The parent advisory committee and I are currently reading It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens written by Danah Boyd. Boyd challenges our thinking in regards to the use of social media.
It is often difficult to define bullying, especially in the digital era. Each person may define it differently depending on the situation. Swedish psychologist Dan Olweus provides three components that are central to bullying, and they are aggression, repetition, and imbalance of power. This means that one-time acts of harassment, and reciprocal acts are not bullying based on Olweus’s definition. According to Boyd, “Adults use bullying as an umbrella term”
(Boyd, 2014, p. 132).
We have to be careful when we use the term bullying. We have to know what it is, and what it is
not. Many of the issues that we deal
with at school are reciprocal acts, like friends spreading rumors about each
other because of a recent fight. It
doesn’t make these acts less painful, but we would not consider these incidents
as bullying. The acts may include
aggression, but lack repetition and differential power which are essential to
the above mentioned bullying definition.
I think there is an assumption that social media has amplified the amount of bullying that occurs inside and outside of school. The media has highly publicized bullying and now most states including North Dakota have bullying laws. Many of the teens that Boyd interviewed indicated that bullying was not a significant issue in their peer group. Students that were interviewed separated gossip and rumors from their own bullying definition. Boyd explained, “These teens confidently told us that bullying was “so middle school” and that teenagers “grow out of it”
(Boyd, 2014, p. 137).
Instead, teens referred to interpersonal conflict as drama. Boyd defined drama as, “performative,
interpersonal conflict that takes place in front of an active, engaged
audience, often on social media” (Boyd, 2014, p. 138).
It is difficult to find who is at
fault in these instances due to the reciprocal actions of those involved in the
drama. Students that get caught up in the
drama often see other people as the ones causing problems. According to Boyd, attention becomes a
commodity, and teens that participate in drama intentionally or accidently can
be hurtful to others.
When teens understand how their actions online affect others – they are more apt to understand the consequences of their actions (Boyd, 2014). I don’t believe social media has amplified meanness and cruelty, but it certainly has made these issues more public. Social media can increase the damage and speed of rumors and cause pain to others. Empathy and resiliency are important traits for all teens to have as new technologies come our way. Blaming new technologies or sheltering our children from them will not decrease conflicts. Helping your teen to understand conflict, and the appropriate ways to handle it are vital to their growth.
Boyd, D. (2014). It's complicated: The social lives of networked teens. New Haven: Yale University Press.