Saturday, February 7, 2009

cyber-bullying

i came across this article in the new york times about a student who was suspended for "cyber-bullying" a teacher on her facebook page. this caught my attention because at my internship this week some middle school girls were sent to the principal for harassing each other via their facebook "status messages". Supposedly, the former-bff's were using this public forum to spread rumors and express their disgust with each others' clothing, mannerisms, hair styles, lifestyles, and relationships with boys. some of these may seem like inconsequential topics, but we are learning the hard way that the effect on the kids being targeted is frightening. in a separate article, i read that in late 2006 a 13 year-old girl killed herself after being pursued and subsequently cruelly mocked by someone on myspace who claimed to be a 14 year-old boy.

old-school bullying consisted of whispered rumors and passed notes in class. but this relatively new form of bullying is right out in the open, and available to the public. does that make it worse that the old kind? and should students be held accountable for it as harassment, or is it an issue of free speech? can a school even hold students responsible for actions that occur in cyberspace and not in the school itself? if so, how can a school possibly police the online activity of it's hundreds (sometimes thousands) of students?

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