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May Madness: Cyber-bullying in our Schools

This is based on a true experience in the Washington State Public Schools.

My sister yells from down the hall, “Wow, Katie. Come here!” The tone in her voice tells me my ear is about to be flooded with 15-year-old girl drama.

“What’s going on?” I ask with an exaggerated exhale.

“Just look,” she says, nodding her head slightly towards the computer screen.

 I stare and wonder why she would suddenly believe I have any interest in ranking sports teams. It doesn’t take a college basketball enthusiast to recognize the bracket that causes so much angst around the water cooler every year. The entire month of March consists of predictions, victories, upsets, bets, and team loyalties; not to mention an inbox flooded with pool invites.

 “Oh, did you win a March Madness pool?” I ask trying to hide my complete lack of interest.

“No, Katie,” she says coarsely. “It’s May Madness.  Some boys at my school started it. The ‘top’ girls are ranked from ugliest to prettiest.  Same idea as March Madness, just…people.”

 My jaw drops in disbelief, wondering how the seeding of college basketball teams has relegated to rankings of young and impressionable high school girls. How are the words “ugliest” and “prettiest” thrown around as though they define a person? She continues to explain that the “May Madness” bracket had circulated around the school earlier that day and in a matter of hours every girl at the school knew how pretty or ugly the boys thought she was.

 The harsh reality is all the security in the world cannot stop some of the cruel behavior that goes on in the high school, middle school, or even elementary school hallways, but WatchGuard recognizes that proactively protecting students online is key in putting an end to cyber-bullying.

 How does WatchGuard help stop May Madness from happening in schools?

 Simply. WatchGuard Extensible Content Security (XCS) blocks or flags cyber-bullying, slander and comments through traditional email, webmail (such as Gmail) and Internet sites including Facebook and Twitter. Along with a commitment to help in the efforts to end cyber-bullying, WatchGuard has made school computer and internet safety a priority. Our WatchGuard website has a dedicated “Education” section with various resources such as; WatchGuard Internet Safe Search, Webinar: Planning Your Defense Against Top Security Threats in Education, and promotional savings for educators.

 “Are you okay?” I ask.

“Yea, I don’t know, it’s just mean.” She says softly.

My heart feels for her as I remember the pressures that come along with being a 15-year-old girl and the idea of a cyber-bullying is a hard concept for me to grasp, let alone relate to.

Not knowing what to say, I lamely respond with an overused utterance that well-meaning people use in these situations, “You’re right, it is mean, but this does not define you or any of those girls.”

“Yea, I know. This is just how it goes, I guess.” She says with resignation.


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