The New Playground for Bullying

Carrie Schmelkin : Gossip from the Hallways
Carrie Schmelkin
Web Editor, TMC

The New Playground for Bullying

Bullying.jpgHere’s what bullying was like for students who were in middle school from 1997 to 2001: If you were a girl, pre-adolescent girls stopped talking to you if you were still wearing Gap when you should have clearly switched to Abercrombie & Fitch. If you were a guy who was a “late bloomer,” still teetering somewhere around four feet five inches, you would have become the victim of some harsh pranks during recess. And, for both sexes, some of the most traumatic forms of bullying were being ostracized at the lunch table and finding nasty notes in your locker.

Fast forward just 10 years and bullying has taken on one of the cruelest forms to date. The bathroom wall that students used to turn to in order to write slanderous things about one another has gone cyber, as Facebook is serving as the new bathroom wall and the new playground for school bullying.

In the last six years, Facebook has emerged as the modern day playground for bullying, providing an easy mechanism for students to put others down. Kids post to Facebook often with no disregard and no awareness for how much damage a disparaging Facebook post can cause.

“Like most technology, Facebook makes things more efficient,” Erik Larson, founder of the website, told me in a recent interview. “It makes communication more efficient which is great in a lot of ways, but it also has its drawbacks in that something like bullying can be a lot more efficient as well. It cuts down the barriers to something like bullying.”

NextAdvisor is a site that reviews and compares some of the most valuable new Internet services and helps consumers understand how each service works so that they can become informed buyers. It also, however, publishes blog posts exploring some issues that can arise with Facebook use such as cyber bullying.

I was a high school senior when Facebook launched and I still vividly remember eagerly waiting to receive my college email address so that I could register for Facebook and meet all the incoming freshmen virtually. When I received that email, Facebook was simply a place to create a profile and connect with other coeds. By the time I was a first semester freshman student, Facebook had become a place to post pictures and write on walls. And by the time I was a second semester freshman the repercussions of Facebook were already being felt.

So what can we do about the fact that Facebook is causing some kids to be scared to go to school and others to feel they have no way out?

Honestly, not much other than educate. As important as it is to teach kids about how to appropriately use Facebook and how to recognize that what they post on Facebook will live forever, it is just as important to remind kids who are subjected to bullying that there are ways out, that life will get better and that the bullying they receive on Facebook will only be a small portion of their life.

For good or for bad, Facebook is here to stay, and it has become an integral part of our school, work and everyday life. All that’s left now is to understand how truly powerful this technology has become and use that power to affect positive change rather than tragedy.

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