Abusing Technology: Cyberbullying

June 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

With the expansion of technology in today’s society we are seeing cell phones and internet and digital devices being used by younger populations. In my work with children at a summer camp there were children as young as nine years old with cellphones in which they would be actively texting throughout the day and getting fellow campers numbers. With children’s growing access to technology however a new problem has evolved — cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is a growing phenomenon and more common among Canadian children and youth than one may think. According to a survey conducted by CBC news in 2007, more than 70 per cent of respondents reported that they have been bullied online, and  44 per cent said they have bullied someone online. 

So what exactly is being said and what technology is being used in cyberbullying? According to the CBC survey 7 per cent reported being bullied by instant messaging, 37 per cent by e-mail and 31 per cent on social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook. Furthermore,  respondents reported being called names,  having rumours spread about them and being threatened or scared. These numbers give a glimpse into this growing problem and its seriousness.

Bullying versus Cyberbullying

Bullying is a well known issue and has been ongoing for many years. Until previously bullying was always constricted to when an individual was around the bully at school, in the playground etc.  Cyberbullying however has expanded the location and bullies can virtually gain access to victims of bullying at any time whether it is via  social networking sites, emails, a chatroom or a cellphone. This can cause damaging effects as children and youth feel they can never quite escape it.

Furthermore, the problem of bullying has expanded as before bullies could be held accountable for their actions if a victim reported it however with cyberbullying it can occur anonymously which gives children and youth less fear of consequence to say really anything they want. I think of the youth that I know personally and on their facebook pages I see only glimpses of cyberbullying through status updates which can be harsh. I think of how much worse it could be when the bully is completely anonymous.

Below is a cyberbullying prevention commercial that illustrates the point that more harsh statements and rumors are said with cyberbullying as children and youth feel anonymous and feel like they can hide behind a screen.

In regards to an audience, cyberbullies have the ability to say harmful things online, humiliate individuals and spread rumours which is available to a much larger group of people.  Think if something was posted about an individual on a blog, how many people have access to that blog and how many people that link could be sent to.

Cyberbullying also has changed the format of bullying. As bullying is occurring less frequently in the traditional face to face sense there is more emotional bullying through humiliation and verbal abuse which can have more devastating and long lasting effects. Children and youth now have the ability to abuse technology in numerous ways. As just some examples children/youth have the ability to take inappropriate pictures/videos of individuals without their knowledge and post them, manipulate others personal accounts, and write status updates, emails, mass text messages and blogs that verbally abuse/humiliate an individual.

Prevention

Children and youth may feel comfortable using technology but it is important to keep in mind that they may not be knowledgeable about it or know how to use technology appropriately. Parents should discuss “netiquette” with their youth and what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate use.

Educating children about the consequences of cyberbullying such as losing social networking and IM accounts may help to portray that even though cyberbullying may be anonymous in a sense, many internet sites do not tolerate harassment. As many of you probably know on Facebook, you can block certain people and report inappropriate pictures and comments. These are ways that can all help to reduce cyberbullying. Educating children about treating others fairly and acting responsibly can also prevent cyberbullying from a young age. Parents should be involved in teaching their children that bullying even occurring over the internet, is wrong and that if they are experiencing this they need to tell someone they trust.

To conclude, as technology begins more accessible to younger populations, society has to address the abuse that can happen with technology in younger age groups. Parents, teachers and those with work with children should teach children of the privilege of technology but how abusing it can lead to long lasting effects for others.

 

 

 


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The Amateur Side of Blogging

June 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

          Blogging has become a recent trend with 133,000, 000 blogs that are currently indexed      and 346, 000, 000 people reading blogs globally   The reason for these large numbers and growing popularity is that anyone and everyone can blog; it takes minimal time to sign up and best of all its (for the most part) free. People start blogs for many reasons including reasons such as landing book deals, to share information on topics, to recommend and provide reviews on certain books, to promote and advertise, to put out an opinion and some just want it for their own personal use. Many perspectives can be taken on blogging and a more frequent perspective has been the business perspective. However more recently recognized, blogging has become seen as amateur creative work in which people post about their lives, current events, their interests and their opinions.

The Criticisms

     Within the topic of blogging it is important to see the criticisms that argue bloggers are not trained journalists, the writers are not objective and they are unreliable.  These are some fair arguments for many blogs. But these arguments also need to be taken into situational context.   There has become an amateur side to blogging; what this entails are personal interests, opinions, and experiences shared with no intent of advertising a company or furthering an organization. For the amateur blogger, these criticisms may not matter.

Why Read Amateur Blogs?

          Being in University,  life can become filled with what can feel like endless readings. Sometimes the last thing that students want to do is read more of that information. Students may love learning, many love their program but sometimes they just want/NEED a break.  Blogs provide this experience: I may still be learning something but as long as it does not have to do with digestive tract I have been hearing and reading about for the last week in BIOM*2000 or about Piaget’s cognitive stage of development in FRHD*3040, I feel the needed break.

          Now I understand this does NOT apply to everyone, some people’s interests are business or Piaget’s cognitive stages of development; informational and literature review reading can be very interesting to some individuals.  The point is rather that sometimes the public are not always looking for an objective writer or a trained journalist. People are social and enjoy reading about other people’s lives; I enjoy marveling at other’s photography skills (something I will never have but very much appreciate).  And the popularity of The Happiness Project, a blog started by Gretchen Rubin who undertook the task of blogging about taking the year to make herself happier ; as well as the Julie and Julia project, a blog on cooking through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”  suggest that I am not alone. There is more to blogging than professionalism or the trained writer. People sometimes just want to read up on other’s lives, make their own news of what is important to them, hear other people’s opinions and write about topics they enjoy; this is what the amateur side of blogging entails.

The Reader and the University Student

          Reliable information is another criticism which is very valid. I do enjoy reading blogs on health and there is always that question as to how reliable their information is. However being a student in university, one quickly develops that knack for understanding whether a site/ information is legitimate or not.  When looking for information that requires accuracy, students are taught to not just read one source. In fact, through my four years in university this concept has been drilled into me; suggesting information to be reliable based on one blog or one article would not even be an option.  Students are taught to  read information, investigate it and like most well researched information, come to a conclusion based on many sources.

          It is also important to mention however that amateur blogging can provide information that can connect to a more academic stand point. Critics may suggest information provided in blogs to not be objective, but sometimes in academics  the subjective and people’s experiences can be as important to understanding a topic as the objective. This is especially true for individuals study family relations in which looking at the human experience and investigating trends is relevant. As an example I am interested in individuals with  Acquired Brain Injuries (ABIs). For this topic, objective information is not what I am always looking for. I have found many blogs written by  individuals with ABIs who speak of their unique experiences and situations. I have also done extensive literature reviews on this population. Blogs have given me insight into ABI’s that no amount of research has be able to provide me.

Blogs as a Social Network

           Blogs  in their growing popularity have become part of the social network that has resulted from today’s increase in technology.  Blogging acts as a way to connect people through similar interests and daily experiences.  The amateur blog writer develops an audience who takes time daily to read, comment and connect with this writer. The writer in response develops a connection with their readers, linking to their blogs, reading their news and interacting.  This can have many benefits for a reader whose one sibling (who has kept up a blog yet never seemed to quite grasp the skill of picking up a phone and calling once in a while) is moving to Haiti. For me a blog is what keeps me updated on my family, keeps me from constantly worrying and lets me know the progress that is happening across the world.

          To conclude about blogging, it is a recent trend with many different uses. Organizations blog from a business perspective, academic blogs are available to provide more information, and then there is the amateur blog. Despite many criticisms blogs have the ability to  provide information about subjective experiences and current events, to keep us in touch and updated on others and gives a new way to connect with people. Amateur blogs give the public an easy way to explore their interests, learn new things and give people a personal outlet.

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