WellesleyWeston Magazine


Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

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Page 157 of 227

Dr. Elizabeth Englander is a professor of psychology, director, and founder of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, and author of the book Bullying and Cyber Bullying: What Every Educator Needs to Know. Englander notes that we should not label every one-time incident and every equal-power fight as bullying. "One of the ways that bullying can be distinguished from other conflicts is that it's largely a one-way street when it comes to responsibility," Englander writes in her book. Data shows that bullying today most often does not involve physical contact. In cyberspace, identifying true bullying presents unique chal- lenges. For example, assessing for intent, repetition, and power imbal- ance can be challenging when it comes to online communication. A child's single online comment can spread widely beyond the initial post- ing, though this does not constitute repetition on the aggressor's part. Cyber bullying differs from traditional bullying in other ways too. For example, the use of anonymity online may lead kids to make comments they might not make in per- son. Additionally, cyber bullying occurs primarily out of school. While traditional bullying does not usually carry into the home setting, vic- tims of cyber bullying may be unable to escape comments and find a safe refuge. What is the Scope of the Problem According to Dr. Englander's review of published data, somewhere in the range of 25 to 30 percent of kids experience in-person bullying at upper elementary, middle, and high school levels. Unlike traditional bullying rates, reported cyber bullying rates tend to vary wildly, with five percent at the low end and 43 percent at the higher end of estimates. At the high school level, most bullying — both cyber and tradi- tional — occurs in the ninth and tenth grades. Based on research by Dr. Englander, bullying does not often persist through every year of high school, with only four per- cent of students reporting being victimized all four years. Local Experience Wellesley Middle School (WMS) Assistant Principals Cathi Gordon and Robyn Reese, who have worked in education for 19 and 20 years, respectively, have observed an increase in cyber bullying over the past five to seven years. This change has occurred as smartphones have become more sophisticated, and with the advent of apps like Instagram and Snapchat. Gordon notes, "Social media and texting is really the main way that kids communicate with each other now." Like many parents and educators, she has concerns about how this affects our kids. "This generation is lacking in "Some of the things kids text they wouldn't say to each other in person. Sometimes they don't even know they're being hurtful." – C a t h i G o r d o n 156 W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | s p r i n g 2 0 1 8 family matters "cyber bullying occurs primarily out of school"

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