For generations, students have faced the ugly act that is bullying. Bullying used to be carried out through hurtful words at recess and whispers in the halls, but with technology advancing and social media being accessible to middle school students, bullying is changing. The anonymity of social media creates the opportunity for cyberbullying. Bullying can now take place over social media platforms, leaving the victim with hurt feelings and nobody to direct them towards. The anonymity of social media turns a phone screen into a mask to absolve bullies from facing the consequences of their actions. The school does all it can to prevent cyberbullying, but there is only so much that they can do; the root of the problem lies in the students. Students need to stand up against cyberbullying, and stop others from creating hateful social media accounts.
Recently in the middle school, there was an incident in which a student used Instagram to create a fake account pretending to be one of their classmates. The account posted pictures and sent messages pretending to be another person, and it wasn’t an isolated incident.
While social media gives the microphone to bullies, it shouldn’t be blamed for the harsh words that they spread. “I don’t think of it as a technology issue, I think of it as a core values issue,” said Mr. Peter Lutkoski, middle school principal. Mr. Lutkoski explained that social media doesn’t increase the amount of bullying that takes place, it just makes it more visible and less private. Before social media, when bullying occurred, it was usually forgotten after the situation was resolved. As social media became more relevant to socializing in middle school, students across the grades have made Instagram accounts to bully others rather than doing it in person. But with cyberbullying, the things you say can follow you for the rest of your life.
Handling cyberbullying attacks can be difficult, because you may not know who it is that you’re defending yourself from. When there is nobody to confront, often the wisest option is to seek help from a teacher or a trusted adult. “If you see something that’s posted and you feel uncomfortable about it… report it right away and tell someone right away because it definitely can affect you,” explained eighth grader Athena Lambropoulos, the victimof a fake account.
When the person behind a fake account is found, the middle school’s focus isn’t just the punishing the student. “The most important thing from our perspective is not what the level of consequence is, it’s that the middle school students understand how to make choices,” explained Mr. Lutkoski. It’s more important for a student to learn their lesson than to be punished for the bad choices that they’ve made. It’s important for students to learn their lesson now, because when you’re older, impersonation is a violation of the law, and punishable by more than an apology.
After the recent incidents, the middle school is taking the steps that are needed to help end fake accounts. “In health and tech classes students, will be given more detailed instruction on how to make these choices,” said Mr. Lutkoski. Because of the escalation of bullying over Instagram, the school is appropriately changing their usual small advisory talks to informational instruction on making the right choices when it comes to using social media. The school intends to extend the reach of their influence past the students, and into their home life. “We are going to be offering sessions for parents to be coming in in the morning and evening to learn… about how at home the parent can make sure that there’s a good understanding of what’s happening,” said Mr. Lutkoski. This is the step that needs to be taken to truly prevent cyberbullying. When school and home life work together, there is nowhere that students can get away with creating fake accounts.
ASL is doing everything that they can to end the use of fake accounts, and are going above and beyond to end the hate. The faculty have made their moves to better the school, and now it’s the students’ turn. The reach of teachers only goes so far, and the power to change lies with the students. Teachers aren’t making fake accounts and aren’t involved in bullying – it’s students who do this. Students need to be more aware of the damage that they’re doing when they bully people online. Bullying in any form is hurtful and wrong. Students need to stop bullying instead of creating accounts that bully others. Bullies need to realize that if it’s not something they would say to someone’s face, it shouldn’t be something they say online.