By Jill Baxter, Inly Parent
Bullying is not something I have worried about much since my kids moved to Inly. I feel that the community of mutual respect at Inly makes the pitch and tenor of social interaction manageable, even when it is not perfect. However, something happened recently that caused me to start to worry again. A lot.
What was this event that tipped off my concerns, you ask? Let me first tell you that I am no Luddite. I use my phone to email, text, Facebook, and play Scrabble with my Denver-dwelling sister. I once drew whistles from a construction worker…because he feared I would smack into a streetlight as I strode by, head down, texting.
Knowing this, you may be surprised what caused my anxiety: my fourth grader got his own email address. Suddenly, I’m faced with a host of new things to fret about. There’s the danger of chain emails, links and attachments. The fear of the misinterpreted comment, the inappropriate forwarded joke or the mistaken “reply all.” But mostly, it’s that my 10-year-old is entering a cyber age fraught with pitfalls I don’t even know about yet.
The anti-bullying workshop last month, sponsored by the Parents Group and hosted by Debbie Martin, proved a great opportunity to learn about the amorphous threat of cyber-bullying and more importantly, to hear ideas about keeping our kids safe, healthy and happy. Social networking, mobile devices with cameras, gaming communities, emailing, instant messaging, and texting have combined to make the social landscape unfamiliar to many parents.
The proliferation of ways children can interact without face-to-face feedback to temper their actions and reactions is troubling, largely because it is so difficult to teach a child not to internalize an errant, perhaps anonymous comment. Encouraging older children to recognize and contemplate the differences between cyber and face-to-face interaction will help them understand that words can hurt, and that privacy and trust are easily (and not necessarily intentionally) compromised in a cyber setting.
Parents at the workshop listed a variety of tactics to help safeguard against cyber-bullying, including several ideas very easy to implement. For example, you can simply limit the number of online devices in your home (and your child’s room!), turn off wi-fi during certain times of the day, and face computer screens outward. Following is a list of suggestions from Inly parents:
- Limit the number of computers in your home
- Shut off wi-fi during certain times of day
- Have the computer screen facing into the room
- Do not put computers in childrens’ rooms
- Model safe computer behavior
- Listen in the car to conversations of children related to their use of technology
- Ask questions about behavior of their peers on the internet and cell-phones
- Be attentive to the amount of “media” the students use
- Share with your children your thoughts on “good” media and worrisome sites
- Manage the use of cell phones for appropriateness and quantity of use
- Purchase and use spyware
As required by the Phoebe Prince Anti-Bullying law, Inly has developed a written anti-bullying policy. The policy notes Inly’s mission to utilize the Montessori curriculum of Grace and Courtesy to create a learning environment where students are prepared to speak articulately, to accept difference, and to step in to defend others. The policy also directly addresses cyber-bullying. You can check out Inly’s Anti-Bullying Policy on the Inly web site.