- Cyberbullying affects students, classroom learning and school culture, and school administrators must have the tools to not only try and prevent these incidents, but also to respond to them if they do, eSchool News reports.
- There are four core strategies school leaders can use to deal with cyberbullying: establish and learn the correct response protocol, directly tackle the subject through lessons, enlist parents' help and empower students to be upstanders — people who witness or know about something wrong and does something about it — rather than bystanders, who witness bullying but don't get involved.
- In addition, online resources, many of which are free, are available to help students learn about the consequences of cyberbullying and the responsibilities they have in responding to or reporting incidents they see. In turn, schools should use these resources to approach the issue in a proactive manner.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and while many schools are focusing on incidents of physical bullying and intimidation, cyberbullying is a growing threat. According to DoSomething.org, roughly 43% of students have experienced cyberbullying, 70% have seen it happen often online, and 68% of students believe it is a serious problem. Cyberbullying can significatly disrupt a student's well-being, and the effects can be devastating. It distracts students from learning and affects them emotionally, and it's linked with an increase in suicide rate — cyberbullying victims are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide as non-victims.
Cyberbullying can appear in many forms, including cyberstalking, impersonation and harassment, and these attacks are often seen by other witnesses who don't intervene and, in doing so, indirectly perpetuate the cycle. Even if students are not victims themselves, they often witness cyberbullying and either become will participants by liking, commenting or passing on the posts; are bystanders who are still affected by the incidents; or are “upstanders” who become involved by trying to defend the victim and stop the attacks.
This problem can't be easily controlled or monitored because it often originates off campus. Girls are more likely to be the perpetuators, as well as the victims, of online bullying, and this is a dynamic some school administrators struggle to deal with, thus adding to the overall struggle to contain it. However, schools do have some legal responsibilities in incidents of bullying, and they also have a vested interest in creating a safe, productive learning environment for students.
Schools need to establish policies regarding cyberbullying, as seen in this flowchart example. They also need to provide students with guidance regarding cyberbullying through lessons about the issue and other aspects of digital citizenship. Efforts at teaching empathy and respect through social-emotional learning can also have an impact on student attitudes and actions.