As an educator, you know that bullying is a continuing problem in our schools. You also know that some types of bullying are overt and easy to spot (such as physical bullying), while other forms of bullying can fly under the radar (such as emotional and cyber).
According to StopBullying.gov, “When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior they send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows this can stop bullying behavior over time.”1
As an educator, you have the power to stop bullying in its tracks. The first thing to do is to talk about it! Through partnering and having conversations with parents, kids, and other community members, you can take an active role in preventing bullying and building a safe school environment.
Today, we’d like to shed some light on cyberbullying. You may be wondering, what exactly constitutes cyberbullying? And how can I help prevent it from happening to one of my students?
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is a specific form of harassment that occurs over digital devices such as desktop computers, mobile phones, and tablets. It can happen via text message, social media platforms, applications, email, gaming systems, or any other online tool where users can view and share content and comments. Cyberbullying includes the sharing of negative, harmful, false, or cruel words or photos of other users that causes feelings of shame, humiliation, and self-doubt in the victim. According to stopbullying.gov, nine percent of students in grades nine through 12 have experienced cyberbullying, while 15 percent of high schoolers report being electronically bullied in the past year.
What Teachers Can Do to Help Prevent Cyberbullying
According to stopbullying.gov, “There is often a disconnect between young people’s experience of bullying and what the adults see. Also, adults often don’t know how to respond when they do recognize bullying.”
Victims of cyberbullying are not alone or without outlets for help and support. Teachers play a critical role in helping victims get help. Here is what you can do to help protect your students:
- Teach Digital Citizenship. Teachers have an opportunity to teach their students more than academic lessons. Use your classroom as a forum to address the risks of cyberbullying and the importance of using social connectivity tools responsibly and positively. Listen carefully during these discussions. You may be able to identify a victim, regardless of whether or not he or she admits to being harassed in front of classmates.
- Engage Parents. Educate parents about your school’s cyberbullying policy and ask them to sign the school’s social media and anti-bullying agreement. Encourage them to stay vigilant and monitor their children’s digital communications. Reach out to your administration if policies do not already exist.
- Report any Concerns Immediately. Report any observations if you believe a student is being cyberbullied. Whether a student seeks help, or you overhear students talking about comments they read on social media, or you have noticed a student displaying signs of depression and intimidation, report your concerns immediately to your administration so proper steps may be taken to involve counselors, parents, and possibly the authorities.
- Educate Students about the Risks. Invite a guest speaker into your classroom to share his or her experiences with cyberbullying. By personalizing the concept of cyberbullying with real-life stories and allowing students to meet and hear from victims directly, the consequences of cruelty will resonate more impactfully.
- Empower Student Leaders. Student leaders have significant influence over their peers. Hold open discussions with student body leaders and encourage them to lead school-wide dialogue and initiatives to treat one another with kindness and mitigate instances of harassment.
Remember that all it takes is for one caring advocate to step in and make a difference in the life of a young person suffering from cyberbullying—and teachers can be that someone.
1. Source: https://www.stopbullying.gov/media/facts/index.html↩