Cyber-bullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology – devices and equipment including mobile phones, computers and tablets, as well as tools such as social media sites, text messaging, chat, and websites.
It can include offensive statements and messages sent directly to the victim, circulating rumours about the victim, distribution of videos, fake profiles or other actions using technology to target a particular person.
Advancements in technology have brought immediacy of information and collaboration to the classroom. Unfortunately, this means that bullying can also happen anytime. The bullying can also be done anonymously, making disciplinary action difficult.
Help students understand bullying and why it is so dangerous
To prevent cyber-bullying, education is imperative. Students need to understand exactly what is considered cyber-bullying and why it is hurtful. Give students examples of cyber-bullying so that they can recognise it if it happens to them or a peer and discuss the importance of reporting the incident. Familiarise yourself and other staff members with what constitutes cyber-bullying, and how and where it occurs.
Update policies and practices to account for cyber-bullying
Schools should set guidelines and establish best practices to limit or eliminate the opportunity for cyber-bullying. It is important that these guidelines are updated to account for evolving technology, changing risk factors and campus environments. A necessary part of these guidelines is to immediately record all incidents of cyber-bullying and to provide full training to educate staff on how to identify cyber-bullying.
Give students, teachers, and parents an easy way to report cyber-bullying
Students need to be encouraged to ask for help. Create a safe environment where students feel comfortable expressing themselves and empower students to know that asking for help demonstrates strength and good judgement. Announce to all students, teachers and parents the ways in which cyber-bullying can easily be reported. Provide different reporting routes like email, text message, hotline, etc.
Be aware of online activity in the classroom
It is important that all pupils’ online activity is monitored and controlled access is given while on the school premises. A robust content filter and learning management system are powerful tools for giving teachers and IT personnel the ability to monitor students’ activity.
Students should be instructed to never give out their passwords to others and to not save passwords in form fields or web browsers. Teachers should be vigilant of their students’ behaviour while using devices in the classroom. Watch for snickering groups and secretive behaviour that could be indicative of harassment.
Promote the positive use of technology
Technology is a powerful tool in the classroom. Teachers and parents should remind students of the advantages of using technology to learn and engage in 21st century learning. Student appreciation and regard for technology’s place in education can help to combat misuse of these tools.
Participate in school-wide awareness projects like Anti-Bullying Week
Feeling safe in schools powerfully promotes student learning and healthy development (Devine and Cohen, 2007). Raising awareness can help to empower students and make them feel safer at school.
A school-wide component centred on training, awareness, monitoring, and assessment of bullying; a classroom component focused on reinforcing school-wide rules, building social and emotional skills and empathy; and an intervention component for students who are frequent targets or perpetrators of bullying is a holistic approach to targeting the causes and impact of cyber-bullying.
Encourage digital citizenship in schools
Digital citizenship guidelines should be taught to students in order to make them better stewards of the responsibility that comes with online activity. Students should be informed not to share personal information about themselves online.
Inform students how to safeguard their passwords and other private information from prying eyes. Discuss proper etiquette for online activity and encourage students to ask questions about what is appropriate.
Stay up-to-date with changing technology
As we all know, technology changes rapidly. As digital natives, students can more easily adapt to this change and are aware of the latest technology. Parents and teachers should work to keep up with technology as well and in order to more effectively monitor students’ activity.
Establish open communication with students
Students should be able to communicate to teachers easily without feeling nervous. Teachers’ emails should easily be available for students, and teachers should engage in discussions about digital citizenship with their students.
Make sure students know that their school has a zero tolerance policy for cyber-bullying and establish an environment for questions and discussion.
Earnie Kramer is a director at Lightspeed Systems.