There was a time when bullying in school was very clear cut. A child was teased on the playground, pushed in the locker room, or tripped in the lunchroom. With the myriad forms of new technology available to students, however, it is becoming increasingly easy for students to bully one another without speaking, touching, looking, or even being in the same room with each other. Smart phones, tablets, laptops, and school computers give students ample opportunity to bully each other through blogs, social networks, email, and text messages. What can schools do to stop students from participating in, or being a victim of, cyberbullying?
Make your computer use policy as strict as possible within your school. Don’t allow cellular phones in the school, or if they are in the school, they should not be allowed to be on or in the classrooms. Students using electronic devices, whether their own or the school’s, to engage in cyberbullying should be banned from further use for a predetermined period of time. Explain the rules and expectations of the school to the students at the beginning of the year and reinforce them throughout the year. As with most disruptive behaviors, clear consequences within the school setting will deter most students from engaging in those behaviors.
One of the most difficult problems schools face in cyberbullying cases is that some cases of cyberbullying will be carried out completely away from the school. If the student who is accused of bullying is doing so away from campus and without the aid of any school technology, there may be very little the school can do, as legislation regarding the issue varies by state and is constantly evolving along with the technology used to perpetrate the offense. Because of this, it is very important that parents are informed immediately when a student is feeling threatened. If a teacher or school therapist has been informed that a child is being bullied, the parents of both students need to be informed. Parental involvement can be key in resolving the issue.
In the Community
It may not surprise teachers or school psychologists to know that cyberbullying is a completely foreign concept to people without children or people who have limited access to the wonders of the online word. Engage the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) at your school and request their assistance in setting up community outreach programs. Pass out brochures about cyberbullying at your local stores, partner with community businesses to bring in speakers for open house nights at the school, and invite community leaders to come in and discuss problems they have had with cyberbullying or other forms of online intimidation. Bring in authority figures who are outside the student’s social network to give them a fresh perspective on the issue.
As a teacher or school therapist what have you done to increase awareness and decrease the incidents of cyberbullying in your school?