Kid these days are glued to the web and their cell phones. In fact, a survey found that teens send and receive over 1700 texts per month. That brings us to the issue of textual harassment. The definitions on the web are scarce. But basically it "involves sexual harassment through text messages, or someone sending volumes of text messages that harass, annoy or alarm another person in a manner, which the person knows is likely to cause annoyance or alarm".

But, do you think teens would be able to spot textual harassment in their own lives? What behaviors would you say are unacceptable and would unquestionably qualify as textual harassment? Where would you tell a kid to draw the line?

Tags: bullying, cell, harassment, messaging, phones, technology, text, texting, textual

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Kiwi,

That sounds like a discussion topic in which the kids share their experiences and their reactions, and decide among themselve which are a harrassment and which are just kids having fun. Be sure they know how to report any harrassing activities to the school and/or the local police. In fact, having a knowledgable local policeman join the discussion, may be quite effective. You may want to let the kids share among themselves and you before the policeman comes in, to encourage all to speak up.
Good point! I think for a more legal perspective of what textual harassment looks like, police would be pretty effective.
Defining it from a student's point of view might not be as easy as one might think. I experimented with having student chat monitors that would help keep the students on topic in a live, online classroom lecture. We all met and discussed what was on topic and what was off topic. The variance really surprised me. The debate on the definition was quite active and at some points even a tad intense.

I think that with harassment, you have a similar problem. What one student considers to be annoying or alarming can be very different than what another student would. Hence you quite often have the receiver of the message feeling something different than what the sender intended. I think that when we go about making policy, we must help kids to see that communication needs to be the first response. They need to clarify 'intention' and look deeper for reasons. Helping them understand normal differences in personality type helps a lot too. Introverts get a little annoyed at the intense need for constant conversation that an extrovert feels. Feelers are shocked by the 'jokes', pranks, or comments of their drier counterparts, the thinkers. Practical extroverts have a hard time understanding the quiet dreamers. We are all so different. When you leave intention and personality style out of the equation and replace it with one size fits all rules with automatic response you end up with some of the debacles we have now where 2nd graders are expelled for bringing a Nerf squirt gun for show and tell.
I agree with the communication aspect and clarifying intention. Context is crucial. I think if we always to judge a situation on emotion alone, we'd be creating a lot of unnecessary tension and drama. If something requires legal action, it requires an assessment of the situation from a more pragmatic/neutral standpoint.

Absolutely. Personality, intention, context are all crucial in judging a situation. Great points.
You are absolutely right, that communication plays a huge factor, and how we communicate. It is appalling some of the acceptable terminology teens today are using. In one of my senior communications courses required for graduation we had a week long discussion about "ethical codes" for colleges. Part of their issues with drafting them was the language, do you include a long list of don't statements, do you put in clauses of exceptions. The whole thing really got out of hand. Additionally you can't really go through and draft a document explaining every possible situation, because chances are the one you forget is the one that will come up. We all eventually came to the conclusion that it needs to be victim focused. If someone receives a text that they find offensive, or finds to be hurtful, then it is textual harassment. Given there is always going to be someone of authority issuing the corrective measures, and thats where "crying wolf" situations can get caught.

From this perspective, I think that student ought to be taught in a proactive way. Rather than give them a litany of "do not", they should be taught what they should be doing. If they know that the victim is the one who is allowed to say "this is too much" then they might be more careful and thoughtful about their actions. Students who are the culprits in these cases are looking for ways to get around rules and find loop holes, for many of them its like a game. Don't give them that opportunity. Take the time to enforce and encourage and describe positive behavior.
I think that at any given point that they feel a alight akwardness or have to pause for a normal reply, thats when they should draw the line. Parents show have a talk with their children about this just as they would with sex. Its important to advise your children with what is happening around them then to try and hide it. Parents will not be there with them every second of the day.
I totally agree with you.
Texting is a major thing right know and teens aree texting 24/7 but texting can also be dangerous. I think teens would be able to spot textual harassment at any given point of their lives.textual harassment cann be consider when someone starts talking bad to someone like saying bad words or compromising them into doing something that they dont want to. Teens need to be careful with who they text and how they talk.

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