Press-Republican

October 29, 2013

Editorial: Be proactive on cyberbullying

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Press-Republican

---- — Parents everywhere must be rejoicing because a new poll suggests that cyberbullying by students of other students seems to be decreasing.

Imagine what a nightmare it is for parents to know their children are being tormented by hateful, or, at least, uncompassionate, peers?

Students have committed suicide under relentless torture perpetrated through Facebook and other social media. Those stories tear at the hearts of parents trying to guide their children through a healthy and happy adolescence.

A poll discussed in Saturday’s Press-Republican was conducted recently by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MTV and found that instances of what is called digital abuse are on the decline.

In addition, a movement is emerging that encourages students to not only avoid hurting feelings across the Internet but to go to the aid of those whose feelings have already been fractured.

In truth, it’s hard to imagine a child well raised being a party to such hurtful behavior. “Good kids” simply couldn’t believe acting so maliciously is acceptable, could they? Yet it happens on a large scale.

The fact is that this kind of emotional assault is not new. It simply is abetted by the easy access of the Internet.

Some older adults might recall a phenomenon decades ago — as early as the 1950s — called slang books.

Slang books generally consisted of those black-and-white composition notebooks passed around from student to student with a name of one student on each page. On that page, the readers would write in short and often insulting terms a reaction to that student. Names were usually signed under the remark.

When students who were described in unflattering terms read those remarks, they could be devastated. The popular students had nothing to worry about, of course, and may even have looked forward to seeing the compliments written about them.

Teachers would often confiscate the slang books upon discovering them, but most likely because they were distracting during classes, not because of the potential emotional damage to individuals.

Cyberbullying is simply slang books brought to a higher level of accessibility.

Probably some students participate without realizing the horrible effects they are having on their classmates.

That’s where the schools and the parents come in. And they apparently are, according to the poll.

Results indicate that 49 percent of students have endured some kind of harassment from other students, down from 56 percent in 2011. And 34 percent of harassed children are going to their parents for help, up from 27 percent.

Parents must be proactive on this issue, monitoring what their own children write, as well as what is written about them.

No child should have to endure such emotional agony.