Interesting article on cyber-bullying in Sunday's New York Times Magazine. That is to say, it's not a must-read in and of itself, but it leads to some interesting discussions. If you have a special interest in cyber-bullying, though, you can read the original article here.
Here's the issue: say you're the 42-year-old parent of a sixth-grade girl who has just received a series of text- and Facebook-messages from a classmate, in which she is addressed as "whore" and "prude," along with a couple four-letter words, and directed to perform sexual acts that you had assumed she'd never even heard of. Now, hopefully you have the wherewithal to recognize the obvious solution—stop giving your twelve-year-old unlimited access to technology whose social, or for that matter cognitive, impact you don't really understand; actually, hopefully you never gave her such access in the first place—but if you're the average American, chances are you don't and you did, and so you're left with a dilemma. You have neither the means nor the experience to protect your child; and at the same time, you want to lash out at someone, but the someone in question is someone else's 12-year-old, so you have no recourse whatsoever.
According Sunday's article, more and more parents are turning to schools to protect victims and punish bullies. The trouble is, almost all of the actual cyber-bullying goes on outside of school, and there is no consensus among school administrators, school boards, parents, or state governments as to how much authority the school has to resolve such issues.
I'm interested in this discussion because it relates to two important trends in how we, as a society, deal with kids. One is the increasing involvement of the state in child-rearing; the other is the increasing involvement of adults in the lives and especially the social-lives of children. These are both part of a larger trend of paternalism within this country, arising it seems from the growing societal fear that if anybody is ever left too much to their own devices they will probably injure themselves and others, physically or emotionally—and somebody somewhere might get sued… or worse!
I don't mean to be glib, though. The obsession with oversight and regulation isn't coming out of nowhere, and we had better understand why it's happening before we start making fun of it.