Cyberbullying and Libraries
Make no mistake, there is some joy to be had in bullying. It is about empowerment, positioning, status, hierarchy and the pleasure is the solidification of one’s place through the bullying act. In other words, it is largely about attention and acceptance.
And if someone is looking for attention, then the Internet is a heaven for their needs.
As much as I am a fan for social networks and social technologies I can understand peoples’ concern about its bullying potential. Text messages, Instant messages, photoshops, podcasts and blogs (forgive me if I left a few tactics out) don’t just make a myriad of methods to bully with, but also encourage the creativity of the bully… and the reward is the hundreds to thousands of hits their post may receive.
Example? Check out Ghyslain Raza, better known as the Star Wars Kid. He filmed a solo light saber sequence as part of a school project but when some of his classmates got a hold of the film, Ghyslain became an overnight cyber-celebrity. When the Canadian news source, National Post, asked him how he felt about all the ‘attention,’ he responsed “I want my life back.”
A hell for Gyshlain but incredible empowerment for the kids who posted it!
Rather than make this post solely about cyberbullying, lets think about what it could mean for libraries. Certain states have made blanket anti-bullying policies that go as strict as zero-tolerance. As sites like Myspace gain notoriety more for their negative aspects, and stories about unfortunate cyberbullying and suicide become more popularized, there is a possibility that state and federal legislature may push through DOPA-esque policies.
But before we go down that slippery slope, I’d like to ask some more some questions for us to think about:
-If we market our library as a “Safe Zone,” how safe are our teens within the library’s cyber-walls? Do we, or should we, take this into account of a Safe Zone policy?
-What will happen when someone can confirm the cyberbullying took place inside of the library?
-What, if any, measures should libraries take in order to prevent cyberbullying?
-What proactive steps can we take against cyberbullying right now?
-If we consider ourselves as a cultural center, does that mean that we consider excessive bullying as part of our culture? This one if for the Sociologists out there!
As much as I am an advocate for Freedom of Information and Freedom of Speech, I also spent many years working with teens who have been greatly affected by bullying, physically and mentally. And because I have worked with teens in a counseling setting before I became a librarian, I greatly struggle with where the line is drawn in a library.
To an extent, being bullied is a part of growing up. For some, they grow up and walk away unscathed; for others, they live an entire life around it’s effects. So where do we, as libraries, take our stand in the issue?
Sad to say… this is what I think about at 2a.m. when I can’t sleep.