A new web 2.0-esque website offers a messaging service for schools that allow students and parents to send in alerts of possible bully problems. Students or parents can go online and send out an email (or text message) to their school authorities explaining their situation. The system requires registration, but the message is anonymous – which sounds like a flaw to me since we’re dealing with adolescents here. It’s a great idea right? Ever heard of “treating the symptom?”
I detest bullies. That said, some of my own childhood bullies turned out to be ok-ish human beings. Becoming a bully seems to be the way of life for children that grow up in some pretty nasty family situations. They turn out to be fairly upstanding citizens later in life and I’m sure they look back and feel remorse for the things they did.
On the other hand, some children have some tough lives but never turn to that life of bully-hood. My best friend lost his father at a very young age. Today, he cherishes every moment he spends with his own son, and works hard to provide for him. He’s not a bully, he’s not a vagrant, he has not one malicious bone in his body. Ok. Maybe one. Like a femur or something. The point is, bullies are a product of different things: their environment, their family, and their own thoughts. Ultimately, they all have the ability to rationalize and make their own decisions. Either way you look at it, they need guidance. Is this the guidance they need?
I grew up with a couple of bad apples on my block. I dealt with them and life moved on. My daughter will experience them one day and I fear for her mental safety like any parent, but instead of taking this cloak and dagger route to alleviate my fears, Ciri and I will teach Izzy how to respond and react to oppression. Her mom is a U.S. Soldier for crying out loud – “suck it up” as they say. The problem is not the bully, it’s what causes bullies to exist in the first place: bad parenting. And bad parenting isn’t nullified by more bad parenting.
I am not condemning the software that the schools are using, just the reason behind its use. The site really pushes its services for the right reasons. They allow students to send in anonymous reports of illegal activity like drug use and other crimes. I can get behind something like that. As adults we have the ability to report suspicious activity. Then again, as adults, where do I go to complain about my neighbor picking on me? Exactly. You deal with it on your own. How can we expect our children to deal with their problems as adults when we allow them to escape problems during their youth?
I know some bullies can be especially malicious, and in these cases the software will prove valuable. My point is not that the service shouldn’t be used to report bullies, it is that parents are getting lazy. You give them the chance to stop being a parent and they will take it. I wrote about parents blaming violence on video games before, and it’s a great example of what I am talking about. Parents will take the easy way out by blaming someone else. In this case, they let their children send in an anonymous comment on a situation that could have been solved by other means. Because of this parenting method, the software will become so abused that its purpose will become vague and, eventually, ineffective.
The company’s website has an example of the software’s use. One student is reporting that two other students are going to fight after school. In this case, let’s assume the student did what he could to stop the fight. Great parenting, right? He analyzed the situation and utilized the tools he had available to him. The school is better off because it made the service available to the students.
The website advertises more situations like this where the students don’t have any other means of solving the problem. The situations depicted on the site are great examples of the service’s use. But I think schools are acquiring the service because of anti-bully laws, not because of the admirable goals of the service provider.
The web service that this new technology offers is a great idea. I think it can help many students with serious problems. Schools benefit greatly from it by the positive impact it has on school morale. Still, parents must take the right steps before they use the service by appropriately analyzing the situation and taking the appropriate action. If the service really is the most prudent way to handle the situation, then great, but it shouldn’t be the immediate answer. Bullies can be annoying, but they may need just as much help as the “victim” does.