No one is born to bully any more than someone is "born to be wild." It's not nature, it's nurture. Bullying is a learned behavior.
Once again our Southbridge Middle/High School has made the news; this time it involves a student who has been expelled for cyber-bullying a teacher.
Face-to-face bullying is certainly a problem in schools today, and laws and procedures to combat it have been written and enforced with varying degrees of success. Even more insidious is the act of cyber-bullying because of its capacity to form relentless anonymous gangs who can so demoralize, debase, and dehumanize individuals that it literally makes them sick. Stories of tragic endings of victims of cyber-bullying have become all too common.
So why do people do it? Psychologists and others have been speculating about this for a while now, and various theories have been offered. None that I have seen say that it is in the nature of someone to bully.
Opportunities for people to witness and participate in cyber-bullying abound on the internet. The article in The Telegram and Gazette about the latest incident in cyber-bullying mentioned a website where the high school student posted his password to his English teacher's website. I had never heard of 4Chan.org so I visited the site. Perhaps there is something of value here, but you have to sift through a dunghill to find it. One thing I did notice on my brief visit to the site is that nearly all the comments are anonymous.
Clearly people, and especially young people, have become more and more sophisticated on the use of the internet and cyber laws are behind, often introduced in reacting to situations rather than anticipating them. This is the norm. The misuse and abuse of new things are often the catalysts for legislation.
But what is to be done in the meantime? On the one hand teachers are encouraged to embrace all new technologies in their task of teaching this generation of students, but on the other they can fall victim to cyber bullying just as the Southbridge Middle/High English teacher apparently has.
Though I have encouraged teachers to use technology and to have web sites, this cyber bullying situation is certainly a strong argument against that. And it is a growing problem as this news from North Carolina shows:
North Carolina Criminalizes Cyberbullying of Teachers.
Teachers have been subjected to some of the most vile accusations on some of these sites; virtually all of these are done anonymously. Some students whose identities have been revealed say it was all a joke, or they were upset with a grade, so they made up a story. In the meantime, a teacher's reputation gets trashed.
I wish I had an answer to this. Some say stronger discipline is needed. Actually if the Southbridge student had only waited two years, he would have a whole new set of laws to protect him from the disciplinary action taken by the school:
Student Support, Career & Education Services Chapter 222 of the Acts of 2012, An Act Relative to Student Access to Educational Services and Exclusion from School.
As to the anonymity, we are at a time when people believe that they can say anything asserting that is their First Amendment free speech right. This incivility is hardly confined to the younger generation. This is one place that they learn that cyber bullying is okay.
Here is a video about cyber bullying as it relates to teens against other teens. I would like also to hear a future discussion from teens about cyber bullying against teachers.