“I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school… I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy” (Mean Girls)
The culture of our community is ever-changing. Recent news coming out of Steubenville Ohio shows us incredible contrasts in the fabric of our culture. Two intoxicated teens, 16 and 17 years of age, molested an intoxicated and incapacitated teenage girl at a party minutes before posting and sending incriminating pictures and vulgar videos around the world via social media.
In Montgomery County–our own backyard–recent Twitter pages under the title “Confessions” have popped up, appearing to be sponsored by students at a wide variety of high schools. These pages allow users to submit confessions anonymously that range from shock value humor to specific statements of hate or sexually charged accusations toward other students.
This movement of social media counterculture has spread to college and university campuses around the nation. One of America’s Ivy League schools, Cornell University, understood to be filled with some of the most promising and brightest minds we have to offer, also sponsors a “Confessions” page. However, the stark contrast between contents of our local pages and those seen at many colleges and universities, including Cornell’s, lies in reference to specific student names.
In the zero tolerance world we live in, many would label actions such as those seen on the Montgomery County Twitter pages as bullying. Bullying, by Montgomery County Public Schools’ definition, is “intentional conduct, including verbal, physical, or written conduct or an intentional electronic communication that creates a hostile educational environment by substantially interfering with a student’s educational benefits, opportunities, or performance, or with a student’s physical or psychological well-being” (JHF). Social media in today’s world provides a new challenge for current preventative tools in place. Regulations written just three years ago fail to address many of the concerns around the issues of unconventional bullying.
Communities and school districts are continously learning about the need for swift coordination between local authorities and school administrations to prevent social media from transforming into a tool that leads to intimidation, school conflicts, fights, and although not as common but far more severe: suicides.
In a quote from the victim’s mother in the Steubenville case, “you were your own accuser, through the use of social media”. We must realize that we can not be blinded by specific incidents; we must understand that cyberbullying occurs everywhere and at every hour, almost always unnoticed. As State SMOB candidate Ben Feshbach recently said in a statement, “be careful… please please… be careful.”
To my friends and to my peers, I can only provide that warning.
By John Mannes, 35th Student Member Of the Board of Education