only way for him to go to a scout event and not either get in trouble for retaliating or leave in tears was to change scout packs. I don’t advocate running away from trouble, but it was becoming the point of diminishing returns. I would put so much energy into comforting him, refereeing fights, trying to get other parents to understand what their kids’ behavior was doing to my kid, that I was becoming incredibly stressed and so was my son. It got to the point that I would have nightmares before scouting events because I knew that I was going to be on pins and needles every time waiting for that moment when an activity started and my kid was excluded, causing my kid to yell that the rest of them were idiots, and a cascading pile of trouble ensues. Some situations cannot be redeemed, unfortunately.

    I know the internet is not the problem. Hell, here I am, on the internet. As yet, my son has shown zero interest in any sort of social interactions online – the purpose of the internet, in his opinion, is to find videos of interesting disasters to watch and to check for new lego sets to covet. He comes about it honestly – I don’t use the internet to interact much. Outside of email and this blog, I don’t interact online. I don’t do Facebook or Twitter or anything like that. So I guess I don’t really see the need to go out of my way at this point to introduce another set of distractions. Let him figure out how to deal with real life interactions, which are hard enough, before he has to deal with the hidden subtleties of online life.

  14. Donna January 24, 2012 at 2:19 am #

    “I have seen these former bullies enter the workplace, they are ill equipped to interact with coworkers. If they can’t adjust, they are fired, not because they can’t do the job, but because they can’t interact with others. ”

    I disagree with this completely. You certainly don’t see physical bullying in the workplace. Adults are much more likely to call the police if they are physically harassed than children. Those bullies fail in the adult world because they can no longer act out their physical aggression on weaker kids.

    But there have been bullies – those queen bees (or kings, although it seems more prevalent in women) who control everything, pick favorites and rally people to dump on, degrade and exclude those people who strike their ire – in every large workplace I’ve ever worked and in every large group I’ve ever been apart of. And they do it very successfully, particularly in middle/upper middle class suburbia.

    I think people have this picture of the big tough outsider bully from TV – the kid who steals lunch money, pushes kids’ heads in the toilets and locks people in lockers. The fact is that the reason bullying is so hard for the bullied to combat is that the most deadly bullies are the popular kids in school. They torture through words and actions not fists. They are very socially adept. The school administration and teachers love them. The other kids want to be their friends. This is no different in adulthood.

  15. BMS January 24, 2012 at 2:43 am #

    Exactly, Donna. I mean, what do you do when one of the bullies is the son of the cubmaster, whose mom is on the PTC, volunteers for everything, and both parents are just seen by everyone as ‘such wonderful people’. They are wonderful people, I guess. But their kid is just as capable of being a jerk as anyone else’s. And when that kid is really good at being sneaky, it’s always going to go his way. Who are they going to believe: the loud, quirky adopted kid who is always in trouble anyhow, or the ‘I’m so good at acting like an angel when adults are watching’ kid with the parents who are pillars of the community? It’s always ‘your son overreacted’ or ‘he didn’t mean it that way’ or ‘it was a misunderstanding’. Sometimes my son does overreact or take things the wrong way (another reason why I don’t really need him interacting online – he has a hard enough time sorting out people’s motives face to face). But I have been right there when some of these kids were making cutting, offhanded remarks, or shoving past him rudely, or deliberately moving their chairs away from him – it’s not all in his head. My son stopped telling adults at school about the abuse after a while because nothing changed. It took another student saying that this little angel had called my son the n-word for something to actually get done about it.

    And I really wish bullies got fired. But they don’t, as long as they keep producing good work. In academia, once you get tenure, you can be a bully all you want, and unless it’s actual sexual harrassment, no one can do a damn thing about it.

  16. EricS January 24, 2012 at 3:42 am #

    I would add as well, that when it comes to Bullies, they are just insecure and scared kids as well. They lash out at other kids that are weaker than them, giving them as false sense of “power”. Power that they lack in their own personal lives, making them weak and scared. Social sites online is just another outlet for them. Even more so. Because they have anonymity, they feel even more “confident” to escalate their verbal (and mental) aggression on others. For they have no fear of consequence. After all, in their minds, NO ONE knows who they are online. That they feel they can’t suffer any consequence. This is where, as parent, we need to be vigilant in what our kids do online. It’s not exactly the same as letting them go off on their own to walk to school by themselves, or play at the park with their friends. But the same principle of educating and teaching consequences to them still apply. Their actions, our actions, always have consequence. They need to be taught this at an early age. As well, children need to learn to speak up when they are being harassed, and parents/adults need to listen and take them seriously when they do. Kids will be kids, and they may exaggerate at times, but looking into issues (whether they are merited or not), is a small thing to do compared to the possible, and realistic outcome. A kid being bullied online or in person, is a more real situation, than a predator lurking online waiting to nab your kids.

  17. Jashby January 24, 2012 at 3:58 am #

    While I know we all agree already that the internet is not the problem in internet bullying, I think two things need to be added to the discussion.
    1) All our new social technology adds another layer to bullying. It has the capacity to make it national / global rather than just local. Remember the 14 year old who texted her boyfriend a pic of herself naked, which the article mentioned is becoming a bit common. Her picture — with a derogatory tag — wound up on cell phones of her peers all around her city. She couldn’t move schools to get rid of the stigma the bully, who tagged and forwarded the message, caused her.
    2) Yes the internet is a place for bullying, but it’s also the opposite. It’s a place kids use to redefine themselves. There are several studies of “remedial readers” — students who are put on the slow track in school — who engage in complex-level reading and writing online, or of students who perform poorly in school because of English skills who can drop the stigma of being called / thought “stupid” and socialize online, in English.
    Crazy wonderful thing, the internet.

  18. Joe January 24, 2012 at 4:14 am #

    I suspect a lot of the present hysteria over bullying on the internet stems from a desire to ‘leash’ kids by parents who are afraid that the kids know so much more about the net than they do that the kids will slip out of their control.

    What I really find amusing, though, is that the idea that the internet is rife with bullies and bad people isn’t countered by the idea that the internet is just as full of kind and caring people, eager to help others and share their wisdom & knolwedge & passions. Look at all the support sites, hobby sites, and other resources.

    We should no more fear the net than we should fear the ocean – respect it, yes. Take common sense precautions, yes. But take time to celebrate its beauty and bounty as well.

  19. Cheryl W January 24, 2012 at 4:38 am #

    Wingsnroots, that sounds like a great school, where they ask teachers, as well as kids, to live up to higher standards.

    My daughter’s elementary school did lip service. When I tried to get them to do a program that actually works, no one had time, even if I volunteered to supervise. But, when it came down to it, the teachers were the biggest bullies. Things like everyone is required to refer to the President as “He who shall not be named,” calling out the weights of all the kids in front of the class and telling the over weight ones to loose weight. Or humiliating kids when they have to go to the bathroom to the point that the kids end up with problems that require doctor intervention. How can you get kids to treat each other well, when the teacher is up there calling kids “fatty” or making fun of their names?

    With rules like Wingsnroots had, well, most of those teachers would have been out of there, leaving the really good and nice teachers. (Our favorite was just like Miss Honey from Matilda.) But, I wasn’t going to be able to change all that on my own. It is a part, but not all, of why we home school.

  20. Marie January 24, 2012 at 5:13 am #

    Makes me glad I still let my kids roam a little bit outside. Not as much as I’d like, because there aren’t other kids out for them to play with. They aren’t of an age for internet bullying or predators to be possible as a problem, as they only play games online, not socialize. Even then, I don’t expect a lot of problems.

  21. Lollipoplover January 24, 2012 at 5:41 am #

    I loved this NY Times article and agree that kids who are forbidden the freedom to roam outside and have unsupervised interactions will seek them out online. I actually fear more some of the content online vs. the risks in my neighborhood. I’d take a splinter any day over what’s being talked about in some of these chat rooms…

    As for bullying, I witnessed it last year (a kid pushed my son into a ditch), and actually went straight to the bully’s parents even though it happened on school property. They had a “boys will be boys” response and said it happened by accident (even though the kid taunted my son telling him he was going to get him after school) which didn’t fly. They reprimanded me for yelling at their son. I offered to get the police involved if they felt my actions were wrong but also said their child could be charged with assault. Their son had many other problems and they have since moved from our area (military family) but I know this kid will just do the same thing at his next school and the parents will continue to make excuses and perpetuate the cycle. Kids do need coping skills but you’ve got to call a spade a spade at some point, and I don’t think it should be the school’s responsibility to do that.

  22. pentamom January 24, 2012 at 6:32 am #

    BMS and Donna, I agree with your point about bullies not always being overt. My concern is that as long as we *don’t* address the problem that “YOUR kid could BE the bully,” instead of always being all about “How to protect your precious innocents FROM bullies,” or “how to teach your morally astute angels to protect the other kids when they SEE bullying,” it just makes it harder to deal with that reality. If it’s not already happening, there needs to be some serious dealing with the issue that yes, YOUR kid might be a bully and there ARE ways to discover that and deal with it. These are kids, after all, not some ultra-powerful, invincible Voldemort type characters — there are ways to figure out what they’re up to and how they’re behaving out of your sight even if they don’t want you to. (And I’m not talking about spying, I’m talking about relating to your kids on the level that would reveal things like that, and letting go of the illusion that it could never be your kid, so that you can be open to the possibility and aware of things not being right.)

    And you’re right, it was an overstatement that in the workplace, bullies are always dealt with. And yet, I think that either with maturity or with just the different contextual realities of adulthood, when there’s a workplace SOB type bully, everyone knows the person is a jerk, and you don’t have the whole rest of the workplace bandwagoning on (either out of fear or out of a desire to be on the right side of the cool kid) the way you do with school bullies. You might have a few toadies, but you don’t have the bully in control of the situation in the same sense. Workplace bullies may have social and economic power, but they don’t have the moral and emotional power of school bullies, and that IS a big difference. So I stand by the idea that training kids to “deal with” bullies, instead of the adults dealing with bullies as needed, is both a moral failure, and a load of crap as a means of “preparing kids for real life.”

  23. E. Simms January 24, 2012 at 7:27 am #

    @Jashby…”Remember the 14 year old who texted her boyfriend a pic of herself naked, which the article mentioned is becoming a bit common.”

    It turns out that sexting is not nearly as common as the hysterical press has reported:

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/12/05/143142420/teens-arent-the-rampant-sexting-maniacs-we-thought

  24. Donna January 24, 2012 at 8:07 am #

    Pentamom –

    The major law firm that I worked at had bullies who were extremely popular and well-liked. And, yes, almost everyone wanted to be accepted by them because they usually controlled the summer associate schedule (essentially summer camp for law students), had dibs on most of the social events around the firm and were generally well-liked by the partners so got the prime assignments. It was very much like middle school. I find many women’s organizations much the same. Many PTAs, mothers groups, Jr. League, etc. are extremely cliquish and middle school. The prime activities go to the ruling clique while the rest of the members are left to pick up the trash (sometimes literally). And people try to be a part of the clique because they want their kid invited to the parties, and want to meaningfully take part in . It’s why I rarely join female only organizations of any kind. Many are not so it is possible that you just haven’t witnessed or experienced much adult bullying by luck. So, while I agree that as people mature, they experience less bullying, there are definitely places where adult bullies flock and flourish. The bullies don’t change; adults can just more easily move out of their circle of influence.

    I do, however, disagree that training kids to deal with bullies is wrong. I don’t think it’s should be the ONLY approach. Clearly, identifying the bullies and dealing with those individuals is needed as well. As is dealing with the self esteem issues that often make you repeatedly a target of the bullies everywhere you go. But you likely will encounter bullies at various times as an adult. You need to be able identify them as such and deal with them until you can get out of their orbit. It is not always possible to quit a job on a dime and you may want to remain a member of the PTA or some other organization for other reasons.

    The problem with the your kid many be the bully call-to-action is that most, though certainly not all, parents of bullies are bullies themselves or were in school. They see absolutely nothing wrong with the way their children are acting and, in fact, taught their children to act that way. They don’t view the behavior as bullying at all. Unless you can convince them that they themselves are bullies, you are not going to get anywhere.

  25. pentamom January 24, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    “I do, however, disagree that training kids to deal with bullies is wrong.”

    Sorry, I didn’t meant to imply that at all. My objection was to the programs being *all about* that, not that that was included. I agree with you here.

  26. pentamom January 24, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    “Unless you can convince them that they themselves are bullies, you are not going to get anywhere.”

    Yes, and this is part of what I meant by making people face the fact that their kids could be the bullies. Obviously, this is not going to be simple and is not going to work all the time, but I just object to this aspect being omitted from the process entirely. There’s a certain degree of looking for your keys under the streetlight, if you only deal with the issues of the victims and don’t even *try* to deal in some fashion with the bullying behaviors, both in the kids themselves, and in their parents’ refusal to admit or even see a problem.

  27. Myriam January 24, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    I am really interested in this thesis that part of the appeal for young people of online socialising is precisely the relative lack of adult scrutiny (and I stress relative).
    I have been thinking exactly the same thing after observing my 10 year old online. He has conference calls with his classmates on Skype and goes on children’s websites with a social networking element. To me, it is a lot like behaviour in a club house: a lot of intrigues, plots, secret missions, in-jokes, go-betweens, “match-making” etc. There has been unpleasantness, and just like in real life, children can be “grounded” from online socialising.

    I was against it at first as I think it has significant potential to displace real-life interactions, but the sad truth is that there is no-one out there to play with despite my constant efforts to get him out to the park to play (to the extent that it has become a bit of a running joke amongst his friends – “X’s mum is always forcing him to go to the park”!).

    I am still wary about screen-based activities, not because they’re bad in themselves, but because of the addictive element. I think they can displace all other activities if limits are not set.

    As for online bullying and social hierarchies, I tend to agree with Ms Boyd there as well: existing relationships, different medium.

  28. BMS January 24, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    Pentamom: Oh I have tried to talk to the parents of some of these kids. Lord, I have tried. There was one kid who repeatedly told my son “Nobody likes you. It would be better if you were dead.” I knew his parents through scouts (he was one of the little darlings in my son’s scout den) and I emailed them and told them that a) I had heard from the principal (not from my son) about the incident, b) I had seen other things from this kid in the past and c)they needed to tell their kid to stay the hell away from my son. All I got back was denial, “that’s not what we heard”, etc. etc. I told the scoutmaster that his son was making my son miserable in scouts. He gave the whole den a talking to about respect, but otherwise did nothing in particular to rein in his son and his son’s friends. Nothing changed. He and his wife were just shocked and dismayed when I pulled my son out of the pack, and thought we were overreacting. He’s oblivious.

    It just gets to the point that it is not worth the battle. At school, it is worth the fight, because he needs to get an education, and he does not want to leave that school. But if it is something that is supposed to be fun, and its not because of the other kids, and there is another equivalent group without the social problems in the same town, then it seems to make more sense to just shift over and enjoy scouts again.

    I also have to agree with Donna on adult organizations. I tried, when my kid was a kindergartener, to volunteer for the PTC at our school. I rarely got called to do anything, and when I did, it was clean up detail. I tried to be pleasant and interact with the other moms, but was generally ignored by most. There is a definite inner circle – if you are not part of it you get polite, tight lipped greetings followed by ‘Do you mind going to do that menial task way over there?’ in a falsely sweet voice. After about half a year, I gave up. I have better things to do with my time than deal with annoying Country Club moms.

  29. pentamom January 24, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    BMS — I agree that parents talking to parents of the other kid doesn’t work well. I’ve been there — my mother did it, thinking it was a good idea, and well, it wasn’t, at least not the way she did it.

    So I’m not talking about that. I just mean that if you have a problem, not addressing one entire, large, contributing factor to the problem at all (really, the whole *source* of the problem), is not solving it. If you are a professional designing and implementing a program to “stop bullying,” not dealing with the fact that there are *bullies,* not just victims, is not smart. It might be really hard to figure out how to go about it effectively, I agree, but the solution is not just to pretend that half the equation doesn’t exist.

  30. BMS January 24, 2012 at 10:12 pm #

    Exactly. And that’s why I want to cuddle the new Vice Principal. He is the first administrator in 5 years to call a spade a spade. He is great at getting to the root causes of things, and while yes, my kid deservedly got in trouble for hitting, the kid who goaded him into doing it also finally got in trouble.

    The other thing this vice principal did was to allow my son to use non agressive means of dealing with trouble. In the past the lunch teachers would yell at my son if he got up to move away from a bully, telling him to sit down, and not listening to his explanation of why he was moving. This new guy put a stop to that. In the past they focused mostly on physical bullying or really over the top stuff. So unless my son got thrown into a locker, called a racial slur or (this was my favorite) had someone steal his water bottle and pee in it, no one did anything except talk, which did nothing. This guy finally gets that the day to day taunts and insults are just as damaging as the physical stuff. This guy isn’t amazed and shocked that, wow, special needs students get teased and called stupid. He accepts it and makes it freaking stop. I only wish it didn’t take until the last year in this school to get something like this to happen.

  31. BMS January 24, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

    And to get back to the point of the original post (sorry, hit post comment too soon) – I want my kid to get much better at dealing with the face to face bullies and get over some of the feeling that everyone is against him before he starts socializing online. He is finally starting to enjoy school somewhat. I don’t want the bullies who were finally stymied at school to take it to the internet and start this crap all over again. Add that to my general aversion to online socializing, and I just think for our family (not for the world, just us) online social stuff is just not a good idea.

  32. Havva January 25, 2012 at 2:02 am #

    @BMS — I am really glad to hear that the new Vice Principal has made things actually change at your son’s school. I was really concerned yesterday when I read your writing that “My son stopped telling adults at school about the abuse after a while because nothing changed.” Obviously you didn’t need to hear from me that this was a bad situation.

    It struck close to home for me. For myself and one of my friends corrupt school officials played a major roll breaking our belief in a safe and justice oriented world. I think for both of us this was a key element in our failure to tell our parents about abuse we suffered. He sort of figured his parents knew how bad things were. For me it was a matter of figuring that even when people wanted to help me, those with authority to do something just wouldn’t care. In both cases we saw no benefit to upsetting whatever balance existed between us and our attackers, and a real possibility that speaking out would invite worse abuse.

    It would have made a difference for me to know that there are always options (not dependent on corrupt officials and evidence that may not exist). I hope you will remind you son from time to time how it helped to change scout troupes and what a difference the new vice principal made. Don’t let him forget that a corrupt power structure (at school, at scouts etc) is not inescapable and everlasting. And more importantly is not an indication of how people outside of those organizations will behave. … And my goodness, he should always have a right to walk away from people abusing him. There are times where it is worth getting in trouble with school officials (another thing my friend and I wish we realized sooner).

  33. BMS January 25, 2012 at 3:28 am #

    I think I really got the new guy’s attention when I was in a meeting with him and the counselor trotted out her usual “I’ve told him he can always tell me when something happens.” My response was, “If telling adults at this school actually changed anything, then we wouldn’t be here right now.”

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