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Table Talk – Conversation Starters About Cyberbullying and Cyberbaiting

Last Updated: July 22, 2021

Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

Using fresh news stories can be a great way for parents to spark discussions with their kids and teens about how to be a good cyber citizen. “Table Talk” is a series on Breaking Free, passing along recent headlines about Internet temptations and dangers. Use the questions provided to get your family thinking about Internet safety and responsibility.

Teen Kills Herself After Many Hurtful Facebook Comments

Two day after Christmas, 15-year-old Staten Island student Amanda Diane Cummings jumped in front of a city bus, killing herself. Amanda was reportedly driven over the edge by people who bullied her, both in person and on Facebook.

“Dealing with bullies in school has always been a problem that high school students have had to face,” writes Caitlin Larsen, a junior at Staten Island Technical School. “However, bullying has recently expanded its grip on young people through the use of social networking sites. Unlike the face-to-face bullying that goes on in school, there is no escape from cyberbullying after the last bell of the school day rings.”

Following Amanda’s suicide, a New York Senator, Jeffery Klein, has introduced a bill that would create harsher penalties for cyberbullies, including certain kinds of cyberbullying in current stalking, harassment, and hate crimes laws.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you see people treating one another in a mean way over Facebook?
  2. Do you think digital words can hurt, in a way, more than words said face-to-face? Why?

Cyberbaiting: Teachers Caught on Tape

All you have to do is venture over to YouTube and type “teacher hits student” or “teacher flipping out” or “teacher yelling at student” and you will find a long list of cell phone videos shot by students from the comfort of their desks. It’s called “Cyberbaiting,” when students irritate a teacher until the teacher starts to lose it, and someone in the classroom catches the whole thing on video.

According to a report from Symantec, more than 1 in 5 teachers say they have had personally experienced or know another teacher who has experienced cyberbaiting.

Beyond just cyberbaiting, schools recognize the liabilities of cell phones in the classroom. According to a study from Pew Internet, more than 6 out of 10 teens (62%) say they are allowed to have a cell phone at school but not in class, and another quarter of teens (24%) say they are not allowed to have cell phones at school at all. Despite these restrictions, 87% of teens who aren’t allowed phones in class still take their phones to school with them several times a week or every day.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you see cell phones in school a lot? How often?
  2. Do you think it is appropriate for students to bait teachers this way? What about just catching a teacher on film getting angry?

Young Adults Prefer the Internet to Driving

In a survey that will be published later this year, Gartner Research found 46% of 18-24-year-olds would choose access to the Internet over access to their own car. The survey also found only 15% of baby boomers would say the same. In general, teens drive less overall today than they did in past generations, Gartner Research found.

Thilo Koslowski, lead automotive analyst for Gartner, commented that mobile devices “offer a degree of freedom and social reach that previously only the automobile offered.” Koslowski said, “The iPhone is the Ford Mustang of today.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. If you had to choose between access to the Internet and access to a car, which would you choose?
  2. Why do you think so many young adults would choose the Internet over their own car?