Monday, February 21, 2011

Cyber bullying and Social Networking

A tragedy that was plastered all over the news in March 2010 was the suicide of Alexis Pilkington. While her parents have argued that cyber bullying was not the cause of her death, it inspired many anti-bullying movements, including this heartfelt YouTube video.

Cyber Bullying is when people take traditional bullying (teasing, calling people bad names, harrassment) online to social media websites and other forms of online communication. Straubhaar states that it is when "youth" do this, but I think bullying can occur at any age (Straubhaar, 425). 

Although the highly publicized suicide of Phoebe Prince in January 2010 was caused my traditional bullying, cyber bullying began after her death, with malicious comments posted on her Facebook memorial page. You have to ask yourself, why would someone do that? Clearly, they would not get a reaction of out Phoebe postmortem, so they must have been looking for the attention from everyone else.

A New Jersey middle school principal sent an email to parents asking them to get their children off social networking sites because of the antisocial behaviors they cause. The guidance counselor at the school said 75% of her time was spent dealing with students and their problems stemming from social networking websites. I don't think this is an odd statistic at all! In fact, I expect this. People are communicating via social media more and more. My friend Teresa and I used to talk on the phone for hours in middle school. If I was in middle school today, that conversation might have taken place via Twitter at-replies or Facebook wallposts or chats. If before I had a fight with Teresa on the phone, the guidance counselor would not have said "Telephones cause drama with kids." Social media, like telephones, may facilitate drama and cyberbullying, but I would never say that it causes it.

One times in middle school these two girls three-way called an unknowing girl, and girl 1 coaxed her into speaking badly about girl 2. This same scenario could easily happen if girls 1 and 2 were at one house and girl 1 initiated a Facebook chat with the unknowing girl. Bullying hasn't necessarily changed. It's the method in which people do it that has changed.

Personally, I think middle shoolers should be allowed on social networking website, with some parental monitoring and time restrictions. As a middle schooler I remember using AIM, Xanga, Livejournal and Myspace. My parents didn't monitor me at all, and looking back I was probably a little unsafe with my privacy, but I never experienced online bullying. If you notice your child has become addicted to the computer, put time limits on their usage and encourage participation in sports and school groups. Gluing yourself to the computer screen at any age is a problem, but especially to people so young. The more time they spend on the computer, the more potential for trouble. What did I do on AIM as a kid? Probably a lot of small talk, but I can specifically remember a ton of gossip. My mom would get upset if I spent too much time on the computer, and now I understand why.

The information gap is growing. The knowledge gap hypothesis, as explained by Straubhaar, is when the information-rich get richer faster than the information-poor, even though new information technologies are coming out that help both parties (Straubhaar, 436). While this section of the book is mainly talking about the difference between social groups as defined by wealth, race, and gender, there is quite the information gap between generations. There are over 500 million active users on facebook, and more than 50% of these users log on at least once a day. I did argue that bullying can happen at any age, but I do think it's more prevalent with the youth, the main group of people on Facebook. Sometimes I think kid's parents don't know how to help them or prevent problems because many of them have little to no experience with social media.

What do you think:

Has social networking increased bullying or does it just make bullying easier for kids that are bullies already?

NY Daily News
Finding Dulcinea
Media Now: Understanding Media, Culture, and Technology
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  1. This is a good topic. I think it does give bullies an easier way to bully others and it's sad to hear that victims not only have to deal with it offline but, on sites and even social gaming (idk the term for it lol) like World of Warcraft. Schools and parents should really emphasise on bullying online.

  2. I think social networking has just given bullies another portal for bullying.

  3. I think it's difficult to clearly determine what factor is causing general bullying, but the pervasive nature of the internet certainly makes it easier to bully and harass others.

  4. I think it's more an issue of what their parents are letting them do - I mean, certainly children are capable of doing things without being detected, but with the amount of time & effort it takes to be a bully, surely their parents would be able to pick up on it?
    If one's child is in middle or high school & you see no fault with allowing your child to participate in social networking, then be proactive about it: monitor what they do on there, limit the amount of time they spend doing it. I don't know, but when I learn that children are killing themselves because of what someone else's middle school child is sending them in a FB message, I can't help but wonder "Where the hell were/are their parents?!?!"

  5. I think it's like sex offenders. In high school the media made such a big deal about sex offenders near my school, but national media was saying that social media didn't create more offenders, it just created another portal for existing offenders.