Friday, March 2, 2018

Hiding Behind a Screen: The Reality of Cyber Bullying

Did you know that there are people that actually have nothing better to do with their time and insult others on the internet? We are trying to teach our students about cyber bullying and how to prevent it, but the reality is we can't prevent it. Sometimes the cyber bullies are strangers that you've never met.

Screenshot of Wheel of Fortune
November 2, 2017
For example, I was recently a contestant on a national game show. Admit it, you've seen it by now. The show is not live and I had filmed back in August before the school year began. On November 2nd, I gathered my friends at the local Chili's (thanks for hooking my school with 15% back). We had a great party and even had the local news out to cover the fundraiser (sadly, it didn't air).

After the episode aired, my phone started going berserk with congratulatory posts on social media and text messages.

The problem is, while I won a good amount of money and was surrounded by family and friends, my brain decided to focus on the negative. I couldn't believe that people I never met before were saying such mean things about me and my fellow contestants. Here are just a few of my "favorite" Tweets from the night of my episode. I blurred out the names to protect the bullies, but this is what my mind focused on instead of the positives of winning.

First of all, anyone that knows me will admit I am a naturally loud person. That's just me in general and is helpful when I need students to hear me from the other side of the room. However, at Wheel of Fortune the contestant coordinators spend the morning pepping you up. "Loud" and "Louder" are heard may times during the practice rounds. It's their way of helping to encourage the excitement and reduce the nervous whispers. They remind you that when solving a puzzle, you need to read it loud, slow, and pronounce each word carefully.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I wasn't enjoying my victory because of these complete strangers. I was allowing them to consume my thoughts, and why? This is what we are constantly teaching our students about but for some reason, the fact that it was strangers made it worse.

So how can we help our students deal with cyber bullying? Perhaps we should just be real with them. Students often look at teachers through rose colored glasses, not as actual human beings. We need to relate to students so that when we offer antidote stories and advice they understand where it's coming from. We can also teach students to think before they post. We are all guilty of it; posting in the heat of the moment and then looking back "why'd I post that?" Perhaps show students how to save in draft mode, wait a few minutes (or until the next day), and then re-read before posting.

I'm sure there are tons of things we can do to help the victims, accidental bullies, and actual bullies. The first step is opening the dialogue.

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