When I decided to start a career in education over a decade ago the term cyberbullying didn’t even exist. Bullying is nothing new to school or the youth culture. It’s something that we’ve all dealt with in our childhood past. However, the Internet has given birth to a new breed of bully, one that often has no traceable identity and one that can torment you 24/7. In my day you would leave school at the end of the day and could retreat home where you were safe. Now students leave school only to greet their tormentors online at home, leaving them no place in which they are truly safe from tormentors.
According to a survey done by the National Crime Prevention Center, over 40% of all teenagers with Internet access have reported being bullied online during the past year. What’s even more disturbing is that only 10% of those kids told their parents about the incident.
Cyberbullying is not limited to secondary age students. 58% of 4th through 8th graders admit to having mean or cruel things said to them online. 53% admitted to saying mean or cruel things. 42% of those studied believe that they have been bullied online but only 60% of those reported the incident to their parents.
This doesn’t even include the new trend of “sexting” in which students take lewd photos of themselves and send them via multimedia text messages to friends. In the same survey conduded by the National Crime Prevention Center, 10% of 770 students were made to feel “threatened, embarrassed or uncomfortable” by a photo take of them using a cell phone camera.
The recent death of Phoebe Prince, a young 15 year old that took her own life due to bullying, is a painful reminder to how crucial it is that we teach our students to be good digital citizens. Our students are growing up online. Most have access to a computer in their home with Internet access and many are texting their friends as young as seven years old. Most are interacting with digital media about every hour that they are not asleep, whether it’s texting, surfing the Internet, playing video games, etc.
Teaching good character is nothing new. We’ve been doing it for years through Character Counts lessons and similar methods. It’s time that we teach the same life lessons of morals, ethics and good character in the digital world. If you’re not teaching your students to be good digital citizens, why not? Here are some great resources to get you started!
Digital Citizen Teaching Resources
- Digital Citizenship - http://www.digitalcitizenship.net/
- Digital Citizenship Heartland Wiki - http://twaterman.pbworks.com/Digital_Citizenship
- A Beginners Guide to School Security - http://www.techlearning.com/showArticle.php?articleID=14700427
- Teaching Digital Citizenship Reflection - http://euclidnets.wikispaces.com/file/view/DCReflect.pdf
Elisha Reese has taught business and technology to secondary students for seven years. More recently she has stepped into the role of Instructional Technology Specialist at Frenship High School in Wolfforth, Texas. She loves discovering new ways to integrate technology into the classroom and loves discovering new technology tools to utilize with her teachers and students. You can follow Elisha’s blog at http://ereese.edublogs.org or follow her twitter @eliree.
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