Cyber bullying and sexting a reality in our schools

Thursday, January 27th, 2011 | Computer Usage, internet | 2 Comments

Teachers, are you able to teach your learners the necessary skills so that they can protect themselves against cyber bullying and sexting?

Dangerous mix: The instant online life of cellphones combined with the poor impulse control make adolescents particularly vulnerable to online bullying.  (According to Lisa Skinner, M&G)

The Mail&Guardian carried an article on 21 January 2011 highlighing the dangers of cyber bullying and sexting, emphasizing that they are realities in our schools.

The article ends with good advice to learners, teachers and parents.  Do yourself and your learners a favour by reading it.

If we do not educate our children against the dangers of the cyber world, we are failing as educators – and as an education system.  What is the use of teaching children to read and write and count, but allowing them to be consumed by depravity?

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What is the teacher’s responsibility with regards to cyber-bullying and sexting?

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 | Learners, security | 1 Comment

The principal is responsible for establishing and enforcing policies to contend with cases of cyber-bullying and sexting in the school.  Classroom teachers have an even greater responsibility, since they are dealing more directly with learners who may be affected by these practices.

What can teachers do?

Recognize the reality of cyber-bullying and sexting in your classroom.

If it is important that the principal must recognize the prevalence of these vices in the school, it is even more important that you must accept the fact that they are more than likely being practised by some learners in your classroom.  Ignoring this reality is the same as closing your eyes to the possibility that some learners are using drugs – you may wish that this is not happening, but it does!

Understand clearly how cyber-bullying and sexting work.

How do learners use technology for these practices?  What are the various forms they take?  This implies that you must have a solid understanding of the technologies your learners are using.  Do they have cell phones?  For what do they use them?  Do they have access to computers?  Are they using social networks?  Do you understand how these tools – which you may be using for teaching – can be abused?

Let them know what you know. 

It is important that your learners know that you are aware of cyber-bullying and sexting.  You must be one step ahead of them so that you’re not caught by surprise.  Have open discussions with them in class about the matter.   You can deal with the topic during Life Orientation sessions, but it could also naturally come up during other lessons.  The innocent learners in your class – the potential victims of cyber-bullying and sexting – must be prepared: they need guidance on how to handle these abuses and must know that you are there for them if they need your help.  Similarly, the culprits (or future ones) must be deterred – they need to understand the consequences of their actions.

The one thing you must not do is to blame technology for cyber-bullying and sexting.  Banning technology will not solve the problem, and is akin to banning books because of the likelihood that they may contain pornographic material.

The safe use of technology is an important twenty-first century skill you must impart to your learners.  Teachers who accept this responsibility are indeed a blessing to their learners.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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What is the principal’s responsibility with regards to cyber-bullying and sexting?

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 | Learners, security | 5 Comments

Principals know how to handle cases of unacceptable behaviour of learners in their schools.  Cyber-bullying and sexting are just different forms of misbehaviour.  Of course, they have just recently appeared on the radar of taboos in a school, made possible by technology, but they are merely contemporary manifestations of age-old problems.

The following suggestions may be of use to you while you’re grappling with these new challenges:

Recognize the reality of cyber-bullying and sexting.

These vices are more than likely already practiced in your school.  You could hide your head in the sand like an ostrich, but that will not make the problem go away.

You must understand exactly how cyber-bullying and sexting work.

How do learners use technology for these practices?  What are the various forms they take?  What tools do they use? What are the social networks available to them?  This implies that you must have a solid understanding of the use of different technologies, such as cell phones and social networking tools.

Let them know what you know.

It is important that your teaching staff, parents and learners know that you are aware of what is happening in your school.  You must be one step ahead so that you’re not caught by surprise.

Establish and enforce policies for acceptable behaviour.

You need to convince all stakeholders in your school to establish policies regarding cyber-bullying and sexting.  Call these vices by name in your document.  Publish the policy.  And don’t hesitate to enforce it!

Accept the fact that cyber-bullying and sexting are not technology problems.

Technology is only used as a convenient medium.  Don’t blame the technology.  Some principals feel that they should ban the use of cell phones in the school and curb the use of other forms of technology.  If you hope that such restrictions will stop the problem, you are mistaken.  Children will smuggle cell phones into school, or simply continue to use them at home.

Don’t despair about the way in which technology has complicated your life – think about the ways in which it has made your life easier.

For more tips for principles, click here.

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What is sexting?

Sunday, October 24th, 2010 | security | 6 Comments

Hope Witsell, a girl from Florida, USA, was only thirteen years old when she committed suicide by hanging herself in September 2009. 

Why did she do that?  She was the only child of her parents, and enjoyed a happy home life – but four months before her death she did something, which had far-reaching consequences. 

She met a boy and developed a liking in him.  Hoping to attract his attention she sent him a picture of her exposed breasts. 

“Shocking,” you may say.  True, but not uncommon. 

An increasing number of children, some even in primary schools, engage in sexting – a practice of sending sexual messages by electronic means.  Sexting may be done in plain text format, but in many cases include pictures.  These messages can be posted on social networks such as Facebook, but the most common way of transmitting them is by means of cell phones. 

When Hope sent the message to the boy it was not the end of the matter.  Somebody saw the picture while using his cell phone and it was sent on to others.  Like a wild fire, fanned by teenage hormones, the image spread throughout Hope’s school, as well as neighbouring schools. 

You can imagine what this did to her reputation!  As she walked along the school passages she had to endure taunts such as “whore” and “slut”.  She was disciplined at school and grounded by her parents, but her downward spiral could not be stopped.  Eventually the mess she was in was simply too much for a thirteen year old girl to handle. 

What do we learn from this sad account?  Sexting is a serious practice with harmful consequences.  The moment you put a sex message out in cyber space, you become vulnerable.  Your reputation is at risk and this one thoughtless act can change your life forever. 

“But that is America,” you may say.  Don’t be fooled!  Sexting is a reality in South African schools. 

We must learn to deal with the practice of sexting, its consequences and – most importantly – its prevention.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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Cyber-bullies are cowards

Monday, October 18th, 2010 | Cartoons | Comments Off

Created by Kobus van Wyk using

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What is cyber-bullying?

Sunday, October 17th, 2010 | internet | 6 Comments

An unintended, unwelcome consequence of technology is cyber-bullying.

What is cyber-bullying?

The prefix cyber is used in many terms to describe new things that are being made possible by modern information and communication technologies, such as computers, cell phones and the internet.

We know the phenomenon of bullying among children – when weaker ones are intimidated by others through name-calling, spreading of rumours, threats, breaking their things, and physical abuse.

Cyber-bullying is the use of technology to achieve the objectives of the bully.  Since many modes of technology are available to children, cyber-bullying can take many forms – the methods used are limited only by the child’s imagination and access to technology.  Examples are:

Facebook is often used to post nasty comments with the intent of insulting, hurting or harming the reputation of a youngster.  These comments could be text, such as “Sally has slept with every boy in the class”; at times they may be in the form of photographs, which have been doctored into a slanderous image.

Cell phones can take this practice to even younger children.  Hurtful messages are sent, such as:  “You are fat and ugly and we all hate you”.  It is even possible to send these messages anonymously – simply buy a SIM card at a supermarket for a few cents, send the messages, and dispose of the card.  Nobody will ever trace the bully – but the damage has been done.

The effects of cyber-bullying on children can be the same as that of physical bullying: low self-esteem, frustration, anger, depression, loss of friends, exclusion from social activities, and in severe cases even suicide attempts.

Our children are growing up in an environment that has changed dramatically over the past decade and it is an absolute necessity that principals stay on track with developing technology.  Many schools and parents report that cyber-bullying is on the increase in South Africa and protecting our children against it is no longer optional.

The first step a principal must take to fight cyber-bullying is to gain an understanding of the problem.

For more tips for principles, click here.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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