Week 6-Empathy Gone! Are young people losing their humanism?

Social Web technologies are greatly influencing our lives-especially our children’s lives.  Parents are putting their children’s pictures on Facebook before birth, and children are interacting with each other on a global scale.  A National School Boards Association survey (2007) found that “80 percent of young people who are online are networking and that 70 percent of them are regularly discussing education-related topics”  (Richardson, 2008, p. 16).  Children are creating content without their parents’ or teachers’ awareness, which is scary since no rules for safe and ethical behavior have been established.  “This may be the first large technological shift in history that’s being driven by children”  (Richardson, 2008, p. 16).  Children are becoming “Googleable without us” (Richardson, 2008, p. 16).

When using social Web technologies, children need the guidance of parents and teachers.  Without guidance, students may lose their way and engage in unethical and cruel behavior such as cyberbullying.   It is difficult to know how frequent cyberbullying is.  Most teachers report that even though they are concerned about the problem, they aren’t aware of the severity of it, and they don’t know how to manage the problem.  Heiman (2010) found that German teachers reported a lack of professional training to deal with cyberbullying, and Bauman, Rigby, and Hoppa (2008) found that counselors, not teachers, were better trained to deal with issues of cyberbullying.

Nevertheless, a study of two large, technology-rich secondary schools in Canada conducted by Cassidy, Brown and Jackson (2012) discovered that 36% of over 2,000 students had participated in cyberbullying and 32% had been victims.  What is also shocking is that a South Korean study conducted by Yoon, Bauman, Choi, and Hutchinson (2011) observed that more experienced teachers (those with 26 years or more of experience) were less likely to do something about cyberbullying than less experienced educators (those with 11-16 years of experience).  I was surprised by these results.  Is it possible that more experienced teachers minimize the effects of cyberbullying or could it be that this problem is so misunderstood that educators are not sure how to deal with it?

The first step for teachers and parents in combating cyberbullying and other forms of bullying is to be aware that it is happening.  This means that schools need specific policies to address the issue including encouraging educators and students to engage in ethical and respectful treatment of others.  According to Craig, Henderson, & Murphy, (2000), “…empathy training is the first step towards teachers developing an appropriate skill set to deal with bullying issues (Cassidy, Brown & Jackson, 2012, p. 521).  These values of citizenship could easily be taught in social studies and other courses as long as teachers understand that there needs to be a deeper awareness of how technology impacts society.  Basically “work must be done to democratize technology” to ensure that ethical, responsible and safe communication occurs online (Weaver and Gahegan, 2007, p. 347).  Teachers need to implement activities that develop empathy into their lessons.  For example, they can ask students to create personal narratives using blogs and audio casts.  Such activities allow students to interpret information from different perspectives; helping to promote more respectful online behavior.


Bauman, S., Rigby, K., & Hoppa, K. (2008).  US teachers’ and school counsellors’ strategies for handling school bullying incidents.  Educational Psychology, 28, 837-856.  Doi:

Cassidy, W., Brown, K.N., & Jackson, M.  (2012).  “Under the radar”:  educators and cyberbullying in schools.  School Psychology International, 33(5), 520-532.  Retrieved from:  http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca/ehost/resultsadvanced?sid=7e26c5cb-66e9-43e6-9763-1d0775e3d0bf%40sessionmgr4&vid=9&hid=19&bquery=under+AND+the+AND+radar&bdata=JmRiPWVyaWMmdHIwZT0xJnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGI2ZQ%3d%3d

Craig,  W., Henderson, K., & Murphy, J.  (2000).  Middle school students’ preferences for antibullying interventions.  School Psychology International, 21, 5-21.  Doi:10.1177/0143034306070435.

Heiman, T.  (2010).  Cyberbullying:  Coping with negative and enhancing positive uses of new technologies, in relationship in educational settings.  Paper presented at COST IS 0801 Conference 2011.  Retrieved from http://8540237597776146556-a-1802744773732722657-s-sites.googlegroups.com/site/costis0801/dr-tali-heiman-stsm-report-2011/.

National School Boards Association.  (2007).  Creating and connecting:  Research and guidelines on social-and-educational-networking.  Alexandria, VA:  Author.  Available:  http://www.nsba.org/site/view.asp?CID=63&DID=41340

Richardson, W.  (2008).  Footprints in the digital age.  Educational Leadership, 66(3),  16-19.  Retrieved from: http://ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ817754&site=ehost-live

Weaver, S. D., & Gahegan, M. (2007).  Constructing, visualizing and analyzing a digital footprint.  Geographical Review, 97(3),  324-350.  Retrieved from:  http://ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohpst.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=27619792&site=ehost-live

Yoon, J., Bauman, S., Choi, T., & Hutchinson, A.  (2011).  How South Korean teachers handle an incident of school bullying.  School Psychology International, 32, 312-329.  Doi:10.1177/0143034311402311.


2 thoughts on “Week 6-Empathy Gone! Are young people losing their humanism?

  1. Marilyn,
    You state, “Children are creating content without their parents’ or teachers’ awareness which is scary since no rules for safe and ethical behaviour have been established.” Do you think this is part of a bigger societal problem? What does it say about our world when children are going places and doing things without our knowledge and without our guidance? As teachers, I think it becomes more and more important for us to walk along side them, not only engaging them in conversations about respectful and ethical behaviour, but also co-creating content, as well as modelling the use of technology in a safe manner. Though Will Richardson states, “We must first own these technologies. . .” I do not necessarily agree. I think some powerful learning can occur for both students and teachers when they explore technologies together. This is risky, indeed, especially for teachers, but what better way to model learner as risk taker?

    Richardson, W. (2008). Footprints in the digital age. Educational Leadership. 66(3), 16-19. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov08/vol66/num03/Footprints-in-the-Digital-Age.aspx

  2. Sandra,

    Thanks for your feedback. I agree that educators and parents need to co-create content together. We need to be less worried about maintaining control and power and just accept that our children will probably be better than us at using technology. I see parents everyday not wanting to speak English at home because they worry that their children will speak better than them, and they fear they will lose their children’s respect. This is crazy! Parents and teachers need to think about the consequences of children creating content alone. After all, isn’t it better for teachers and parents to be part of the solution rather than ignoring it or pretending it isn’t occurring?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s