The ever increasing use of cyber technology among children is rapidly leading to a transformation in the traditional forms of bullying, with cyberbullying becoming more prevalent among today's youth.
To increase the awareness of cyber bullying and bullying amongst students, teachers and the general public, the third annual University of Lethbridge Anti-bullying and Cyberbullying Awareness Week was held Oct. 4-6.
Organized by the Education Undergraduate Society, the event is the only student-organized anti-bullying campaign in Alberta. The emerging issue of cyberbullying was added to the campaign's itinerary this year.
"We feel there's a real need to inform teachers and student teachers about how to react towards bullying in the classroom and how to support students who are being bullied," says Jenn Shuster, EUS president.
Shuster and Ashley Lepage, the EUS vice-president external, have both been involved in the previous anti-bullying campaigns. They note that bullying is prevalent in schools, regardless of the age of children. It is therefore important for teachers understand the seriousness of the issue and how to recognize it at its earliest stages.
New to the scene is cyberbullying, which Shuster characterizes as intentional hostile behaviour inflicted on others through the use of communication technology. She points out that cyberbullying is much harder to control than traditional forms of bullying.
"There's a greater level of anonymity associated with cyberbullying," says Shuster. "That makes it especially difficult to pinpoint where the problem originates."
One of the unique aspects of cyberbullying is that it does not always happen at school. It is at school, however, where the bully and the bullied often confront one another, highlighting the need of schools to develop policies and curriculums that deal with cyberbullying.
"It's imperative that teachers educate their students against all types of bullying," says Shuster. "We hope that through this campaign, we're able to provide teachers with techniques and resources to do so."
This year the event consisted of four free lecture sessions featuring grad student Chelcie Zimmer (The Experience and Psychological Impact of School Violence), ATA speaker Cynthia Malner-Charest (Cyberbullying and E-liability), ATA speaker Mark Yurik (Tips and Strategies for Preventing and Dealing with Bullying) and Dr. Robin Bright, Dr. Mary Dyck and Constable Tom Gross (Teaching in the 21st Century: Online Citizenship for Ourselves and
Bright, a professor in the Faculty of Education, uses the term "cyber citizenship" when she discusses respectable behaviour online.
"The rules that apply to face-to-face interactions must also be the basis of cyber interactions," she says. "This should apply to texting, e-mail, instant messaging, blogs, personal websites and chat rooms."
She adds that it is crucial children be introduced to the concept of cyber citizenship as early as possible, considering that cell phones and the internet are being used at such young ages.
The EUS raised money in support of bullying.org by selling bracelets at the lectures. A non-profit organization located in Cochrane, bullying.org, is dedicated to increasing the awareness of bullying and to preventing, resolving and eliminating bullying in society through anti-bullying workshops and courses.
The original research documents by Bright and Dyck regarding online communication and social development of rural adolescents in Alberta can be found at www.cybertalk.ca. Those who would like to know more about the campaign against bullying can visit the website www.bullying.org.