Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lessons in Montessori Grace and Courtesy: What is Cyber Bullying?

NAMC montessori grace and courtesy what is cyber bullying boy on computer
My son began high school a few weeks ago, and like many parents of freshmen, I worried about harassment and bullying from other students. Luckily, it seems that my son has not encountered any of the initiation rites that seemed so rampant when I was in high school. Instead, he gets his own personal laptop issued by the school district to use throughout the school year. And that brings to mind texting, emails, IMing (instant messaging), and social networking. In a word – my mind is on cyber bullying.

I read some alarming statistics today:
  • 42% of kids have been bullied while online. 1 in 4 have had it happen more than once.
  • 35% of kids have been threatened online. Nearly 1 in 5 have had it happen more than once.
  • 21% of kids have received mean or threatening email or other messages.
  • 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 4 out of 10 say it has happened more than once.
  • 53% of kids admit having said something mean or hurtful to another person online. More than 1 in 3 have done it more than once.
  • 58% have not told their parents or an adult about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online.
Based on 2004 i-SAFE survey of 1,500 students grades 4-8 ( What is even more alarming is that this survey is six years old; today’s statistics are even higher.

Lessons in Montessori Grace and Courtesy:  What is Cyber Bullying?

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
As a kid, I was often teased about my Polish last name. My dad told me that the only way to get peers to stop teasing me was to know better “Polish” jokes than they did. That worked in elementary school. But when I reached middle school, my family moved to a new state. I was in seventh grade and I didn't fit in to my new environment. My accent was different, my haircut wasn't like every other girl’s, my clothes weren't right. To top that off, I was smart, shy, and naive. Several boys started bullying me, making terrible, sexually-suggestive comments and suggestions in the halls and even in class.

I spent my lunch time in the library rather than face them in the student cafeteria. For months this went on because I was too ashamed to tell my parents. The breaking point came when one of the boys pulled a knife on me in the hallway. I broke down and told my father who immediately went to the principal. I expect that if this happened today, the boy would be suspended. I believe he was only “talked to” at that time. It took years to rebuild my self-esteem and I was never comfortable being near those boys and their friends.

My point is words do hurt. At the extreme, some children have committed suicide over being targeted by cyber bullies. At the very least, this kind of behavior is affecting the targeted child’s emotional state, and ability to function comfortably in social environments. As well, some youth are being charged with trafficking child pornography and having to register as sex offenders due to explicit pictures of themselves or classmates being sent online or through what is being dubbed “sexting”.

In this ever-changing world of technology, the fastest growing problems associated with cyber bullying are:
  • Stealing someone’s name and password to a social networking site and using their profile to post inappropriate messages or pictures.
  • Altering pictures of others using photo editing software and posting them with the intent to humiliate.
  • Secretly recording conversations and posting the calls online for others to hear.
  • Creating polls online for others to vote for the ugliest/dumbest/fattest kid in school.
  • Using personal websites, social networking sites, and blogs to post humiliating, hurtful, and embarrassing information or rumors about others.
Lessons in Montessori Grace and Courtesy: Five Things to Think About Before Pressing the *Send* Button

NAMC montessori grace and courtesy what is cyber bullying around computer
Montessori teachers and parents need to be aware that negative online contact can be happening to our children. We need to have open and frank discussion with our children about the hidden dangers of cyberspace. Through our lessons in Montessori Grace and Courtesy, we need to be modeling what to do should they ever encounter these situations.
  • Never assume that an email or text is private. People will share information that is intended only for them. (Remember how hurtful it is when a friend tells your “secret”?)
  • Once something is in cyberspace, it never goes away, even if you delete it! What you do and say now can be found years from now by parents, friends, teachers, and even prospective employers.
  • Don’t give in to peer pressure. If something makes you uncomfortable, even online, don’t do it.
  • Consider the recipient’s reaction. How is this message or picture going to make them feel? Would you like to feel that way?
  • Nothing is ever truly anonymous. With today’s technology, people can be found using only a screen name or email address.
Some parents and teachers feel that they are keeping their children safe by not discussing certain topics. But if cyberbullying or any form of negative online experience is not happening to your child, chances are it is happening to someone they know. We have to be informed. We have to be the “safe place” for children to turn to. We have to talk about it with our children so that they will come to us for help. Below are more related websites for further information. In Part 2 of this series, I will offer further suggestions for parents and teachers to take action to keep your children and students safe online.

Stop Cyberbullying
Wired Safety
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, September 22, 2010.


  1. Michelle:
    This is a blog that should be read by every parent and teacher; your own story really shows how hurtful words can be. Thank you for having the courage to share it with people in the hopes that others will benefit. I am going to have a discussion with my students about cyber-bullying and share with them how dangerous and hurtful it can be and as a principal, my staff will be required to discuss cyberbullying with all the students at my school. Thanks again for a truly outstanding post.


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