Posts Tagged ‘texting’
One of the forces operating on bystanders has been called the ‘diffusion of responsibility’.
Research has shown that the more witnesses there are, the lesser the odds that someone will say something.
Why? Because everyone thinks “someone else can / will do it” (remember Kitty Genovese?)
In the bystanders’ mind, the larger the audience, the less responsibility s/he has to do something.
What does this mean in instances when a bytstander has been directly solicited by a cyberbully? (one-on-one, bully to bystander, meaning the incident has been texted or IM’ed, not posted on Facebook.)
In these instances, can it be said that the bystanders are themselves targets?
They are forced in to uncomfortable situations by (often) unsolicited texts――deliberately included as onlookers in the spectacle of humiliation―and their endorsement is something which is actively sought.
The question that must be asked, is: does the bystander in these incidents of cyberbullying feel a greater degree of personal responsibility, because the bullying itself has come to her/his attention through a personal appeal?
At this point the anonymity factor may become relevant, because responses to the text (which is a direct appeal) are not on display to other onlookers–as they would be if I were standing around watching someone be humiliated.
This means that it would be easy to
1) do something about this situation and remain anonymous
2) forward it to one more person. Other people are probably forwarding it and everyone knows anyway.
3) Do nothing–lots of people probably got this text and someone else will say something
Put this way, the core of the issue remains the same: when I, personally, do not feel responsible, I will not act in ‘responsible’ ways.
Recent PSA’s targeted at middle-school children with a ‘just say no’ (just don’t ‘’SEND”) type campaign. They are not requiring bystanders to be pro-active, but to be inactive.
Assume responsibility by refusing to be involved.
Does this get to the heart of the issue? (it does head off increasing the size of the public in shamings….) or does it actually encourage more of the same indifference?
How effective do you think it will be?
The question frequently asked by frustrated parents is “but isn’t this texting ‘hate speech’ ”? I put that question to a Constitutional lawyer , hoping to get a concise, if overly simplified answer, and was not disappointed. My own lay understanding of hate speech was roughly what any site on the internet will tell you―‘Speech not protected by the First Amendment, because it is intended to foster hatred against individuals or groups based on race, religion, gender, sexual preference, place of national origin, or other improper classification.’ What I came to understand over lunch is that there is no clear “Law” defining this speech―-just as, it was explained to me, there is no law against pornography. There are obscenity laws, and there are hate crime laws. But attempts to stuff much of the behavior, images and/or speech that challenges social norms under these laws will simply not hold up in court―as that content is precisely what these laws aim to protect.
Upshot: Best course of action seems to be to be sure your school writes clear code of conduct policy about cyberbullying―including consequences for incidents posted after school hours, and be sure that policy is plastered everywhere , hopefully becoming enough of a deterrent. If the legality of the conduct code itself is challenged, know that every Supreme Court decision since the seminal Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 (1969) has reaffirmed and expanded the kinds of speech schools are allowed to regulate (including Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser, Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, and most recently, Morse v. Frederick). So, for now, this appears to be the best course of action.
What I’m curious to learn is, if addressing this issue in our schools was up to you, how would you handle it―and simultaneously protect ‘freedom of speech’?