Cyber-bullying tough to monitor

The face of residence life is constantly changing. As different generations pass through the halls of different residences at Wilfrid Laurier University, different challenges, opportunities and rewards are posed. In particular, technology has played a major role in the ever-varying world that is experienced while living in residence.

Sheldon Pereira has been a part of Res Life since 2004 when he began attending Laurier, and has just recently been hired as the Res Life manager at Laurier.

Pereira addressed the behaviour of students in residence, stating that, “They haven’t really changed.” Pereira spoke to the idea that most incidences occur because of transitional challenges.

“Student conduct hasn’t changed, they make mistakes and learn from them, the nature of those mistakes has changed as society has,” he explained.

This is predominantly because of changes in technology.

“When I was in first year, I anecdotally say that 20 percent of my floor had a cell phone,” he said.

This number, has increased drastically since then. wThis new wave of social media and social networking brings many new challenges for students and dons in residence.

One of these challenges is in the case of bullying.

“It’s something we don’t see as frequently in a personal face-to-face setting, it’s now seen more virtually than we would have seen in the past,” Pereira continued. “It’s almost like residence has continued beyond the physical residence.”

This bullying has to be addressed by dons, though it is harder to identify because it is more difficult to physically see. Dons are discouraged from adding students on Facebook because it forces them to have conversations that otherwise wouldn’t be addressed.

“It can bring to light some things that we can support students on,” Pereira commented with regards to the benefits of social media.

Benjamin Head, a third-year business student at Laurier and a former don, also spoke to the topic of cyber bullying, and mentioned the difficulty of identifying cyber bullying.

“I don’t think I was ever able to track down cyber bullying as I preferred to remove myself from social media interaction with my students,” he stated.

This isn’t to say that he didn’t have solutions.

“My philosophy in my dealing with first years was to lead by example in person in hopes that it would resonate with my peers and in turn translate into better social media etiquette,” he explained.

“In tackling cyber bullying everyone will share a video of the latest anti-bullying ad, and post it on their wall asking for friends to support the cause,” said Head.

“However, that same person will then turn around and ‘off the record’ partake in forms of bullying.”

This can be a major problem when trying to deal with cyber bullying in residence, because it’s so hidden.

Pereira emphasized that no matter what changes occur, the focus is for residence to be a “learning lab,” and a community where students can learn and grow together.

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