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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

'eBullies': Coping with cyberbullying

This is the kind of incident that adds to school absentee rates these days: In Texas, a student "posted a page that he attributed to a classmate, complete with the girl's picture and numerous photos of her alleged sex partners. Other students … were invited to view the page," the Detroit News reports. Within two days 100 students had posted comments on the page. "The boy eventually was suspended for a few days … and the victim transferred schools because she was so distraught." The victim was hesitant to tell her parents, worried she'd lose her online privileges (a fairly common reaction, research shows). The Cleveland Plain Dealer has some at-at-glance statistics on bullying, though the first one - 3 in 4 students say they've been cyberbullied - is high (the Pew Internet & American Life's latest study on this puts it at close to one-third).

Meanwhile, parents, a book by two social workers cited by the Detroit News points to "the importance of parents getting kids to feel comfortable talking about their Internet time," offering us this advice: "Start with nonforced, nonjudgmental questions about their online experiences, ideally in a casual setting, they say, such as when you're shopping for back-to-school clothes or walking the dog together. Even if the child seems bored or annoyed, he or she actually may want to talk about it. Then listen." No doubt unwritten codes of conduct are naturally developing in peer groups, in school social scenes, and all over the social Web. For students, here's a blogger on Facebook etiquette who's encouraging a discussion on her page. For educators, there's a new set of courses at BullyingCourse.com from Canadian educator Bill Belsey, creator of the award-winning Bullying.org and "the world's first Web site about cyberbullying," Cyberbullying.ca. In the US, Nancy Willard's book Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats has a section on legal considerations for schools.

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