With all the technology that saturates our everyday lives, the most difficult part of handling the repercussions of prevalent non-verbal communication is the ease with which kids use it to bully, harass and alienate each other. One out of five middle-school students have been affected by “willful and repeated harm” as the result of computers and phones, according to a Cyberbullying Research Center study. Through texts, emails, and online posts, kids take advantage of the anonymity of digital technology to intimidate their peers at an age during which they are most vulnerable.
However, despite the obvious distress and trauma it inflicts, when it comes to disciplining or bringing perpetrators to justice, schools’ hands are tied. Most bullying happens outside school and on private computers and cell phones, all physically out of the jurisdiction of a school principal. The many contradictions and murky precedents set by state laws and the undefined role of principal as investigator or judge in such instances increases the uncertainty of intervening. As a result, administrators who get involved run the risk of facing angry parents and even legal repercussions, while a lack of school participation can leave parents frustrated and helpless. As schools navigate the unclear territory of electronic bullying, Professor Bernard James of Pepperdine University believes “the timidity of educators in this context of emerging technology is working to the advantage of bullies.”
To read more about the complex issues surrounding cyberbullying, check out the New York Times article here.