Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How Proxy Bullying Works, Part 1

How to Stop Bullies

How to stop bullies - bullies often work by proxy and manipulation, making them hard to catch.
image courtesy of opposingviews.com

Cyber-bullying never existed when I was in school, and I wager that for the vast majority of you it is the same. So when I first found out about cyber-bullying, I wondered if it was simply an over-exaggeration. But I was wrong. The issue is deep, the actions are hurtful, and the bullies are difficult to catch. Cyber-bullies tend to work through proxy, or manipulating others to punish someone who is innocent.

Bullying is easy enough to understand, but proxy bullying is much more difficult to spot.

I had one memorable experience with proxy bullying when I was a youngster, probably in 7th grade. A peer who sat next to me began mumbling during a test. The peer wasn’t talking to anyone in particular, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to give the impression of talking. That’s when I heard the teacher call my name.

“This is a test! Do not talk during the test, or you will be dismissed.” The teacher was particularly offended, because I was the last person in the entire school that she would have thought she’d find cheating. My peer snickered. I put my head down and kept working. I didn’t want to bother the others.

The other student started mumbling again. The teacher called me to her desk. The entire class was shocked, and I was humiliated. My peer smiled openly.

“Why are you talking during this test? You know I can’t accept your test because of this,” she informed me. Though my young eyes began to burn with tears, I think she was just as hurt as I was.

“It’s not me. It’s [name],” I confessed quietly.

Her relief was matched only by her exasperation. “Why didn’t you tell me that the first time?”

“I didn’t want to make a big deal. I was trying to focus on my test.”

By raise of hands, how many of you, readers, have had this experience with your students? In this instance, my teacher became the proxy, or stand-in, for my peer who thought he was playing a clever prank. Rather than do something to me himself, he was able to manipulate the teacher to cause me anxiety, fear, frustration, anger, and sadness.

How would you have helped this student (me) understand that it is OK to speak up? What would you have done to the student who was manipulating you?

Cyber-bullying by proxy is steeped in manipulation. Stay tuned for the next post to find out how to stop cyber-bullies who are manipulating teachers, parents, and even IP servers to come down on innocent students.


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