Because of the ways that digital media leave out many of the cues that prompt us to feel empathy, it is easy for young people to sometimes forget that real people – with real feelings – are at the heart of online conversations. In this lesson, students are provided with opportunities to explore this concept and discuss the importance of using empathy and common sense when talking to others online.
Lessons on Cyberbullying for Grades 5-12
The Internet has created a whole new world of social communications for young people who are using e-mail, social networking Web sites, instant messaging, chat rooms and text messaging to stay in touch with friends and make new ones.
Cyberbullying is everyone’s business and the best response is a pro-active or preventative one. From the outset, we can reduce the risks associated with internet use if we engage in an open discussion with our children about their online activities and set up rules that will grow along with them. Cyberbullying is strongly connected with moral disengagement – the ways we can fool ourselves into thinking it’s all right to do something we know is wrong or to not do something we know is right – so activating kids’ empathy and moral judgment is a key aspect of preventing it.
It’s important to note that there is no single profile of a child who bullies. While some fit the traditional image of someone who is generally aggressive and has poor impulse control, others may be very sensitive to social nuances and are able to use that understanding against their targets.
Verbal or emotional abuse is the most prevalent form of bullying online. Social bullying, another pervasive form – particularly with girls – includes social exclusion and spreading gossip and rumours.
For most youth, the Internet is all about socializing, and while most of these social interactions are positive, increasing numbers of kids are using the technology to intimidate and harass others – a phenomenon known as cyberbullying.
One of the most famous images of online life is the New Yorker cartoon captioned “On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.” The cartoon, published in 1993, was hugely influential in fixing an image in the public imagination of the Internet as a place where anonymity reigned. It did not take long for that humorous view of anonymity to take on a darker cast, as parents began to fear that Internet predators would use this invisibility to lure their children in the guise of twelve-year-old girls. It's instructive, though, to realize just how long ago this cartoon was published, and how much the Internet has changed since then.
Just a short while ago, concern with online predators was so dominant that anyone trying to draw attention to the problem of cyberbullying felt like a voice in the wilderness. In the last few years, though, new research has not only provided a more realistic picture of the risks of online sexual solicitation; but has also raised awareness on the severity of cyberbullying. Unfortunately, all of the media attention that is now focused on cyberbullying runs the risk of making public perceptions on this issue as narrow and inaccurate as they were towards online predation.