What would your parents think?

Today I had the interesting task of investigating a bullying incident between 2 students at my school. As an ICT teacher, I get asked to deal with these issues from time to time because modern bullying is all about the technology.

E-mail, generally considered to be simultaneously one of the greatest inventions of the 20th Century, and the Bane of many a life. Today’s kids don’t bother thumping each other or calling each other names, at least not to their face. E-mail and SMS messaging are now the weapons of choice.

Using my godlike ICT powers, I have spent the morning trawling through the e-mail accounts of a number of students and I was genuinely shocked at some of the things I read (ok, not shocked, I’m pretty hard to shock and I’m the single most cynical person I know, nothing anyone says or does shocks me).

There’s always plenty of colourful language used in these ‘communications’ between kids, so I take great delight in repeating these words out loud when I’m interviewing the students involved. You see, us Teachers aren’t allowed to swear, swearing is wrong and disrespectful. As a result, our students very rarely if ever hear the kind of language they are quite happy launching off at each other daily. So when I drop in a direct quote from one of the vile missives I’m investigating, at full volume, their little faces are quite the picture.

Which always makes me smile. You see, whenever I drag one of these vile people out of a lesson, I’m always met with similar comments from their teachers “X? but she is such a nice quiet girl” or “No, it can’t be Y, he’s always so pleasant”. E-mail and SMS are silent, and the provide the greatest ‘shield’ of all; Anonymity, at least, perceived anonymity. Our little darling students will quite happily type out the most vile sentences and send them straight to their best friend for some percieved slight, words they would never dream of letting escape from their dainty little mouths.

I remember as a student being forced to spend my lunch-break writing an essay entitled “Why I must pay attention in class”. It was a class detention and I was irritated at being punished for other people’s poor behaviour. I wrote quite an unplesant essay, explaining how having no money would not allow me to live a rockstar lifestyle (only much more graphic). I didn’t put my name on it of course, it was supposed to be anonymous, I wasn’t that stupid. Stupid enough not to factor in that everyone else would put their name on theirs, as proof they served their time, and mine would be the only nameless one in the pile.

My mother was horrified as my Head of Year read out the letter, probably with secret delight.

Kids are generally pretty stupid.