Twitter and Student Bullying

I appreciate that Vicki Davis and others have taken Paul Barnwell to task for his title selection in yesterday's Why Twitter and Facebook are Not Good Instructional Tools. It really is what you DO with the tool that matters, and I know far too many teachers getting solid pedagogical benefit out of social media tools to merit any type of "poor instructional" label.

That's not to say, however, that Twitter has its clear-cut downsides.

In our district, where students once used Facebook to anonymously bully others through fake school pages, they are now turning to Twitter because accounts can be quickly and easily created and most parents aren't yet savvy to Twitter's potential. Additionally, we've received no support from Twitter (the company) in addressing copyright/bullying issues, whereas Facebook has been more cooperative.

I hate Twitter for that.

Through our experiences in the last several months, we've come to several conclusions:
  • Blocking Twitter does not solve the problem because much of the student activity takes place on personal smartphones or through text messaging, not always on campus during school time. Moreover, we'd never ban paper from our schools just because students use it to distribute cruel notes.
  • Student authentication on wireless networks should possibly become an IT project with higher priority in order to provide administrators with more information when researching student online behavior issues.
  • We must be more aggressive in educating parents of the potential power of social networking, along with their students' actual behavior. Far too many parents have no idea what their students do on their phones and far too few parent/child conversations take place about actual and appropriate use.
  • Our bullying policies may need to be updated slightly to specify that following a malicious Twitter account (such as @mt_jordanprops or @diggerproblems) without reporting hurtful behavior is congruent to failing to report physical bullying. See Policy JICFA-R-1-2, which currently reads: Students who observe hazing, bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation activities have a duty to report such behavior to school administration. Students that fail to report such behavior are subject to appropriate disciplinary sanctions under the District’s student discipline policy.
  • We must, in every school, address the creation of these types of bullying accounts with swift and appropriate consequences. Until students understand how serious, public, and permanent this harmful behavior is, they will continue to seek attention in this manner. (To see an example of administrator success, view @cvms1 - although final success would result in the deletion of this account.
  • Viewing an account's first followers is a good place to start when attempting to find the student - or students - behind the bullying behavior.
What are your thoughts about this? Are students in your school creating these types of pages - under the guise of your school - just so they can berate fellow students?

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