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 159 of 227

empathy. Kids can't read someone's facial expression over text and may not realize the impact of their words. 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." Gordon and Reese handle cyber bullying issues on a case-by-case basis and estimate that, on average, they address issues a couple of times a month. And while each case doesn't always reach the level of true bul- lying, all harmful online behavior is approached similarly. "We take each case very seriously," Gordon notes. But she also makes an impor- tant point: "At this age we have to remember that they are still children and they're learning. They're going to make mistakes; they're not fully formed." When counseling kids and parents in these situations, Reese and Gordon focus on education about inappropriate behaviors and how to effectively and appropriately use technology to communicate. Reese and Gordon agree that within the middle school years, cyber bullying is most prevalent in seventh grade, probably because this is the year of greatest transition. Sixth grade is a new experience in which stu- dents often socialize in larger groups defined in part by their classrooms. By eighth grade, students tend to have more solidified friendships. Reese and Gordon have also observed that in many cases, parents turn to administrators to mediate. "Often parents don't want to confront each other," Gordon notes. "Even when cyber bullying occurs over the summer, when kids are out of school, parents will call us. They want us to be the intermediary. It's an interesting social phenomenon. How do parents of involved kids learn to address this with each other?" Gordon and Reese emphasize that they are always happy to help, regardless of whether school is in session or not. So what advice do they have for parents and kids? Reese tells parents: "Pay strict attention to what your kids are doing on social media. Have a time to check in with them and flip through their text messages and Instagram, etc. The more you know, the more you can prevent and have the opportunity to teach them proper ways to engage online. Be in part- nership with your child and their phone. It should be expected that the phone is property of the entire household; (the contents) should not be the child's secret." Wellesley High School (WHS) Assistant Principal Marc Bender echoes many of the sentiments of Gordon and Reese. He feels that WMS does an excellent job of addressing these issues, and WHS directly benefits from that awareness campaign. "In middle school, students learn the importance of not being a bystander." Students are encouraged to report hurtful behavior. His experience is consistent with Dr. Englander's data: cyber bully- ing is most prevalent among ninth graders. WHS directly addresses bullying in the freshman guidance seminars and in sophomore health S T O C K B R O K E R ( S B R ) 158 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 "help facilitate positive online behavior"

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