One in Three Teachers Cyberbullied – 25% Comes From Parents

September 3, 2011

We hear a lot about kids bullying and cyberbullying kids, we hear plenty of stories about adults harassing and stalking others online, but what we hear less about is the cyberbullying teachers are subjected to at the hands of their students – and the student’s parents.

More than a third of teachers in the U.K. have been abused online. Most of the abuse (72%) came from students, but over a quarter (26%) came from parents according to a new study from Plymouth University in England conducted by professor Andy Pippen.

“Everyone acknowledges this is a problem and something needs to be done about it, but schools lack support. It is a sticky area as some of the things posted may not be considered illegal,” Pippen told the Huffington Post UK.

While teachers have always been targets of abuse – cars damaged, homes trashed, graffiti slurs, and threats – the internet’s anonymity appears to have given bullies – particularly parent bullies – the opportunity to scale to a new level of viciousness.

Showing typical gender role bias, 60% of the teachers who reported being bullied are women.  The abuse is manifest through several online mediums like chat and social networks, but cyberbullies are also creating Facebook groups specifically targeting certain teachers, posting videos on YouTube, and leveraging the ever nasty ratemyteacher.com site.

“It seems to a subset of the [parent] population the teacher is no longer viewed as someone who should be supported in developing their child’s education, but a person whom it is acceptable to abuse if they dislike what is happening in the classroom,” said Phippen.

While this report is out of the U.K. and not the U.S., it would be naïve to assume that teachers here and around the world aren’t facing the same issues.

Perhaps as schools put together the final pieces of their back-to-school materials for this school year they should add a section to their student cyberbullying policy that specifically outlines expectations for parents.  If the parents are cyberbullies, it will be awfully hard to get their kids to behave better.

Linda


Back-to-School and Internet Safety

August 19, 2011

The phrase back-to-school conjures up thoughts of trying on clothes to see what fits and what doesn’t, and purchasing the notebooks, pens, and other paraphernalia your student needs for the year ahead.

However, new to most parents is the realization that an Internet safety checkup also falls into this seasonal rhythm.

The beginning of school is an excellent time to review your current Internet safety guidelines and see if they are still a good fit for your family and your child. It may be time to expand online privileges and reinforce the added responsibilities and expectations that come with age and with any new devices your child may be using.

Here is a checklist for this change of season:

  1. Begin by reviewing your student’s current privileges and responsibilities. Ideally, kids should take on new privileges and responsibilities each year so they can learn to become more responsible, and eventually grow into independent adults. Is it time to increase the level of access you provide to them?
  2. Reinforce the basics. Internet Safety has four basic principles – protect yourself, respect the safety of others, be kind, and act responsibly by following family rules and the terms and conditions set by services.
  3. Address new areas of potential risk – For example, if your child is starting to use social networking, it’s time to have a discussion about which service to use, what information he or she should share, what privacy settings should be in place, and so on.
  4. Review your school’s Internet usage guidelines. Permission slips for using the Internet in school are sent home during the first week of school. These require parents and students to agree to the school’s guidelines and they provide another great opportunity to address acceptable online usage and actions.
  5. Talk to each child, tween, and teen every year about Cyberbullying. Cyberbullying, online harassment, and cyber stalking are all terms for ways in which those who wish to hurt others, for whatever reason, use online tools to do so. This form of bullying is incredibly damaging both to those who are victims, and to the bullies themselves. It is critical that you establish an environment that makes your children feel safe in coming to you to report any problems.

Linda


Criddle Interviewed On New Internet Safety Curriculum

April 10, 2011

Port Townsend Leader’s Nicholas Johnson interviewed Linda Criddle about the development and roll-out of the LOOKBOTHWAYS Foundation’s  NetSkills4Life curriculum that will be available to the public this coming fall.  Here are excerpts from that interview Online safety made simple for schools.

Most of us – children and adults alike – browse, surf, click, search, download, upload, link and post with little thought toward protecting privacy or questioning content. The Internet remains a bit of a free-for-all where users with any and all motivations come together to share words, images and ideas, as well as goods and services. But what about those who aren’t interested in sharing, but instead, in taking, collecting?

“People don’t realize what they are sharing,” said Criddle, an expert on Internet crime and safety. “They do not realize that all those disparate things they said at different times create a very detailed map.”

In an effort to bring comprehensive, user-friendly Internet safety curriculum into the classroom, Criddle has developed a free, computer-based curriculum called NetSkills4Life through her nonprofit foundation, Look Both Ways. The curriculum is set to embark on a testing phase around May 15, and both Port Townsend and Chimacum fifth- and sixth-graders will be among the nearly 1,400 students to take part around the state.

The goal is to help students understand the risks and responsibilities of online life while actively preparing them to be safe, self-aware online citizens.

“NetSkills4Life is free and private for everyone,” Criddle said. “You don’t have to register. You don’t have to give us a ton of information. We don’t want it.”

Designed to be light, the curriculum consists of three one-hour lessons per grade level, meaning teachers can easily work them into class time or assign them as homework. Beyond that, Criddle said, the curriculum demands [no technical or safety skills] of teachers, who often feel as overwhelmed by technology as students.

The lessons are built on a game platform, making them interactive and engaging. The idea is to go beyond simple advice, and prompt the student to see potential danger, know how to confront it and then actually do it.

“We are very focused on ensuring that not only do they understand the concepts, but they master the skills they need,” Criddle said. “If you teach kids about bicycle traffic safety awareness and you never teach them how to ride a bike, they are still going to wobble in front of the car, because they don’t have the skills to ride better.”

Competitive imperative

Criddle knows the advantages of responsible online citizenship in a competitive world.  “We are not, as a culture, embracing technology and its opportunities the way we need to,” she said. “U.S. schools are far behind other schools around the world in adopting the Internet, embracing and using it. I frankly believe our competitive advantage is at risk if we do not help schools, families and individuals step up and feel confident.”

“The parent who fails to have their kid fully prepared for the Internet world when they graduate from high school has not succeeded in preparing their children for an adult life,” Criddle said.


Student Stalking or Support – Using GPS to Track Truants

March 29, 2011

Some school districts in California, Texas and Kentucky are using a GPS student tracking and mentoring program called Attendance Improvement Management (AIM).   This service has been steadily gaining schools as clients since 2005 and has made huge fans of some school administrators and judges dealing with chronic truancy cases.

The AIM program has two aspects to helping kids at risk of dropping out or with chronic truancy. The first is mentoring, and there is a body of evidence supporting the benefits of providing additional mentoring to at risk kids.

The second aspect is tracking, by providing each at risk student with a bulky cellphone sized GPS device, and this raises a red flag for me. The ramifications of tracking students’ locations should be very carefully considered before we proceed down this path.

Frankly, I side with those who believe the GPS tracking aspect of this program is an inappropriate way to address school truancy. These kids aren’t violent criminals who represent such a threat to society that a permanently affixed GPS ankle bracelet is a needed safeguard.  If this is an adequate reason for schools to track teens every movement, what’s next?

The company points to their success results and they are impressive, but what isn’t clear is how much can be attributed to the GPS element. See the sidebar about the company’s very hands-on mentoring, and I suspect this much attention from a mentor is the real driver of change. In fact, the company itself says it is the mentoring aspect that is the most important factor in success.

I question the accuracy of results on a GPS device that isn’t firmly affixed to the user. If I had been a truant teen, I’d have just left it with a friend who was at school. If I had to enter a code periodically, the friend would do that too.  If I can figure this out, truant teens are already doing it.

I also am concerned about the motivation of the schools adopting the program. I firmly believe all schools want to help kids succeed, but what came up frequently in the interviews posted on the company’s website, as well as in the company’s own results (see below) is another, very different motivator.

Money

When money is part of an equation about whether we should track our students’ every move, we’re in very murky water.

If the AIM program did not raise school revenues, would they still find it acceptable to trample their student’s privacy by monitoring their locations?

I’m against tracking the location of students at all. But if we somehow got past that hurdle, a host of other questions arise. Who can access that data? What if it’s hacked or abused? These devices track teens location 24/7 not just during school hours – where’s the justification for that?  What if law enforcement wants the information? Or parents? Or…

Just because there is technology to help solve a problem, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to use it. When technology tramples privacy, it’s time to ask hard questions

Linda


The School Bully in Cyberspace

September 19, 2010

I am continuing my practice of sharing recent internet safety research pieces:

Excerpt

From the Dept. of Education:

Teens live highly digital and media-rich lives with more communications choices than ever before. The media explosion is influencing our youths in ways never imagined. According to the 2007 Pew Internet & American Life Project report Teens and Social Media, by Amanda Lenhart, Mary Madden, Alexandra Rankin Macgill and Aaron Smith, most teens spend time online, and about 50 percent of those who use the Internet have at least one profile on at least one social networking Web site.

Youths use such sites to stay in touch with friends and make new ones. The Pew findings note that 28 percent of teens using the Internet maintain a blog to write about their lives, ideas, goals and dreams; to post photos; and to create and share videos. In addition, the report states that 80 percent of teens own at least one form of what is defined as “new” media technology—a cell phone, personal data assistant, or computer with Internet access.

As noted in a 2007 special supplement to the Journal of Adolescent Health on electronic media, the explosion of technology and its use by adolescents has many potential benefits. Technology provides a way for young people to communicate regularly with family and friends and may result in teens feeling more connected to others. “The

Internet provides opportunities for adolescents who have difficulty making friends, e.g., home-schooled or socially anxious youth, to make rewarding social connections,” point  out Corinne David-Ferdon and Marci Feldman Hertz in the guest editors’ commentary “Electronic Media, Violence, and Adolescents: An Emerging Public Health Problem.”

Click here to learn more: The School Bully in Cyberspace

Linda


Cyberbullying Research Summary: Cyberbullying and Suicide

September 18, 2010

I am continuing my practice of sharing recent internet safety research pieces:

Excerpt

From the cyberbullying Research Center:

Youth suicide continues to be a significant public health concern in the United States. Even though suicide rates have decreased 28.5 percent among people in recent years, upward trends were identified in the 10‐ to 19‐year‐old age group.  In addition to those who successfully end their life, many other adolescents strongly think about and even attempt suicide.

One Factor that has been linked to suicidal ideation is experience with bullying. That is, youth who are bullied, o bully others, are at an elevated risk for suicidal thoughts, attempts, and completed suicides.  The reality of these links has been strengthened through research showing how experience with peer harassment (most often as a target but also as a perpetrator) contributes to depression, decreased self‐worth, hopelessness, and loneliness – all of which are precursors to suicidal thoughts and behavior.

Without question, the nature of adolescent peer aggression has evolved due to the proliferation of information and communications technology. There have been several high‐profile cases involving teenagers taking their own lives in part because of being harassed and mistreated over the Internet,7‐9 a phenomenon we have termed cyberbullicide – suicide indirectly or directly influenced by experiences with online aggression.10 While these incidents are isolated and do not represent the norm, their gravity demands deeper inquiry and understanding. Much research has been conducted to determine the relationship between traditional bullying and suicidal ideation, and it can be said with confidence that a strong relationship exists.11, 12 Based on what we found in the extant literature base, we sought to determine if suicidal ideation was also linked to experiences with cyberbullying among offenders and targets.

Highlights from the Research:

  • 20% of respondents reported seriously thinking about attempting suicide
  • All forms of bullying were significantly associated with increases in suicidal ideation
  • Cyberbullying victims were almost twice as likely to have attempted suicide compared to youth who had not experienced cyberbullying

Click here to learn more: Cyberbullying Research Summary: Cyberbullying and Suicide

Linda


Back-to-School and Internet Safety

August 25, 2010

The phrase back-to-school conjures up thoughts of trying on clothes to see what fits and what doesn’t, and purchasing the notebooks, pens, and other paraphernalia your student needs for the year ahead.

However, new to most parents is the realization that an Internet safety checkup also falls into this seasonal rhythm.

The beginning of school is an excellent time to review your current Internet safety guidelines and see if they are still a good fit for your family and your child. It may be time to expand online privileges and reinforce the added responsibilities and expectations that come with age and with any new devices your child may be using.

Here is a checklist for this change of season:

  1. Begin by reviewing your student’s current privileges and responsibilities. Ideally, kids should take on new privileges and responsibilities each year so they can learn to become more responsible, and eventually grow into independent adults. Is it time to increase the level of access you provide to them?
  2. Reinforce the basics. Internet Safety has three basic principles – protect yourself, respect the safety of others, and act responsibly by following family rules and the terms and conditions set by services.
  3. Address new areas of potential risk – For example, if your child is starting to use social networking, it’s time to have a discussion about which service to use, what information he or she should share, what privacy settings should be in place, and so on. .
  4. Review your school’s Internet usage guidelines. Permission slips for using the Internet in school are sent home during the first week of school. These require parents and students to agree to the school’s guidelines and they provide another great opportunity to address acceptable online usage and actions.
  5. Talk to each child, tween, and teen every year about Cyberbullying and Cyberharassment. Cyberbullying, online harassment, and cyber stalking are all terms for ways in which those who wish to hurt others, for whatever reason, use online tools to do so. This form of bullying is incredibly damaging both to those who are victims, and to the bullies themselves. It is critical that you establish an environment that makes your children feel safe in coming to you to report any problems.