According to DoSomething.org, more than 40 percent of American schoolchildren have been bullied online.
The explosion of mobile technology over the past decade has enabled would-be bullies to target classmates outside of the classroom, in the relative anonymity of cyberspace.
Unfortunately, school leaders and staff are still playing catchup when it comes to these abuses.
While strictly controlling student technology use might seem like a logical answer to the problem, Reginald Corbett, founder of cyberbullying prevention group SafeCyber, says it’s personal relationships, not technology, that matters.
As Corbett recently wrote for eSchool News:
“Though the online platforms may be relatively new, cyberbullying should not be separated from bullying. Both behaviors are about relationship power and control, otherwise known as ‘relational bullying;’ therefore, it requires a relationship management-based type of approach in dealing with its impact and prevention.”
Like any other form of technology, mobile tools have their downsides. And, cyberbullying is a very real concern for parents, teachers, and school leaders.
But simply blocking technology isn’t realistic, says Corbett. Smartphones and social media applications are integral parts of students’ lives, both inside and outside of school. Despite obvious challenges, these innovations also harbor tremendous opportunities for learning and research. To battle cyberbullying by eliminating technology from your classrooms is simply throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Instead, Corbett outlines three prevention techniques that target the “human” factors behind school bullying.
1. Make resilience a part of your curriculum
The social-emotional skills needed to resist bullying are learnable, Corbett says.
“Skills like pro-social values, emotional skills, social skills and high-order thinking skills would better equip [students] should they be the victim of this unwanted behavior,” he writes. It’s important to set policies that prioritize students’ understanding of these skills.
Does your curriculum teach students the value of digital citizenship? Do your teaching strategies include different aspects of social-emotional learning mixed with traditional academics?
If not, it might be time to rethink your approach.
2. Make sure you actually understand bullying
Education scholars have a lot of work to do, both in researching cyberbullying trends and in providing schools with resources to tackle the problem, says Corbett.
School leaders also need to do their homework and uncover motivations for bullying in their local communities.
While national statistics help to define the scope of the problem, Corbett says it’s important for schools to gather and analyze local data and feedback. School climate surveys, for example, are one way to understand how your student body perceives the bullying problem.
3. Enlist the help of your community
The most frustrating part of the cyber-bullying epidemic is that it can occur anytime, anywhere. You and your staff cannot detect or prevent every occurrence.
That’s why your school community’s participation is so important.
Make sure your community understands the causes and recognizes the warning signs of cyberbullying. And provide a safe way for community members and students to report instances of abuse.
What steps is your district taking to protect its students from the dangers of cyberbullying? Tell us in the comments.
Want more ideas about how to tackle the problem of bullying in your schools? Read Want to beat a bully? Start with teamwork.