This article discusses two bills currently being considered on the American legislative landscape: Representative Linda Sanchez’s (D-CA) “Megan Meier Cyber Bullying Prevention Act” (H.R. 1966) and Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s (D-FL) “Adolescent Web Awareness Requires Education Act” (H.R. 3630).
Justin and I are personally a big fan of Schultz’s AWARE Act, because education is the most vital and integral component of our nation’s comprehensive plan to address cyberbullying. School professionals, parents, and children should be taught useful, specific strategies to deal with peer conflict online, be armed with the tools to overcome such harassment, and be provided with numerous, readily available outlets and resources to assist them. I applaud the initiative to educate. With this said, we simply hope that such efforts are implemented with wisdom informed by empirical research on the topic.
Over the years, numerous educational programs have been implemented nationwide to combat problematic youth behaviors in society. For instance, the DARE program has, historically speaking, been a mainstay anti-drug initiative for decades, even though the reviews are mixed on its efficacy. To note, the program has undergone a recent major revision, and is currently being evaluated. Underage drinking has also been a huge issue, addressed through graphic slideshows of wreck victims or haunting stories from those who have lost loved ones – and it is questionable whether this has made a difference at all since youth are so desensitized to car accidents, injury, and death. Justin and I just want to make sure that the grants doled out through the AWARE Act actually accomplish their intent – because we have just seen too much wastage and futility in recent years with other educational efforts intended to address social problems among adolescents. Comprehensive evaluations of program efforts (both process and outcome) must be a condition of funding so that we will know exactly what was done and the effect that it had.
With increased transparency, oversight, and accountability promised by our new President, I want to believe for the best. I want to believe that we’ll actually do something right this time, and truly stem the tide of the problem at hand. To accomplish this, we must actively check, measure, analyze, refine, and assess the utility of educational programming implemented to combat cyberbullying. We hope to lend a hand towards this end, and will keep you updated.