Academics Exposed to CyberCreeps

Image Credit: Stockfresh
Image Credit: Stockfresh

Having recently research cyber-bullying re:kids, and knowing that it’s a problem in the workplace – I hadn’t thought so much about this, although I guess I may have seen the negativity that public figures attract when seeking impact:

She was also concerned that academics were more at risk than other professions because of the “impact agenda”, which pressured them into building a public profile – often by cultivating a strong online identity.

“If your institution is requiring you to have an impact online, then they need to have mechanisms in place to keep you safe,” she added. “We found that they don’t have those mechanisms, or where they do, the onus is always on the individuals to do something themselves, such as confront the person, or delete their [own] online account.”

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#DigitalParenting: Shaheen Shariff: Truths & Myths of Cyber-Bullying

Book CoverShaheen Shariff & Andrew H. Churchill (Eds) Truths and Myths of Cyber-bullying: International Perspectives on Stakeholder Responsibility and Children’s Safety (2009)

Edited by Canadians, drawing upon authors from across the globe – more detailed than many may want, and with a particular focus upon the role of educational institutions, but lots of really interesting content.

The core argument is that issues “cannot be simplified to focus solely on the behaviours of children and youth without adequate consideration of the systemic influences that intersect and interlock to result in such behaviour.”

Cyberbullying has been reduced to a ‘thing’, a cause that needs to be fought, something that can be ‘measured’ (how many incidents are there, how severe, etc – with an accompanying ‘industry’), which then means it can be ‘treated’… which largely means that the underlying problems aren’t dealt with. Is little agreement however on what cyberbullying IS, which means that stats vary wildly, and can be used to support a range of arguments/policies.

It was particularly noted that in schools: Autocratic leaders = student disengagement, boredom/violence – more democratic/distributed leadership approach = thriving learning/social relationships.

Technology is defined as a singular ‘thing’ – younger people know how to use it better/gives them too much power, leads to fears/panics & calls for laws, police involvement & zero-tolerance policies (based upon authoritarian US military training tactics).

Many policies seek to block/ban/filter, but most kids can find a way round this and need to be better educated as to why not…Often (schools) think that an anti-bullying policy has them covered and the kids will fall into place…

Ironically, few educators seem to see that an educational, rather than a reactive/restrictive approach should be considered first… help children LEARN from their mistakes, rather than abandon them. Are now more opportunities on the streets/online for those who feel that adults do not support/value them.

Has been noted that many children don’t report instances of bullying because don’t believe teachers will do anything, and fear losing their online/mobile privileges as teachers/parents seek to protect them.

Such restrictive policies, and seeing technology as a ‘thing’, do not help kids (or, more significantly, their parents)  to understand the positives of what is available online.

Identifies stakeholders:

  • Education (where peer-to-peer & anti-authority bullying occur)
  • Technology providers – whose advertising makes subtle bullying appear acceptable
  • News Media – sensationalises incidents, when has opportunity to promote education

“The courts balk at opening the floodgates to litigation and hestitate when it comes to clarifying stakeholders’ legal expectations and responsibilities, because laws have generally not caught to the realities of a globalized world that now relies on communication technologies.”

Also covers a range of studies which indicate who is likely to be a victim/perpetrator of bullying, how the media changes the possibilities, and the law impacts…

“We believe that, if emergent characteristics of technology have beneficial outcomes and if most appear to have parallel characteristics in traditional incidents of bullying, then information communication technologies themselves should not be accused of inherently triggering cyber-bullying, but rather, the way people choose to use new technologies should be seen as the problem” Then focus on inspiring better choices in use of technologies.

Buy the book on Amazon.