According to Media Smarts, 23% of students reported that they’ve said or done something cruel to another person online. 27% reported that they’ve experienced the same from someone else. With the increased use of collaboration tools and social media, children can be bullied 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Now is the time for school systems, parents, and students to address this issue head-on because kids should no longer be fearful of being bullied both at school or online at home. Thankfully, there are a variety of ways to combat and bring an end to cyberbullying.
1. Report It
Children need to report cyberbullying to an adult. Unfortunately, according to the National Crime Prevention Council, only 1 in 10 children will report cyberbullying to a trusted adult or parent. An important step is to make reporting this type of abuse easier and less stigmatizing. A study by Canada’s Media Smarts indicated that 80% of children would report cyberbullying if they could do so anonymously.
2. Teach Children to Not Engage With Cyberbullies
Bullies engage in harmful behavior because they want to get a response from their victim. By not engaging, the potential victim exercises their power and can end the bullying before it ever gains traction. Eliciting a response will almost always make the bullying worse and last longer.
3. Create a Culture of Accountability
School systems need to hold cyberbullies accountable for their actions. Schools should seriously consider including cyberbullying into their disciplinary matrix to ensure that all stakeholders are aware of the definition and consequences of cyberbullying. It is also vital that we teach children to stand up and report bullying when they see it. Some students have a very difficult time sharing emotional things with adults, so encouraging a culture of collective accountability will make it easier for so many children.
4. Teach Empathy
Children need to understand that posting hurtful comments online about someone hurts as much if not more than if the comments were to their faces. Once posted, online comments can be seen by anyone who has access to the social media account or webpage. They must understand that they are posting about a real person who will be reading what was said and not simply typing words into a computer or a phone.
5. Monitor Online Activity
This recommendation is less about being “Big Brother” and more about keeping children safe while they’re online.
At home: Parents should monitor online gaming at home to determine if both the game and the interaction with other online gamers are appropriate for their child. Parents should also monitor their child’s social media account to ensure that what is being posted as well as viewed by their child is appropriate.
At school: Teachers and schools should monitor students’ online activity to ensure that online bullying via social media or collaboration platforms isn’t happening. A web filtering service can be employed to catch comments posted by students that are indicative of cyberbullying.
About the Author
Dr. David Franklin, Ed.D. is a nationally and internationally recognized speaker and an experienced school administrator, consultant, curriculum designer, and professor of education. Dr. Franklin has presented at education conferences around the world delivering keynotes and breakout sessions and is currently serving as National Education Consultant for Securly.