On April 11, 2012, the National Catholic Educational Association’s annual convention took place in Boston. During one of the featured workshops led by Sister Mary Angela Shaughnessy, executive director of the Education Law Institute in Louisville, Kentucky, a question pertaining to the responsibility of teachers and students’ online activity was posed to her:
“Can’t we just say it’s not our problem?” since Facebook postings, for example, are not school-related activities.
Her response (was) point-blank: “No.”
When students defame their school, teachers or other students online, it becomes a school-related issue that needs a response, she said. “Don’t give that up. Deal with the problem of cyberbullying.”
While this convention took place south of the border, I believe that the Sister’s answer of “No”, as blunt and daunting as it might sound, is the same answer I would employ when addressing this issue in Canada. I believe that teachers have a responsibility to monitor the online activity of their students, and in some instances, even their colleagues’. This is not to suggest that teachers are to go home and spend every waking moment, tracking down their students’ or colleagues’ Facebook profiles, trying to access their accounts or attempting to befriend them via legitimate or dummy accounts. Rather, I think it suggests that teachers need to be hyper-vigilant when allowing students to use the Internet in school, while remaining generally mindful of what could be happening online, outside of school walls.
Obviously, the ability for teachers to monitor what is happening at home and after school hours is limited. I believe, therefore, that the involvement of parents in this endeavor is crucial (as suggested during the October 9th EDIT 202 lecture). While every parent will have different sets of guidelines for their children and their respective Internet usage, I believe it is important that they are encouraged to implement some measure of accountability and are made aware of the possible problems (i.e. cyberbullying) that can arise from unfettered access to the Net. Most parents would likely agree that they would not want their children to be on either side (i.e. neither the victim nor the bully) of cyberbullying and would likely welcome some preventative guidance.
Although I do not believe it is a teacher’s responsibility to “teach” parents, how to parent in respect to the Internet, I do think that teachers could make useful suggestions and keep parents informed about any relevant information or concerns that arise (i.e. directing them to various resources such as www.2Learn.ca etc.). I also think it is important for teachers to foster a relationship of trust between one’s students and their parents, so if cyberbullying does occur outside of the physical classroom, they would know how to record it and be more likely to report it. At this point, I think it is critical that the teacher and the school address the matter as the situation demands and not ignore it, simply because the cyberbullying occurred off of school property.
As teachers are by no means super-human, and therefore have limitations, it will be impossible to catch everything that goes on between students (and colleagues) on the Internet. I think, therefore, that teachers need to be proactive and try to work with parents to instill a set of values (such as those suggested by “50 Crucial Rules – Social Media Etiquette for Students”) that the students can use independently to monitor their own activities, while remaining vigilant and approachable instructors. Most importantly, I think teachers need to be sure to address any concerns the moment they are made aware of them, and be careful not to ignore or dismiss them flippantly. While I know there is absolutely no way that I can keep abreast of everything that goes on in the virtual world, let alone the real one, I just hope I can be observant and sensitive enough to catch incidences of cyberbullying and bullying (whether in or outside of the classroom), before they escalate too far….
Zimmermann, Carol. (April 13, 2012) Monitoring students’ use of social media adds to teachers’ duties today. Retrieved on October 10, 2012 fromhttp://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1201514.htm
Social Guy. (April 1, 2012). 50 Crucial Rules – Social Media Etiquette for Students. Retrieved on October 10, 2012 fromhttp://www.sociableblog.com/2010/04/01/50-crucial-rules-social-media-etiquette-for-students/
I REALLY felt you supported your argument well. And I agreed with it full-heartedly, even whn I don’t see myself becoming that teacher.
I think the key thing you caught in this argument was the fact that we as teachers need to be “observant and sensitive enough to catch incidences of cyberbullying and bullying (whether in or outside of the classroom).” Being aware that these things do happen (bullying, inappropriate conversations via digital communication) is the only way that we can really encompass a secure and effective ‘monitoring’ system. We need to put our faith in the students’ parents, and try to guide them when we can.
I do agree with you that teachers should address concerns about possible cyberbullying with promptness as soon as they become aware of it. I think that as teachers we will become better and better at reading children’s non-verbal cues about what may be happening inside/outside the classroom. I think that if we for whatever reason even suspect something may be going on, what would it hurt to “check in” with the student who we may think is cyberbullying, and of course with any students we feel may be the victim of cyberbullying. Sometimes conflicts can be resolved, like you said, before they escalate out of control. It is very important that we as educators learn effective ways of intervention.