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Shifting Our Focus: Technology and Bullying

I have been reading a very thought-provoking book entitled It’s Complicated: The social lives of networked teens by Danah Boyd. It has challenged me to consider the tendency to blame technology for issues that may, in fact, be the result of many other contributing factors.

I admit to being worried about the hyper-connectedness of our girls and teens, particularly as it relates to teen relationships, effective communication and, importantly, online bullying. This book has been very helpful in providing a different perspective on technology and challenging assumptions that many, including me, hold.

In one chapter entitled “Bullying: Is Social Media Amplifying Meanness and Cruelty?” Boyd indicates that there is a tendency for people to jump to the conclusion that the online world has made bullying more pervasive. I will admit that I have worried about the notion that a student’s ability to hide behind a screen may enable increased opportunities for relational drama or bullying. Boyd indicates in her book:

Although new forms of drama find a home through social media, teens’behaviour has not significantly changed. Social media has not radically altered the dynamics of bullying, but it has made these dynamics more visible to people…blaming technology or assuming that conflict will disappear if technology is minimized, is naive.

While I am still not sold on the notion that having technological channels for communication hasn’t in some way contributed to an increase in bullying and teen ‘drama’, I have certainly heard Boyd’s message about the need to focus less on the existence of the tech as part of the problem solving and more on considering “where teens are at and why they engage in particular acts of meanness and cruelty as a way to create interventions that work.” Boyd points out that ‘”while we cannot protect youth from all forms of meanness and cruelty or stop teens from getting hurt when they negotiate social relations, we can certainly make a concerted effort to empower youth, to strengthen their resilience, and to help recognize when they are hurting.”



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