Turlock Unified School District is joining the effort to fight back against one of the fastest growing social problems affecting school aged children- online bullying, also known as cyber bullying.
"Keeping our kids safe is paramount o us and part of that is creating a bully-free atmosphere," said TUSD Director of Student Services Gil Ogden.
Last week dozens of TUSD school site administrators and teachers attended a powerful workshop about how to handle cyber bulling.
Jostens, the popular ring and yearbook company, sponsored the event under its "Pause Before You Post" Campaign. Justin Patchin, Director of the Cyber Bullying Research Center at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, delivered the message that cyber bullying has grown into a worldwide problem- but not as big of a problem as is portrayed in current society.
To begin his lesson to TUSD personnel Patchin defined bullying as a verbal or physical attack that happens repeatedly. "If I'm walking down the hallway and someone pushes me into a locker one time it is probably not bullying. But if it happens every day then it is," he explained. "Back in the 90s and early 2000s if you had something like that happen at school you just went home and forgot about it- you could escape it. But now there is no escape, everyone is plugged in and now if you are a teen and you unplug you are putting yourself at a disadvantage socially."
According to Patchin- in July of 2011 95 percent of teens reported going online daily and the average teen text about 3,400 a month. About 25 percent of kids have been bullied online and only 10 percent of kids admit to bullying others. Girls are more likely to bully and junior high school students are the worst bullying offenders.
"Grades or social status play no role in who is bullying online. Kids with A's are just as likely to bully as kids with D's," said Patchin.
Teachers indicated that one of the problems with cyber bullying is the lack of teeth they have to go after a student who is harassing a student online. However in recent years schools have discovered that if a bully is affecting a victim's performance at school they can step in under certain educational code
"Even informal resolution is a tool. The bottom line it is your responsibility as educators to step in," explained Patchin.
Many educators are also parents and many expressed concern about how to go about handling such a topic. Patchin suggests that parents approach technology like driving. "To drive we have to get a permit, and then we take lessons and then a test. Then there are further restrictions as to how much and where you can drive. Then eventually as you show more and more responsibility and maturity some of those restrictions are lifted," he said.
The bottom line of the presentation was that cyber bullying is cyber bullying and parents, as well as schools have an obligation to teach about social media- including the social aspects involved.