As if verbal and physical threats in the schoolyard
September 4, 2002 12:09 PM   Subscribe

As if verbal and physical threats in the schoolyard aren't enough. Give a bully a mobile phone and voila, another way of torturing another kid. But which is worse? Being picked on to your face or being bombarded with nasty text messages? It seems that kids have a pretty rough go of it nowadays. It makes me glad I'm almost a grown up.
posted by quietfish (33 comments total)

 
Why the fuck do kids that young need mobile phones in the first place?
posted by interrobang at 12:10 PM on September 4, 2002


And why haven't they learned to turn them off?
posted by UncleFes at 12:15 PM on September 4, 2002


Right. Blame the kids -- or their parents -- for the bullying. Brilliant, interrobang! What next for your grand wisdom in problem-solving?

Now, this is overplayed a little -- sticks and stones &c. -- but if you've ever been harrassed by anonymous e-mail, as I have, you may have a sense of how frustrating a problem it is. I also managed a friendly mailing-list that eventually had to change to a moderated list because of a spammer. I considered changing the address, but it was in print in many places and few of its subscribers would be able to find it online otherwise (pre-Google era). And the spammer kept coming. One weekend we got six different spams -- that's when the change to moderated happened -- despite diligent reporting to the ISP. The point here is that whitelisting one's SMS or otherwise blocking incoming messages can be done, but would severely limit the utility of the medium. In this case, not knowing what capabilities the provider has, whitelisting or turning off SMS entirely might be the ultimate resolution.
posted by dhartung at 12:20 PM on September 4, 2002


Wait... I don't own a cell phone, but don't text messages come with the author's name attached? So it should be a simple matter to have the bully taken care of, right?
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 12:28 PM on September 4, 2002


Per the article, "Bullying is based on Britain's class system." Anyone with first-hand knowledge to share?
posted by ajr at 12:36 PM on September 4, 2002


Why the fuck do kids that young need mobile phones in the first place?

Right on..
posted by eas98 at 12:40 PM on September 4, 2002


But which is worse? Being picked on to your face or being bombarded with nasty text messages?

I'm going to have to choose A...
posted by stifford at 12:46 PM on September 4, 2002


Why the fuck do kids that young need mobile phones in the first place?

Right. Blame the kids -- or their parents -- for the bullying. Brilliant, interrobang! What next for your grand wisdom in problem-solving?


Ummm..? dhartung, it's a reasonable question, and interrobang isn't laying any blame. In general: why do we give kids access to networked technology? The trend seems to be to give kids access to these things then start to worry about a technical fix when the wrong kind of content starts coming through (think: internet access in schools). Why don't we just recognise that most of the time a technical fix isn't viable and just not give kids unrestricted access?
posted by slipperywhenwet at 12:48 PM on September 4, 2002


I'd rather get a text message than a wedgie...

But really, threats are threats, and should be taken seriously until proven otherwise.
posted by JoanArkham at 12:50 PM on September 4, 2002


g.i.m.m.e:::l.u.n.c.h.:::m.o.n.e.y
posted by dangerman at 12:54 PM on September 4, 2002


Bullies are threatening via text messages? Sounds like these bullies are just big chickens...
posted by MsVader at 12:55 PM on September 4, 2002


Right. Blame the kids -- or their parents -- for the bullying.

Well, considering that it is the kids doing the bullying, and presumably their parents are letting them get away with it, that seems like a pretty reasonable place to lay a little blame to me.

The fact is, kids should be responsible for their actions, to the extent they are able to be. Beyond that, the parents should be responsible, which means that if a parent gives an underage kid a cell phone or pager, they are at least partly responsible for what that kid does with it. I have to agree with slipperywhenwet and say that the best answer is to restrict a child's access to this kind of technology. Building on that, banning them from schools completely doesn't seem like a terrible idea to me, either.
posted by ctartchick at 12:57 PM on September 4, 2002


Per the article, "Bullying is based on Britain's class system." Anyone with first-hand knowledge to share?

Hmm. Kind of. There are various 'groups' (as with USA, or as USA TV leads me to believe), such as skaters, rudes, 'nerds' (for want of a better word) etc. The rudes will usually be the ones doing the bullying, and although most 'working class' kids are rudes, not all are.

Anyway, theres a very simple solution for this problem - ignore them. Works for me...
posted by Orange Goblin at 1:04 PM on September 4, 2002


if you've ever been harrassed by anonymous e-mail, as I have, you may have a sense of how frustrating a problem it is

Yeah, it's so frustrating that it immediately makes me reach for my killfile!
posted by kindall at 1:21 PM on September 4, 2002


Orange Goblin has it wrong. There are people who never fall into the various "groups" -- but plenty of kids who are obsessed with pigeonholing their peers. And ignoring them never worked, at least not for me -- they simply tried harder, got more in my face. It's just a question of who relents first, and when there's a dozen of them, backing each other up, and just one of you, and it's happening in plain view, who do you expect to have the stronger will?

I don't think bullying is a strong enough term. Not for what I and a lot of other folks went through when we were kids. Never one bully: they hunt in packs. That's the mistake adults often make: they/we assume it's one bully, when it's a collective effort -- more a pogrom or charivari than mere bullying.

As for myself, way back when, eventually, even though I couldn't fit in or physically defend myself if my life depended on it, I found a way to fight back: verbally.

"Close your legs, [name deleted] -- I can smell your dad."

SMS bullying, it seems to me, is something that can be combatted on its own terms, i.e., verbally: many bullying targets ought to be quick-witted enough to handle this; certainly it's a better option for them than picking up a rock. But I'm assuming that SMS isn't anonymous -- I don't know, since I use a CDMA phone and haven't used true SMS -- and that the tormentors are known.

If nothing else, it seems to me that you shouldn't give out your mobile phone number to just anyone.
posted by mcwetboy at 1:32 PM on September 4, 2002


Of course not everyone fits into a group, it was a generalization. Fact is, ignoring bullys is the most effective way to be rid of them. Its easy not to read an SMS - I'm doing it right now ;). Of course, physical bullying is not as easy to ignore, but thats not the issue at hand.
posted by Orange Goblin at 2:51 PM on September 4, 2002


the only reason I can see why kids would need a mobile device is for an emergency. that's just me, though.
posted by trioperative at 2:58 PM on September 4, 2002


...the best answer is to restrict a child's access to this kind of technology. Building on that, banning them from schools completely doesn't seem like a terrible idea to me, either.

I am in agreement with those of you who question the wisdom of giving kids cellphones/pagers/etc. in the first place. It just seems like a waste to me, unless there's some pressing reason why the kid really needs to contact his/her parents while on the road.

But I don't think that's the real issue here. The phones aren't causing the bullying; they're just a means. Kids are inventive as all get out, as I recall, especially when it comes to being mean to other kids. Take away all the technology and there's still plenty of damage you can do with words, or fists if that's your style. Tackle the bullying behavior first, not this one expression of it.
posted by hilatron at 3:34 PM on September 4, 2002


"Bullying is based on Britain's class system." Anyone with first-hand knowledge to share?

Bullying is the same in any country: the cruel pick on the vulnerable. The assertion quoted above is total nonsense.
posted by Summer at 3:48 PM on September 4, 2002


It just seems like a waste to me, unless there's some pressing reason why the kid really needs to contact his/her parents while on the road.

It's more like... well, the plan gives us four phones for a penny each, and a certain number of minutes that can be shared among the phones... so why NOT give Johnny one of them?
posted by kindall at 3:53 PM on September 4, 2002


It's more like... well, the plan gives us four phones for a penny each, and a certain number of minutes that can be shared among the phones... so why NOT give Johnny one of them?

True, true. I hadn't thought about that. However, I would still have some reservations about giving my little one a cellie: like being distracted by the fancy grownup toy while at school, or getting picked on, not via the phone, but for the egregious display of privilege that it represents (I'm assuming here that most kids don't have cell phones, still? Maybe I'm wrong).

Let it be noted, however, that a) I am armchair-parenting, not having any kids; and b) I might just be jealous since I can't afford a cell phone myself. ;)
posted by hilatron at 4:23 PM on September 4, 2002


The name of the sender always appears with message. The account holder should simply report the abuse to the service provider and they'll take care of it.
posted by RGarraud at 4:56 PM on September 4, 2002


Kids need to be taught not be to so insecure of themselves. I was on the lower end of the pecking order in school, but I never gave two shits about being made fun of or something similar. I knew the truth, and my friends knew the truth, that's all that mattered, bottom line. Yes, that was even when I was a little kid. I just thought to myself if they don't like me for whatever reason, why should I try to expend energy trying to change that? For each person you find that doesn't like you and ridicules you there's three more who are more than willing to be your friend. You just have to look in the right places.
posted by spungfoo at 5:05 PM on September 4, 2002


the egregious display of privilege

Cell phones, being essentially free, are no longer in themselves a status symbol. What is a status symbol are really small cell phones, especially the grey-market ones from Japan that you can't buy in the stores in the US yet.
posted by kindall at 5:10 PM on September 4, 2002


But I don't think that's the real issue here. The phones aren't causing the bullying; they're just a means.

Well, I can partially agree with that. I do feel it is one of the real issues, but you are right that it certainly isn't the only one, nor the main one. I was mainly replying in that post to the "blame the kids . . ." remark.

Taking care of the bullying behavior , while certainly the desirable answer, isn't as easy as just saying it, unfortunately - to do that, one must have the co-operation of the parents, and from my own experience I can say that a surprising number of parents have no problem whatsoever with this behavior. Some don't care, some think it's "just a phase", and some actively encourage it, which makes it well-nigh impossible to completely eliminate. (I'm not saying we as teachers and parents shouldn't try, mind you.) So, in the meantime, removing something that's becoming a major outlet for bullying is worth thinking about as a partial solution - making the victims harder to reach won't stop the bullying, no, but at least it won't be so convenient.
posted by ctartchick at 5:16 PM on September 4, 2002


(I'm assuming here that most kids don't have cell phones, still? Maybe I'm wrong)

Yep. Literally everyone has a phone - and why shouldn't they? Just cos we don't have business meetings to arrange, doesn't mean we don't need to ring people on the fly.

I just thought to myself if they don't like me for whatever reason, why should I try to expend energy trying to change that?

Exactly ;)
posted by Orange Goblin at 5:18 PM on September 4, 2002


Hey, how about the fact that bullying is part of life? In school I was a super nerd, and on top of that I moved around a lot. I was constantly introduced to environments where I had no friends. Did I get bullied? Hell yeah. However, I didn't take overdose on pills because someone picked on me. Like spungfoo said, I made new friends. I picked my battles wisely. Most of all my parents listened to me, and helped me figure out how to solve my problems.

I see this as more of the "oh my middle class life is so hard!" attitude that kids take, and adults encourage. Why aren't we teaching these kids to stand up to bullies, and defend themselves?

I see people shirking personal responsibility more and more these days, and I can't help but feel that shielding children from the realities of the world is the cause. How are you going to be able to deal with the problems of adult life if you're not able to solve the problems that arise in the playground?
posted by betaray at 5:22 PM on September 4, 2002


betaray, welcome (many of the recent joiners don't seem to get a welcome, so - welcome, one & all!!).

it isn't always so easy to "stand up" to bullies..

Look at the post on Wedgies - a phenomenon unknown in the UK before the simpsons arrived, i would say - many people say "it's a rite of passage", but actually it's a form of bullying, and almost all bullying means the big picking on the small. That ain't right, and it ain't what I wanna teach youngsters.

On the matter of giving kids phones - my girl bought her own, pays for her own airtime, what can you do? Until they can virtually prove they're injurious to health, they are almost unstoppable.

And you know, names only show up if you have an entry in the phone address book, by no means likely in these cases. Sometimes, an incoming call can be 'private number'.

Whether verbal or physical, bullying should not be ignored: young teenagers commit suicide for a variety of reasons, and this could tip the balance. Take it from someone who has had a suicide in his family.
posted by dash_slot- at 6:43 PM on September 4, 2002


I'm not saying it's a rite of passage. I'm saying it's a fact of life that people who have power over you are going to take try and take advantage of you. Be it the bully who is bigger than you when you're young, or the unethical boss who's going to take advantage of you for personal profit.

I'm definitely not saying it should be ignored.

What I am saying is that human beings have to deal with difficult situations in life. It's nothing new, and it's never going to change. With the current attitude of trying to protect children from every bad thing that happens to them all we're doing is raising children that don't have the skills necessary to solve their own problems. Of course there are lot of things that children shouldn't have to deal with, but learning how to deal with someone who doesn't like them shouldn't be outside of their ability.

I guess you never got a chance to welcome me since I got my account 10 months before you got yours.
posted by betaray at 7:27 PM on September 4, 2002


*removes foot from mouth, crawls into corner of room with tail between legs*

*cries*
posted by dash_slot- at 8:27 PM on September 4, 2002


Betaray, the problem is that we are expecting kids to handle a problem in a mature manner when we don't give them the tools that a mature adult has to solve the problem.

For example, if I were to be called racist/classist/defaming names constantly by a co-worker (and isn't a classmate nothing more than a co-worker in educational clothing?) I would very soon have a harrassment case against them (especially since bullies only bully in public, this way "ensuring" their "coolness" factor). In no time at all I could have a restraining order put against them for their illegal behaviour.

Students don't have that right. They only have two weapons, their words and their fists. Since I've never met a bully that gives two shits about words, the only thing left is your fists.

Problem is that when you use them they (school staff) assume you are the problem. They say "why don't you just ignore him?". Have you ever tried to ignore someone who prevents you from using the bathroom?

Didn't think so.

Students need the right to sue for harassment, and to have tresspass/restraining orders placed against troublemakers, just like in real life (which is what so many say bullying is part of, which I, as an adult, know is a complete lie). And the people paying the lawsuits need to be the piss poor parents behind these troublemakers. One or two $1000 suits should smarten the hell out of them. And, hopefully, make the ass of that badass smart a little too. A week of detention or community service for the little prick might be in order as well. Preferably with the type of people he'll be meeting a lot in later life -- revolving door criminals.

To put it simple -- in some states, if I were to be abused verbally as an adult in the way I was at school, I'd be allowed to throw a knockout punch and they'd not have the slightest recourse. Not to mention I'd be well supported by anyone seeing me do it, too.
posted by shepd at 9:32 PM on September 4, 2002


Have you ever tried to ignore someone who prevents you from using the bathroom?

Challenge them to a game of roshambo, just make sure you go first.
posted by spungfoo at 9:49 PM on September 4, 2002


In general: why do we give kids access to networked technology?

Interesting way of putting it, as the argument of "freedom to network" is always embedded in some sort of a free-speech-public-library-internet-access argument. No shit. Why?

Bullies are threatening via text messages? Sounds like these bullies are just big chickens...

I would agree. But I will also point out that the need to bully is already couched in fear. Therefore, speaking from experience of being stalked both by phone and in person, I will say that I am much more terrified of clandestine, anonymous harrassment than the more traditional means of boyish posturing (shoulders in hallways, straight and to the point "throwing down"--which of course, I was always able to talk myself out of). This is mental though with the cell phones. And in a world of IMtense IMfinite person to person, but anonymous-feeling communication, how well adapted could a kid be once all grown up, after being incessantly harrangued on his "freedom device" as a kid? Text messages are, come to think of it, the legitimization of the quitessential ransom note in all the TV shows growing up. (I think there's a ransom font that comes with Word)

The name of the sender always appears with message. The account holder should simply report the abuse to the service provider and they'll take care of it.

This is the part that freaks me out the most. Instead of kids working shit out in the way we all here had to, as we entered into adulthood, a phone call is made to customer support so that the tried and true gauntlets of adolescence are now something you dial 611 for. Jesus Christ, what kind of a civilization are we destroying for ourselves?

I'm not a luddite. Believe me, I love my technology.
posted by crasspastor at 10:42 PM on September 4, 2002


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