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College of Human Ecology

School bullies using electronics to threaten or intimidate classmates

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

MANHATTAN, Kan. - For students, enthusiasm about the new school year may be tempered by fear of the school bully, who, in addition to making the school day difficult, may continue harassment online.

Anyone can be vulnerable, said Elaine Johannes, Kansas State University Research and Extension youth development specialist, who noted that bullying isn´t limited to the class, locker room, cafeteria or school grounds.

"With technology that is accessible in and out of the classroom, a school bully intent on humiliating a classmate can send a hateful instant message or post an altered photo to social networking Internet sites that extend far beyond the classroom, Johannes said. Cyberbullying also can include forwarding personal messages meant to be private to others without permission or sending students who have cell phones unwanted and unflattering verbal or text messages.

Students who are embarrassed - or threatened - by bullying may shy away from telling their parents, school authorities or other adults who have some authority to stop the harassment, said Johannes, who offered the following tips for parents and others who are working with youth:

    * Talk about bullying and what it is, the intent of one person to de-grade, demoralize or intimidate another.

    * Help youth learn the difference between bullying, which intends harm, is repetitive and thrives on a difference in power and social status between the bully and the target, and ordinary conflict, such as an argument or disagreement that can be part of growth and development.

    * Be aware of school and organizational policies that address bullying, such as reporting guidelines and responsive actions against harassment, intimidation or circulating rumors. For example, Kansas´ new bullying prevention initiative (Senate Bill 68) now requires that all Kansas schools have a plan, program and staff training to address bullying by Jan. 2008. Kansas Safe School Resource Center, through the Kansas Department of Education, provides information about the legislative requirements.

    * Build a tech-savvy support group made up of the parents, coaches, teachers and adult leaders of youth.

    * Learn technologies children and teens are using, including computer programs and cell phone systems, such as text messaging.

    * If - or when - a teen reports cyberbullying, take steps to ensure his or her safety. Access the harmful examples and print copies as evidence of the cyberbullying and follow up according to guidelines and state laws.

Adults who fear that reporting a bully may make a teen more of a target are encouraged to follow school and organizational guidelines (and local law enforcement agency recommendations, if necessary) to report threatening messages, Johannes said.

Not reporting bullying can have dire consequences, said Johannes, who cited violence at schools that has been linked to previous behaviors that were not reported or reported and ignored.

More information on youth and family relationships is available at county and district K-State Research and Extension offices and on Extension´s Web site: www.oznet.ksu.edu.

K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus in Manhattan.

Story by:
Nancy Peterson, nancyp@oznet.ksu.edu,K-State Research and Extension

This article was posted on Tuesday, July 24, 2007, and is filed under College News, Family Studies & Human Services.