They may be just words on a computer screen, but those words have an impact on the reality of teenagers everywhere, including Smithers secondary school.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of bullying, but clearly bullying takes place,” Cameron said.
Any amount of bullying, studies have shown, increases suicidal ideation as well as impacts learning.
Over the years awareness about bullying has increased and programs introduced into elementary school curricula, such that when those students arrive in high school, they know what behaviours constitute bullying.
The problem, is there isn’t a language surrounding cyber bullying, the lines between bullying and non-bullying behaviour are not well established, Cameron explained.
For example, Madisen Widen, a Grade 11 student at Smithers secondary school left her cellphone unattended for a minute.
In that brief moment of a regular school day, a classmate took the phone and sent a photo stored on the phone to all of Widen’s contacts, including family members.
It wasn’t a flattering photo, certainly not a photo she wanted to share with everyone.
“It kind of really sucked,” Widen said.
Reality also bleeds into the virtual world, when school cliques take to Facebook and post mean comments on a classmates wall.
“Then everybody starts tagging each other and ganging up on this person and then they start liking the comments,” Widen explained.
“It can make you feel like crap.
“One clique will gang up on you just because it’s funny to them.
“I see it everyday on Facebook.”
Online bullying, in addition to the number of people that can be involved, is all the more difficult to address because it can involve people that don’t attend SSS, Cameron added.
“Even people you don’t know will gang up on your because their friend is,” Widen said.
For Michelle Iacobucci, a counsellor at SSS, it’s all about establishing the proper boundaries, a task made more difficult in the virtual world.
“Especially with Facebook, how do you maintain healthy boundaries, that’s a lot harder to do because it’s just so easy to press ‘send’.”
In fact, Widen said, more often than not, the people who see nothing wrong with making mean comments online, are the same people who ignore her during the day, preferring the perceived safety of the internet to mouth off.
“Half the time, people would not say these things to their faces,” Iacobucci said.
“They would never walk up to someone and say the stuff that is being posted out there.”
What makes it easy, Cameron said, is exactly the absence of actual confrontation.
The consequences are some students are learning hard lessons and closing their Facebook accounts, or at least starting afresh.
Unfortunately, some students feed into the bullying.
“It’s a new reality,” Cameron said.
Before cell phones someone could do something stupid at a party, but there were no phones to capture and perpetuate the moment.
Today cellphones are everywhere, capturing all of life’s moments, for better or worse.
Before computers, students could start mean rumours about classmates, but the rumour wouldn’t go far.
Today, with the internet, the rumours can spread quickly and beyond school walls.
“People come up and ask me if I have herpes, or if I’m pregnant,” Angel Grenkie, Grade 12 student said were some of the rumours that were spread about her.
“I try not to care, but sometimes it gets to be too much.”
Another problem with cellphones is they never get turned off and Cameron sees this everyday.
“I have kids coming to school really tired and parents can figure out why,” Cameron said.
“Well they’ve probably been up all night texting.”
Widen and Grenkie nodded in agreement.
Another problem, Iacobucci said, is children are receiving phones at very young ages without adequate education about the proper use of the phone.
To address all of these issues, staff at Smithers secondary school are holding a special presentation for the Parent Advisory Committee, but invite all parents and members of the community to attend the meeting.
The presentation, entitled, Parenting in the digital age, is geared to providing insight and helpful tips on how to guide children through the digital world in a safe way.
“I’m hoping we get lots and lots of parents coming out and they become more aware of what’s going on,” Cameron said.
The meeting, Jan. 28, is in the SSS library and begins at 7 p.m.
For more information on the impacts of bullying visit www.ccl-cca.ca
To learn more about how to navigate the digital world more safely visit mediasports.ca.