Tag Archives: education

Cyberbullying– Is the Internet to blame?

After the highly publicized suicides of several US teens, a nation-wide discussion about the dangers of bullying has been sparked. In Massachusetts, 9 teens are facing charges for their bullying, which, prosecutors argue, led to the suicide of 15 year-old Phoebe Prince in January. As in the case of Phoebe Prince, modern bullying often takes place off school grounds in a form that past generations were more protected from. Nowadays, cyberbullying (bullying online or through cell phones) is becoming increasingly common.

An article in Psychology in the Schools outlines some of the elements differentiate cyberbullying from regular bullying. The author reviews past research on online behaviour among children, in an attempt to understand why young people are increasingly becoming involved in cyberbullying. According to the authors, there is much research suggesting that the anonymity of the Internet is fostering disinhibition and reducing concern for others. Psychologists and authors of the book “Mean Girls, Meaner Women” seem to support this; they argue that bullying is becoming increasingly common because young people aren’t being require to interact with each other face-to-face, and instead learn communication skills over the Internet. If this is the case, perhaps we should expect to see an increase in other examples of anti-social behaviour from teens who intensively communicate online.

However,  it also might be a bit unfair to place the blame entirely on the Internet, when other factors (e.g. parenting, education, etc.) probably still play a strong, if not stronger, role in developing children’s sense of right and wrong. Perhaps the Internet provides a new setting for bullies to harass victims, a place harder for victims to get away from. But maybe those kids would have been bullies even before the Internet and cell phones.

Read more: Cyberbullying: A preliminary assessment for school personel.

Marry Up, Men: The Benefits of the Breadwinning Wife

Are you ready to marry a bright single woman with a higher education degree and a higher paid job? A recent Pew Research Center report confirms the rise of the breadwinning wife. In addition, as the result of the recession, men, not women, now receive the greatest economic boost from marriage. This has to do with the fact that women are marrying later, that more of them are earning college degrees and that pay scales for women are rising. An educated, working wife is a valuable asset.

The universality hypothesis is the prediction that, in all contexts, women with a higher economic standing will delay marriage formation. In other words, women’s higher economic standing will decrease their chance of marriage. Some researchers suggest, however, that only in industrialized countries with a high degree of role differentiation by gender does the inverse relationship between women’s economic standing and the chance of marriage exist. For example, Hiromi Ono’s study (2003) showed that a higher level of women’s income decreases the chance of first marriage in a period among Japanese women but increases the chance of first marriage among both American and Swedish women. The results are consistent with the view that when women make economic contributions in industrialized countries with a relatively high degree of role differentiation, they experience stresses and inefficiencies in their lives in ways that conflict with the formation of marriage. In countries with a relatively low degree of role differentiation by gender, however, women of high economic status are more attractive in the marriage market because of the symmetry in the criteria of mate selection between the sexes. Nowadays, the recession, added to longstanding trends which have affected male workers disproportionately, is hastening this cultural shift away from traditional ideals of married families.

Hiromi Ono. (2003). Women’s Economic Standing, Marriage Timing, and Cross-National Contexts of Gender. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65, 275-286.

The case for older and better-paid women.

Alpha Wives: The Trend and the Truth.


Rising waistlines, falling grades?

By Erica Zaiser

The BBC reported on a recent survey by the British Heart Foundation which found that most parents in the UK vastly overestimate the amount of exercise their children are getting. While 72% of parents believe that their children are getting enough exercise, according to the survey, only one in ten children actually get the recommended amount of exercise per day.  As more children begin to suffer the ill effects of not exercising and because obesity in children is on the rise, there is added urgency to understand how weight impacts the lives of children.

A recent study by Clark, Slate, and Viglietti (2009), found that children who were severely overweight had significantly worse marks in all subjects than students who were not obese.  The same was seen with standardized test scores and was found even when controlling for economic status or student conduct. However, the results were only found among white students; weight was not significantly correlated with grades for students in other ethnic categories. The authors caution that much more research should be done as their sample was somewhat limited and that people should be careful of studies looking at weight categories because many children go through growth-spurts at different times. Furthermore, it is important to remember that their research only showed that weight and academic performance were correlated. It is impossible to say that obesity causes low grades when it could very well be the other way around or other factors may influence both grades and weight.

Regardless, the study is interesting because it highlights that the issue of obesity may be worrisome not just because of its ill effects on physical health. Children who are overweight might suffer from low self-esteem or become victims of bullying or social exclusion, all of which could impact their physical and mental health. There are still a number of questions that social psychologists could help answer: Why does obesity negatively correlate with academic success? Do teachers treat obese children differently than non-obese children? Or, are children who are suffering academically less likely to exercise and eat a proper diet?

Read more: David Clark, D., Slate, J. R., & Vigliett, G. C. (2009). Children’s Weight and Academic Performance in Elementary School: Cause for Concern?. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy. 9, 1, 185-204.

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Virtual Conference Report: Day One (19 Oct, 2009)

by Paula Bowles

NewsstandWelcome to the first day of the 2009 Compass Interdisciplinary Virtual Conference. Regenia Gagnier (University of Exeter) opened the conference by asking: ‘Why Interdisciplinarity?’ As part of her introductory remarks, Professor Gagnier discusses the definitions of Interdisciplinarity, as well as outlining some of the benefits of interdisciplinary research and praxis.

Roger Griffin’s (Oxford Brookes University) keynote paper: ‘The Rainbow Bridge’: Reflections on Interdisciplinarity in the Cybernetic Age’ highlights the opportunities offered by the novel concept of a virtual conference. By reflecting on his own research into fascism, Griffin recognises the need to make cross-disciplinary connections, or as he describes it academics operating ‘flexibly as both splitters and lumpers, according to the situation’.

Two other conference papers have been presented today. The first ‘Communicating about Communication – Multidisciplinary Approaches to Educating Educators about Language Variation’ by Anne H. Charity Hudley (The College of William and Mary) and Christine Mallinson (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) and the second
Language and Communication in the Spanish Conquest of America’ by Daniel Wasserman Soler(University of Virginia).

Finally, Professor of Human Geography, Mike Bradshaw (University of Leicester) has contributed a Publishing Workshop entitled ‘Why Write a Review Paper? And how to do it!’. As well as all of these academic gems, conference delegates have also taken the opportunity to meet the speakers in Second Life and cast their votes in the ‘Battle of the Bands’.

Knives at school

091005_bus(1)A tragedy may have been averted when a knife was confiscated from a Delaware student last week. According to the New York Times, the school district’s rules say that Zachary Christie should be sent to reform school, where an important lesson is surely to be learned.

After joining the Cub Scouts, the knife-fork-spoon combo utensil seemed like it would be nice to use at lunch—on his food, we can presume. The lesson is more of a reminder: deterrence efforts are not as useful as policymakers hope. “It just seems unfair,” the 6-year-old said, probably not thinking about the intended effect of such policies.

Presuming that children are motivated by the economic or social benefits of finishing school, zero-tolerance policies are meant to give children motivation for following rules. But even the U.S. Department of Education admits zero-tolerance policies are inequitable and “counterproductive.”

Zachary’s case is similar to one in which a third grader was expelled for a year when her grandmother sent her with a birthday cake accompanied by a knife. Never mind that it proved useful for the teacher who proceeded to cut the cake, but heaven knows what the child would have done if she had gotten to it first.

Zero-tolerance policies should remind us of Reagan-era crime control models that brought us three-strikes-you’re-out laws. We now know that “criminals” or 6-year-olds are not rationally considering the possible consequences of their decisions in such a way, and I doubt Zachary’s peers feel any safer.