Pastor Dave  

A new software program was launched March 23rd to help parents protect their kids.
A new software program was launched March 23rd to help parents protect their kids.

Bullying and cyberbullies

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Have you ever wondered what would happen if our culture ever diminished the value of teaching the Golden Rule in our schools? Well, it appears that we are seeing some of the fruit of this neglect in the emergence of bullying on a scale that some are calling, “epidemic proportions.”

Are our kids safe? Studies show that they may not be as safe as we thought, even though the stated #1 priority of parents is that their children attend “safe schools.” Research states that bullying occurs on school playgrounds every 7 minutes and once every 25 minute class, that according to the kids teachers intervene less than 25% of the time, that 83% of students feel uncomfortable watching it, and that bullying stops in less than 10 seconds when peers intervene on behalf of the victim.

Dictionary.com defines a bully as “a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.” By no means is bullying confined to the schools of our nation. School bullies bloom into office bullies and on the job bullies. By the age of 24, 60 percent of identified bullies have a criminal conviction for some form of violence.

The case of Phoebe Prince is a tragic reminder of the power of a bully over our young people. After suffering months of constant intimidation and taunting from at least nine fellow teens in South Hadley High School, Massachusetts, Phoebe committed suicide by hanging herself in the stairwell of her home. Amazingly, following her death, crude comments were posted on her Facebook memorial page. Enough is enough!

Parents have come forward accusing the administration of the school of ignoring the problem of bullying. Though the principal stated a lack of awareness, reports clearly describe events that were drawn to their attention. News reports stated that many of the students who participated in bullying Phoebe were still attending school. That fact is disturbing.

The nine teens are now feeling the impact of their actions. If they did not know it before, they certainly understand it now. The full weight of the law has come down on them for violating Phoebe’s civil rights, criminal harassment, statutory rape, and stalking. How tragic that it has to come to this.

Will this impede the progress of bullying? I am not sure. It appears that bullying has gone underground and morphed into cyber space. Bullying.org Canada has described this generation as the “Always On” generation. Statistics have it that 50% of Canadian kids say that they are online most of the time. Only 16% inform their parents of their online activity. 25% state that they have been bullied online.

Cyberbullying has become the newest threat to our kids. According to Bill Belsey, founder of Bullying.org, “Cyberbullying involves the use of information and communication technologies such as e-mail, cell phone and pager text messages, instant messaging (IM), defamatory personal Web sites, and defamatory online personal polling Web sites, to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviour by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others."

Any form of bullying can keep kids out of the school room (7% of students miss at least one day a month). The few who inform parents often are forced to change schools to feel safe. 43% of high school students avoid using bathrooms or certain places on the campus out of fear of being assaulted or harassed. 10% stated that they have engaged in text bullying. However, almost all express their desire to see teachers intervene rather than ignore teasing.

On the bright side, Bill Cosby’s work, alongside other educators, is having a tremendous effect on how schools perceive the effect of bullying. Anti-bullying bills are on the horizon in Canada that would impose mandatory suspensions for recognized bullies. It would define bullying, make it mandatory to report bullying, and make re-education courses for bullies mandatory.

Also, a new software program was launched March 23rd to help parents protect their kids. The program is called CyberPatrol and it will allow parents to effectively monitor online chat conversations in AOL IM, Facebook, MySpace and others. This anti-bullying tool keys in on trigger words, and can provide evidence about what was said and from whom.

It is good that the myths about bullying are being faced. It is a myth that bullying does not happen in every school. It is a myth that if you ignore it, the bully will go away. It is a myth that those bullied can stand up for themselves without the intervention of other peers. It is a myth that bullying toughens up kids: in reality, it may damage them forever. It is a myth that the bullies are psychologically strong: in reality, they are weak, dysfunctional and emotionally immature.

One Phoebe Prince story is one too many.

More Pastor Dave articles

About the Author

Dr. David Kalamen is founder and lead pastor of Kelowna Christian Center (KCC). Married to Carleen for 35 years, they and their family, all living and working in Kelowna, have together been ministering to the people of this region for over 25 years. David cares deeply about the citizens of Kelowna and the state of the city, causing him to develop the Houses of Mercy program to help build compassionate community.

His column "Oh! Canada!" reflects his love for the Canadian people and this nation, and brings a refreshing perspective to local and national issues of common concern.

David has spoken at national and international conferences that have dealt with a wide range of leadership issues touching Christianity, politics, social justice, mercy missions and business. That call has taken him to over 20 nations. He has served on the General Council of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, and is presently a faculty member of the Wagner Leadership Institute. David has authored a book, Life Purpose that has sold broadly throughout Canada.

If you want to contact Pastor Kalamen about this week's column please e-mail [email protected], call (250) 762-9559, or write to KCC at 905 Badke Road, Kelowna, V1X 5Z5.

Useful websites are:
Kelowna Christian Center: www.kcc.net
Heritage Christian School: www.heritagechristian.ca
Heritage Christian Online: www.onlineschool.ca
Global Ministry Training Center: www.gmtc.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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