Cyberbullying: What Schools Can Do
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
Cyberbullying, which involves sending offensive messages on the computer or cell phone, is a fast-growing form of bullying that has emerged with the advent of technology. It is most often seen with middle- and high-school students, but students as young as eight have also engaged in this high-tech form of bullying.
While most incidents of cyberbullying originate at home, schools are nonetheless feeling its effects. Often school staff have to deal with student distress, anger and conflict that often accompany these cyberbullying incidents that begin outside of school. Moreover, schools are facing an increasing number of cyberbullying problems that take place in school. Whether the cyberbullying originates in school or at home, it is a problem that schools must confront.
The following are some steps that schools can take to prevent cyberbullying:
Create a cyberbullying policy. The school bullying policy should be expanded to include cyberbullying.
Survey students and school staff about cyberbullying. This may provide school officials with useful information about the nature and frequency of cyberbullying. It is important that parents are informed of this survey and have the right to withdraw their child from the survey.
Discuss cyberbullying with school staff. Schools might offer workshops to school staff on this topic.
Educate students about cyberbullying. Make sure the discussion touches on the following points:
- The pain of being cyberbullied.
- Appropriate and inappropriate use of technology.
- The rules regarding the use of technology in school and the school’s disciplinary approach to cyberbullying.
- The need for students to seek help from an adult if they are being cyberbullied.
- The need for students who witness cyberbullying to stop the incident, support the victim or inform an adult.
- How Internet and cell phone communications leave “electronic footprints” that may allow cyberbullies to be identified.
Present a formal cyberbullying curriculum. This program can provide students with the skills to use technology responsibly and teach them how to respond to cyberbullying incidents.
Use peer mentoring. Older students might talk with younger students about appropriate and inappropriate ways of using the Internet.
Post information about cyberbullying. Signs might be posted in the computer rooms, the library, hallways, classrooms and the guidance office. Schools might also put a list of rules for technology usage next to school computers.
Arrange for law enforcement officials to talk with students. This presentation might help students appreciate the potential seriousness of cyberbullying and understand that Internet communications leave a digital “fingerprint” that can be used to trace their communications. Educate parents. Schools might provide a presentation and distribute materials to parents on what they can do to help their children use the Internet and cell phones in a safe and responsible manner.