Archive for cyber bullying

This blog comes to us from Christopher Burgess. You can read more about Christopher, book him as a speaker or consultant here.

This is the first blog from within the veritate et virtute domain

It is fitting, therefore, this particular post revolve around a topic which continues to provide challenges to legislators both in the United States, as well as elsewhere around this small world we share – “Electronic Harassment.”

Electronic Harassment is a polite word for the many of the insidious ills which have regrettably transitioned to the electronic world from the physical world. Lamentably, the physical world’s ills continue apace, and are now magnified by the ubiquitious global online presence, which is only growing exponentially. The most common and well known form of electronic harassment comes to us in two forms “cyberstalking” or “cyberbullying.”

In the United States, 46 of the 50 states have passed legislation addressing the particulars of the electronic world, largely as an adjunct to existing legislation used to protect individuals within the physical world. A good beginning, with much work remaining to be concluded. Only four states have centralized digital evidence laboratories (Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire). Thus none would be surprised to see the backlog of cases involving digital evidence growing, as this evidence often times crosses the physical jurisdictions and thus causes issues of jurisdictional control of data inter-state and intra-state.

The National Council of State Legislatures, has identified only 19 of 50 states as having legislature which specifically addresses “cyberbullying” within the context of their educational systems. These states (and their appropriate legislative acts) are: Read More→

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A recent fight between two students at Surfside Middle School in Florida has been “up-leveled” to the Internet.  The incident was caught on other students’ cell phones and then posted to Facebook. The parents of the victim are doubly upset, not just because the school staff didn’t break up the fight as it was occurring, but also because their daughter now gets to “relive” the fight again and again via social media.

This really highlights the fuzzy line between what a school can reasonably be responsible for when it comes to anti-social student behavior.  Certainly, physical assault and bullying on school property is within their area of responsibility. But, what happens when students continue the negative behavior off school time?

It’s interesting because I was just asked this question during a recent webinar I gave on “7 Steps to Eliminate Bullying in Schools: An Inside-Out Approach.” The question was about how a school should go about developing an effective bullying policy.  I pointed out that a policy that addresses “traditional bullying” (physical, verbal, social) while on school property is pretty straightforward. But what happens when you begin to consider cyber bullying — do you include only what happens on school property, during school time, perhaps using only school resources? What do you in a case like this one at Surfside, where the cyber bullying occurs with students’ own cell phones and the media gets posted to their personal Facebook accounts? If it was done during school time, that’s one thing, but how does a policy apply if they do it while at home? What if the bullying occurs through students posting inflammatory comments or untruths about a teacher on social media? Where does “freedom of speech” and expression extend to harassment and libel?

As you can see, it’s a difficult question and a complex issue. Schools and districts need to be very careful how they define policies and consequences to make sure they are not only reasonable and practical, but also enforceable. AND, they need to consider this in the context of prevailing laws and legislation. It’s something that, ideally, should be done with the help of experts because there is no cookie-cutter way of dealing with it.

Of course, the bigger issue what motivates the anti-social behavior to begin with, but we’ll tackle that in another post.

 

P.S. Need help developing a good bullying policy that includes issues of cyber bullying and cybersecurity?  Check the Resources page for our expert help.

Categories : cyber bullying
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Tonight, CBS News “48 Hours” program is going to air a special on bullying called “Words Can Kill.” I’ve seen this coming for a long time and am eager to see how it turns out.  Last Spring, I was in repeated, lengthy conversations with Kathleen O’Connell and Deb Grau about the plans for the show and shared a lot of information with them. I was also actively working with them to help them find a school that was willing to go “on the record” about bullying and talk about steps they were taking to solve bullying in their schools.

As it turns out, the schools I had introduced them to didn’t follow through after several rounds of talks, so they (and we) weren’t included, but I’m hopeful that the background info I provided was helpful to the program’s efforts.

I’ve seen the sneak peak (and you can view it here), and it looks interesting.  Cynthia Logan who is an online “friend” of mine because of the tragic loss of her daughter, Jessie, to bullycide is extensively interviewed. From what I’ve seen, however, I’m worried that this piece is going to be only more of the same of what we’ve already seen: awareness of the problem and exposure to how horrible it is.

Where are the solutions? One Middle School in Rhode Island is profiled, taking an active stand against bullying. But, what about other approaches? Stopping bullying requires a comprehensive approach, one that deals in both prevention and remediation. As I shared in a webinar completed yesterday, it takes both a strategy and an implementation plan. In fact, we’ve outlined seven steps that are really required to not only stop bullying now, but also to keep it from recurring.  I’ll be intersted to see what this school is doing; most “plans” stop after Step 3, and then they wonder why nothing significantly changes.

What the biggest hope I have of this piece is that it causes schools to reevaluate how important it is to take greater steps in solving this problem.  If the predominant attitude is: “well, we can’t afford to do more,” or “we already have a program/policy in place,” then the 48 Hours project isn’t going to much to change that attitude.  It will likely spur greater reaction among parents, who will find the horror of what occurred in several of these bullying and cyber bullying cases appalling.  But, they may not have much influence on the schools who feel that budget and time pressures prevent them from implementing other options.

Ultimately, I don’t think we need more awareness. Read More→

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Sep
14

Cracking down on cyber bullying?

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While doing some research for an upcoming paper and workshop on cyber bulling, I stumbled across a very interesting chart. Put out by the Cyberbully Research Center, this chart presents a quick and concise view of the status of States’ varying bullying and cyber bullying laws. As I write this, its information is quite current, having just been updated.

According to the chart, presently 46 states in the US either have or have proposed bullying laws.  Currently, neither Montana nor South Dakota have laws, nor are there any pending. Only eight states actually use the specific term “cyber bullying” (or cyberbullying, depending on your spelling) in their law, but 34 do include online harassment. You really have to drill down to individual States’ laws to see how the distinction, if any, is made.

But, in this document, you can do that.  After the summary chart, there is a listing, state by state, of the relevant legislation and a quick synopsis of its contents. In many cases, there is an actual link to the text of the law or bill involved.

Because I’m based in Washington State, I naturally popped right down there to see what it said. Apparently, it added specific text including “cyberbullying” to the RCW (Revised Code of Washington), but the law specifies that cyberbullying has been added to the Harassment and Bullying Act for which all schools must have a policy.  It would be interesting to see how many of our public schools and districts HAVE such an amended policy in place.  Of course, the legislation doesn’t specify what the policy should consist of or do, or how effectiveness is to be measured.  The problem is with policies is that they are just “serving suggestions,” and it depends on HOW you implement them and how well they are enforced.  A policy on its own won’t buy you much…except state compliance. (For more on this discussion of the value of legislation, you may want to visit You Can’t Bully Me, It’s Against the Law!)

Massachusetts’ specifics are interesting.  Certainly spurred by the tragic death of Phoebe Prince, there is quite a bit of reference to bullying both within school boundaries and time, as well as outside of school. Moreover, schools must provide training to their staff annually about what the relevant policies in place at the school are.  But, what about training and education for the students? Perhaps that is implied in the policies adopted by the schools, but I’m surprised they would mandate training for the staff, but not the ones actually responsible for most of the bullying and cyber bullying.

In Kansas, they did actually add the term “cyberbullying” and defined it at the State level. However, it’s up to the schools to decide the appropriate punishment.

So I guess what I get from all this is that while there is greater attention being paid to cyber bullying — and bullying overall, — when we say “there’s a law” it doesn’t necessarily mean that the States are cracking down on the problem.  It may mean they have defined the term, and have included it in their legislation, but I’m not sure how much teeth it has when the “law” says that “you aren’t supposed to do it, but we’ll leave it up to the schools to define the punishment.”

Maybe I’m missing something, but doesn’t that seem to be a lot of time, energy and money spent for something that doesn’t even DO anything, really about the problem? How will THIS stop cyber bullying in our schools and communities, is what I want to know. Otherwise I’m not sure the “law” is worth the paper it’s written on, much less the cost of passing it.

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I had the amazing fortune to receive this from Christopher Burgess recently.  I am very lucky to have this piece from him to share with you.  This is compelling and I encourage you to read and share with anyone who is concerned with the lives of our children.

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Do you ever delve into a stack of statistics and just find yourself mesmerized by the data, data that shocks your inner core?  I had that happen to me recently as I was doing some fact checking surrounding instances of children committing suicide, specifically children who were bullied into suicide by others (both adults and children).  I concluded, we lose too many precious children to “bullyicide.”

According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) a person dies of suicide about every 15 minutes or approximately 96 people take their own life each day.  Sadly, for every person who succeeds, there have been between 8 and 25 failed attempts.  That math works out to approximately 800 to 2400 attempted suicides in the United States each day.

Looking solely at the numbers for youth between the ages of 5 and 19 we see that right around age 10, suicide moves up to the third leading cause of death (See table 1).  Sadly, according to the NSPL, the suicide rate amongst young people has more than doubled over the past two decades.

   Rank       Ages 5-9     Ages 10-14       Ages 15-19
1 Unintentional Injury
1,072
Unintentional Injury
1,343
Unintentional Injury
6,616
2 Malignant Neoplasms
485
Malignant Neoplasms
515
Homicide
2,076
3 Congenital Anomalies
196
Suicide
270
Suicide
1,613
4 Homicide
121
Homicide
220
Malignant Neoplasms
731
5 Heart Disease
106
Congenital Anomalies
200
Heart Disease
389

Table 1: Leading Cause of Death of Children

Digging a bit deeper into the available information, I wanted to know where, geographically, suicides were occurring.  I was startled.  No state is exempt.  According to the National Center for Health Statistics, based on 2007 data (the most recent), the top ten states are:   Alaska, Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming, Nevada, Colorado, West Virginia, Arizona, Oregon and Kentucky based on the number of suicides per 100,000 of population.   (See table two)

I then started digging to see if the statistics would tell me how many of these were the result of bullying? My digging found that in 2010, I was able to confirm 30 cases of suicide which the family, friends, or authorities attributed to bullying.  The age of the children ranged from 9-19 years of age (9-1, 10-0, 11-2, 12-2, 13-3, 14-4, 15-6, 16-2, 17-5, 18-2 and 19-3).   I also found that the vast majority of these suicides were at the first and last thirds of the traditional school year (16 suicides Sep-Nov and 10 suicides Mar-May).  Perhaps this is coincidence how the frequency of bullycide coincides with the academic school year.  (For additional reading see: Bullycide, the end result of cyberbullying and Bullycide: My Time Has Come So Now I’m Gone )

I think you would agree that given the alignment between school year and children being bullied into suicide that an individual investment in educating and making all concerned aware of the realities is warranted.  Read More→

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Over the last several months, there has been a great deal of coverage in the news and other media about the increasing incidents of cyber bullying. In the wake of many tragic events , such as the bullying/suicide of Phoebe Prince, there’s been more attention directed on this topic. Author, speaker and security expert Christopher Burgess frequently writes in his blog about the need to do something more about the problem, and described Seattle Public Schools efforts along those lines.

I’m glad to see people are taking this seriously: they should. What worries me is the approach.  Frankly, it’s just more of the same thing we are doing with regards to stopping “traditional bullying.”

What I mean is, we’re approaching the problem of cyber bullying like it’s some new and different form of bullying. And fundamentally, it’s not. It’s bullying. Full stop. It’s just another “tool” to conduct bullying, but it’s the same thing.

Sure, there are some distinct features that make it potentially more troublesome than other forms of bullying. For example, because of the ubiquitous nature of the Internet or electronic media, you have a much easier way to spread rumors, hate-speech and other anti-social communication — it’s a shot-gun approach, not a rifle.  It can also be spread virally, as the damage can be propagated Also, in a lot of cases, the communication can be done anonymously.  So the bully, theoretically can do his/her damage and not be revealed or held accountable.  Further, cyber bullying can be done 7/24/365, from literally anywhere, and the impact can be permanent. Not only is information on websites frequently public, it is stored.  Who knows when awful false claims about someone might resurface?

But underlying it all is the same basic root cause as other bullying: lack of respect, compassion, empathy for other people and their feelings. Yet there is a huge call for programs and initiatives to specifically address cyber bullying.  Again, it’s using the bandaid to deal with another “surface” problem, but who is really looking at what CAUSES it in the first place?

In Mr. Burgess’ blog, he outlines a nine-lesson approach Seattle Public Schools is adopting.  Of those nine lessons, the first is about Respect and Responsibility…the balance of the lessons are specific to cyberbullying, with one lesson on bullying in general; two cover “what to do and where to get help.” We’re spending more time on management and mitigation than we are on prevention. Read More→

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