Schools can be a prime place for cyberbullying. Various different worldviews collide as kids do not always know how to be responsible digital citizens. Parents and educators should work together, as partners, to teach children cyberbulllying prevention. Education on what cyberbullying is and why it is hurtful are the best preventative steps.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is a message of intimidating or threatening nature using the Internet or other digital technologies. It can be a mean text message or email, rumors sent by email or posted to social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures videos, websites, or fake profiles. While cyberbullying often happens off school grounds, the bullying may continue on school grounds and can impact school climate.
What is the Impact of Cyberbullying?
When kids are bullied at school and continue to be harassed when they leave there is often no escape for the victim. Material used for cyberbullying is, by its nature, more easily distributed and can spread across social media platforms very quickly. Additionally, cyberbullying is often anonymous, and with that anonymity it can be more vicious and damaging. The psychological harm of cyberbullying can include low self-esteem, depression, anger, failure in school, avoidance of school, sometimes violence in school, and even suicide.
Teach Kids to be Upstanding Digital Citizens
An Upstander is someone who who does not join in when someone is being bullied. Additionally, an upstander gets help from a trusted adult, supports the child being bullied to walk away, or sometimes stands up to the bully. Additionally, being an upstanding digital citizen means reporting witnessed bullying behavior. Help kids understand that telling a trusted adult, is the best way to stop cyberbullying. A parent or educator can provide a support system and address the bullying properly. It’s important for an upstander to know that they don’t have to address bullying on their own.
Remind kids that what goes out onto the digital world stays there and affects them long term. This can include many years down the road when they are trying to get into college or land a job. Students should work on promoting a positive self-image online. They should ask themselves questions like, “Would you want your parent or grandparent to see or read what you wrote online?” “Would this hurt anyone’s feelings?”
Kids need to be reminded that being courteous and respectful is always best, even if they are just “being silly” or “joking around.” Furthermore, students should not make threats because there are laws against making it. If a child makes a cyberthreat, even if it is in jest, they could be suspended, expelled, or in some cases arrested.
What Educators and Parents Can Do
Discussion on the topic of cyberbullying in and after school is paramount. Remind kids that risky behaviors, such as giving out personal information to strangers, threatening other people, and hiding behind anonymous apps can have serious consequences in their lives and the lives of others. The best thing they can do when they see cyberbullying happening is to report it to a trusted adult. Teach kids to be critical when searching on the Internet, so that they can recognize when it is a valid and credible website for learning and using.
Educators should familiarize themselves with their school anti-bullying policies and take every opportunity to talk about bullying and cyberbullying. Teaching acceptance and promoting a positive school environment can be the most effective means of curbing all types of bullying. In fact, some educators have created anti-bullying campaigns, requiring students to research and talk about cyberbullying, and put the information together in a presentation to engage kids on the subject. Teaching children to be mindful of their actions and to be responsible digital citizens goes a long way to preventing cyberbullying.
If a child is being cyberbullied, respond immediately. Stop the bullying on the spot, while modeling respectful behavior. Then find out what happened, but keep the children separate, and listen without blaming. Remember to support all students involved. Do not dismiss what is going on and assume it will work itself out, get the administration involved.
Parents, if you find out your child is being cyberbullied remind them that it is not their fault. Let your child know you are their advocate and you will work together on finding a solution. Furthermore, this may also include getting the school administration and educators involved. Additionally, build up your child’s self-esteem through encouragement so they are comfortable with advocating for their own personal welfare. Monitor their technology communications with Bark which helps keep your child safe online and alerts you to potential issues. Our alerts also provide expert advice on finding solutions to these issues.