11/5 Beit Midrash Recap
Cyberbullying and Internet Safety
Detective Agent DuJuan Green of the Palo Alto Police Department, our School Resource Officer, came to speak about cyberbullying during last week’s Beit Midrash. Our students are regularly on Facebook, Snapchat, ask.fm, and other social media. These sites can offer great opportunities to share ideas, learn about the community, and connect to friends. Unfortunately, they are often used as platforms to do and say what we wouldn’t do in person. Many of us have seen tragic news stories of young people who committed suicide following online bullying. In bringing Detective Green here, we wanted to address the serious nature of any sort of bullying as well as the escalation inherent in the distance and even anonymity of cyberbullying. It is important that our students be responsible and safe users of the internet.
The definition: “Cyberbullying” is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed, or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen, or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.
Flaming: Using inflammatory or vulgar words to provoke an online fight.
Harassment: Continually sending vicious, mean, or disturbing e-mails to an individual. Denigration: Spreading rumors, lies or gossip to hurt a person’s reputation.
Impersonation: Posting offensive or aggressive messages under another person’s name Outing: Posting or sharing confidential or compromising information or images
Trickery: Fooling someone into sharing personal information which you then post online
Exclusion: Purposefully excluding someone from an online group Cyberstalking: Ongoing harassment and denigration that causes a person considerable fear for his/her safety.
Our students’ responses were immediate and powerful. They were curious about the legal implications of their behaviors as well as what they have witnessed. Some students were particularly interested in understanding the line between healthy discussion and abuse. Students pointed out that they don’t necessarily have the tools to manage online bullying and they need to go to the adults in their community. We explained that there are victims, perpetrators, bystanders, and allies. As they know, they should be allies online just as much as they are in person. When they witness inappropriate comments or behavior, they should stand up on behalf of others and say that it isn’t okay and it should stop. We spoke about how to get help from parents, school staff, and the police, and that we are available and welcome the opportunity to support them in managing these issues.
Kehillah encourages our parents to talk with their sons and daughters about their online presence, their responsibility to the community, and staying safe in a global forum. We also encourage all our parents to know the sites their children visit and to assert appropriate boundaries for their family. When students and parents raise concerns with the school, often by showing us a screenshot of the text or image, we respond to it immediately.
It was an important conversation for our students and key to fulfilling our Core Commitments.