Apparently, some web savvy adolescents at J.C. Booth Middle School in Peachtree City created a site that listed the school’s best-looking and popular kids as well as those they suspected of being gay.
I am delighted that the school found out about the site and moved quickly to talk to students about its implications. There’s nothing new about middle school students rating who’s attractive and who’s liked.
But there are two new forces at play today that make such lists more problematic than 30 years ago: The culture itself re-inforces the social poison of middle school and the web delivers it with lightning speed.
I also wonder if parents contribute to the problem by allowing their children unfettered access to computers. I have found that some parents prefer their children be the alpha students making such lists rather than the ones who end up on the lists. (One of the surprises of my parenting life has been how invested mothers become in their children’s social standing, probably because my own mother did not get involved at all.)
This story is from 11-Alive News news:
According to a letter sent to parents by principal Ted Lombard, someone created a site called “Booth Middle School Lists”, which included names under categories such as “Most Popular” and “Best Looking.”
The letter states that the site also listed ten names under a heading that included a crass term questioning the student’s sexual orientation. There was a picture of one student stamped with the same crass term.
“I wouldn’t know where to begin to tap into something like that and start posting things about people,” said parent Jill Burke. “They’re pretty bold.”
Parents waiting for their students to leave school Tuesday afternoon expressed outrage at the creator of the site.
“I think it’s horrible,” said Audrey Fincher. “There should be some serious repercussions.”
Administrators found out about the site last Thursday, and on Friday notified parents whose children were named. On Monday, the school held an assembly to discuss the site and assure students that the school was working to determine who created it.
The letter states that part of the site listed the first names of the people who allegedly created it, names that could possibly be linked to two 8th grade boys at the school.
Peachtree City Police are investigating to determine who created the web site, and if any laws were broken.
I also want to share an excerpt from a recent New York Times story about a topic that we have been discussing here on the Get Schooled blog – how much the culture contributes to the “mean girl” persona, now a staple in children’s TV, even the Disney channel.
Mean-girl behavior, typically referred to by professionals as relational or social aggression and by terrified parents as bullying, has existed for as long as there have been ponytails to pull and notes to pass (today’s insults are texted instead). But while the calculated round of cliquishness and exclusion used to set in over fifth-grade sleepover parties, warfare increasingly permeates the early elementary school years.
“Girls absolutely exclude one another in kindergarten,” said Michelle Anthony, a psychologist and co-author of the new book “Little Girls Can Be Mean.” When her own daughter was manipulated by a “friend” into racing down a slide booby-trapped with mud, making it appear to a group of boys as though she’d soiled her pants, Dr. Anthony was taken aback. “You don’t expect to run into that level of meanness in a 7-year-old.”
But at a time when teenage cyber-bullying is making headlines, parents fear that the onset of bullying behavior is trickling down. According to a new Harris survey of 1,144 parents nationwide, 67 percent of parents of 3- to 7-year-olds worry that their children will be bullied; parents of preschoolers and grade-school-age children are significantly more likely to worry than parents of teenagers. Such fears may be justified. One recent survey of 273 third graders in Massachusetts found that 47 percent have been bullied at least once; 52 percent reported being called mean names, being made fun of or teased in a hurtful way; and 51 percent reported being left out of things on purpose, excluded from their group of friends or completely ignored at least once in the past couple of months.
“The research literature on aggression is very clear that with relational aggression, it’s monkey see, money do,” said Tracy Vaillancourt, who specializes in children’s mental health and violence prevention at the University of Ottawa. “Kids mirror the larger culture, from reality TV to materialism.”We no longer live in the pigtailed world of Cindy Brady where a handful of channels import variations on sugar and spice, with prompt repercussions for the latter. “So much of what passes for entertainment is about being rude, nasty and crass,” said Meline Kevorkian, who studies bullying at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale-Davie, Fla. “What we see as comedy is actually making fun of other people.”
Nicole Martins, a professor of telecommunications at Indiana University, has conducted a study linking aggressive behavior to shows with stars she deemed socially aggressive, like “Hannah Montana” and “The Simple Life.” “There was no effect on aggression on boys, but in girls, there was an increase among those who watched socially aggressive female models on TV,” Dr. Martins said.