Keeping Students Safe From Cyberbullies

Bullying, gossiping and rumor spreading has been taken to a new level with the rise of the Internet. Read on for tips that can promote awareness and help keep students safe from cyberbullies.

About Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a relatively recent phenomenon. Consequently, statistics on the topic vary by source, ages polled and locations researched. However, one thing is clear: cyberbullying does happen. You may even be connected to a victim or perpetrator and not even know it. While cases can range from minor to severe, this form of digital stalking, pestering and persecution has driven preteens, adolescents and young adults to anxiety and depression and, in extreme cases, to suicide.

cyberbully cell phone text message Internet chat

What Communities Can Do

One way to raise awareness on the subject is to organize fundraisers. The donations from such events can be used to educate children and develop civic responsibility. In addition, interested communities can look to educational organizations like the National Crime Prevention Council, which offers public training sessions and public service announcements on the topic.

What Schools Can Do

Schools can enact a number of policies to help deter Internet harassment, including blocking popular social networking sites, e-mail access and instant messaging. Those institutions that tolerate cell phones on campus may want to reconsider this policy, since students with harmful intent can use these tools to text hurtful messages or obtain videos or photos of their intended victims. In addition, if schools do not offer training to teachers on the subject, they should encourage them to learn more about it.

Some things that educators can do to keep students safe from cyberbullying include:

  • Make it clear to students that cyberbullying is not tolerated
  • Raise the issue with parents at annual conference nights
  • Monitor students' in-class computer usage
  • Integrate Internet usage ethics into online learning
  • Have dedicated cyberbullying awareness days
  • Have students create anti-bullying posters and place them around classroom or school

What Parents Can Do

As if parents don't already have enough to worry about, now there's one more form of bullying that's easier to accomplish and arguably more harmful. An open line of communication with children is essential for prevention and deterrence. Talk to your children about the issue and check in with them frequently to see if they've experienced any incidences of cyberbullying. If you're not sure how to bring up the subject, look to online resources such as the Cyberbullying Research Center, which provides free downloads of what-if scripts and scenarios, tips about talking to children and kids' activity sheets. Also, monitor your child's online activity and his or her behavior in general. If you think something is amiss you can talk to the school principal or arrange a meeting with the parents of other children who may be involved.

What Students Can Do

One of the first things that students can do to protect themselves from cyberbullying is to be cautious about the information they post online. Seemingly innocent pictures, videos and text viewable by others can be manipulated or taken out of context and used against you. Students who have begun to be attacked can:

  • Block senders
  • Change user settings to private
  • Change contact information (usernames, emails, etc.)
  • Report the activity to an adult
  • Report the activity to a forum
  • Delete the messages and ignore them
  • Keep all the messages in one folder as evidence

Laws Explicit to Cyberbullying

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of 2011 more than half of U.S. states had laws or bills specifically addressing cyberbullying, which can be considered a felony. Other violations of the offense can lead to student detention or suspension. For states that don't have legislation, cyberbullies may still be pursued in civil court for harassment or related misdemeanors.

Continue reading for information about one teacher's anti-bullying campaign.

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