Social Networking and Bullying

With the news that Bebo may soon be no more,  I asked colleagues was it likely that teenagers would move to Facebook.  One of these replies came from a teacher from Bonnybrook Youthreach and she has given me permission to publish her own findings.   Sadly for me, in her opinion, students who abandon Bebo more than likely will ‘invade’ Facebook.  Anyway, enjoy the rest of the article – it’s a fascinating read.

Younger teens might not like the privacy features and lack of visual content on Facebook though. I wonder will Facebook create a younger version to make sure they are the no.1 dishcloth for bebo if and when it does go bust? There is already a ‘Facebook light’… does anyone know what this is?

Social networking sites (SNS’) are especially attractive to teens because they are allowed express themselves amongst peers. Peer to peer sociality is most intense during the teen years and SNS’s offer multimedia features to teens wishing to express to the world that they have changed their image and even.. their mood!

There is a downside of course. The anonymity offered to bullies being the most frightening. Female teens in particular appear to be using SNS’s as a platform for bullying. Victims of suicide that have had links traced to cyber bullying provide evidence of this:

Leanne Wolfe (Cork, 2008), Holly Grogan (UK, 2009) and Irish teen Phoebe Prince (USA)

However, didn’t bullying always go on in dark corners? I wonder do SNS’s get a bad rap from some adults because they are the latest version of the dark corner?

One thing is for sure, modern youth or the ‘igeneration’ (Larry D. Rosen, 2010) are HOOKED on cyber communication. People are extremely ACCESSIBLE nowadays. This poses the question, if WE are so open to being accessed, is our well-being too easily accessible?

We all know what that feels like as adults because we can most probably remember our very first mobile phone. We can compare life before and after the buzz of a message that YOU JUST HAVE TO CHECK. Our concern as educators needs to be focussed on the psycho-social development of our children with a strong emphasis on the world they are developing in. Allowing children have access to technology in an unsupervised anonymous environment might just be opening them up to what I would argue is an additional psychological pressure for their still developing brains.

Teachers and pastoral care teams need to know more about how and why teens use SNS’s. There are similar motivations for adults. My point is that in order to incorporate healthy and unhealthy communication into the realm of cyber communication we need to acknowledge that children and teens are not as self aware as us adults. They are wide open to this accessibility.. the accessibility we as adults know to keep a close eye on.

From D. Brady Kerins, Bonnybrook Youthreach, D.17 – via CESI List

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