With advancements in technology and the amalgamation of our virtual lives with our social lives- being mean is easier than it ever was. A couple of years ago, the notion of tormenting someone, behind the anonymity of a screen, would have been absurd to even think of.
If you’re a concerned teacher or a parent, then you’ve stumbled on to the right article. Although we’ve written a dedicated article on cyberbullying already, we’d like to reimburse the importance of the topic by diving into the following topics:
- How is online bullying different from traditional bullying and harassment?
- What steps can be taken to minimize cyberbullying in schools?
How does cyberbullying vary from traditional bullying?
Perhaps the best way to grasp the subject of cyberbullying, particularly in schools and classrooms is through identifying how it differs from the traditional ideal of bullying we have in our mind, which consists of:
- The torment is constant: Unlike conventional bullying norms, cyberbullying can last 24/7. Since access to technology is available at any time, anywhere, victims are continuously bombarded with messages of hate which can have devastating consequences.
- The scope of abuse is difficult to determine: Owing primarily to the anonymity a screen offers to bullies, there is a sense of increased freedom within them. Moreover, since everything happens behind password-protected accounts, the scope of abuse is often difficult to analyze.
- The anonymity increases the chances of many people joining in: Since the very nature of cyberbullying implies discreetness, teenagers who wouldn’t be bullies in real life join in and participate equally in inflicting abuse upon their fellow schoolmates.
What measures can be taken to prevent cyberbullying in schools?
Cyberbullying is a catastrophic issue that needs immediate attention on an individual level, as well as a national level. Despite this, however, many teens feel that politicians fail to do a good job at addressing cyberbullying and the risks associated with it.
If you serve as a teacher, or are a student, taking a few steps to foster a healthy environment can go a long way in the fight against cyberbullying. Other, more sophisticated approaches to preventing and minimizing cyberbullying in schools include:
#1- Recognizing the impacts of cyberbullying:
With rapid advancements in technology, the impact of cyberbullying is felt only in specific groups of people, namely middle and high schoolers.
Often, the greatest mistake made by adults (teachers and counsellors) is that they fail to acknowledge the scope and impact that online bullies can have on their victims. Just because they don’t see a kid shoving someone else into a locker, they think that the threat has been minimized.
Simply recognizing the fact that cyberbullying is real- that every day, thousands of teens are being sent anonymous threats and hate messages, can make a huge difference to make the victims of cyberbullying feel heard.
#2- Establish stringent anti-cyberbullying guidelines:
Although many people believe cyberbullying guidelines to be more theoretical than practical, the fact is that educational institutes can not even think of abolishing cyberbullying if they don’t have a protocol to follow.
Unfortunately, however, many educators believe that since cyberbullying takes place after the school hours, it is beyond anything their control. On the contrary, just like conventional bullying, cyberbullying incites whispers in the hallways and causes distractions to disrupt the academic environment in the school.
While coming up with their anti-cyberbullying policy, schools should focus on prioritizing the safety of the affected victims, along with severe consequences for the perpetrators of bullying.
#3- Promote discussions on cyberbullying and its impact:
When it comes to empowering victims of cyberbullying, the greatest step teachers, counsellors and administrators can take is by providing them with a platform that fosters discussion on cyberbullying and the devastating influence it can have.
Not only do discussions empower victims, but they also create awareness and educate those who were previously in the dark regarding cyberbullying. Teachers can hold weekly talks in their classrooms, where they can utilize the opportunity to teach their students about the effects of cyberbullying, along with it’s psychological and legal ramifications.
A bonus benefit to hosting these discussions is that students who were previously cyberbullied now have a voice, which they can use to teach others about their experience.
#4- Foster an environment where students can report cyberbullying incidents:
As we mentioned above, most teens feel that schools fail to take action against cyberbullies. A consequence of this is that many bystander students feel that they are in a position where they can’t report cyberbullying incidents, for fear of becoming a target themselves.
Schools and teachers should try to promote an environment where students can report instances of bullying, without as much as batting an eyelash. Schools should focus on setting up an anonymous cyberbullying ‘tip-line’ so that victims and bystanders can report incidents without the fear of any repercussion.
Moreover, just the knowledge of how easy it is to report cyberbullying cases will foster fear in perpetrators of such behaviour.
#5- Foster, a healthy partnership between parents and schools, to eradicate cyberbullying:
According to the research conducted by Pew Research Center, a massive proportion of teenagers places the highest confidence in their parental figures when it comes to addressing incidents of online harassment and bullying.
Keeping this in mind, schools should incorporate parents in the measures they take to eradicate online bullying. More often than not, however, school administrators are hesitant to accept any advice from parents and prefer to keep them in the dark regarding cyberbullying.
While coming up with policy implementation against cyberbullying, parents can play a pivotal role in educating their children about the consequences of improper online behaviour, along with providing them with resources to help them if they’ve been subjected to cyberbullying.
#6- Encourage students to form safe spaces on campus:
There’s nothing more empowering to see than students helping each other through tough times. Educators and school administrators can play a vital role in fostering an environment where students can create safe spaces to talk about and discuss relevant solutions to abolish cyberbullying.
Moreover, students can increase awareness and lobby for stringent social media guidelines to politicians. Students can write letters sharing their concerns about the prevalent issue of online harassment, and why social media platforms should also play a role in minimizing the impact of cyberbullying.
In modern times, the problems we face are complex, no doubt and cyberbullying is just another example of that.
However, considering the impact that online harassment and abuse can have on teenagers and middle schoolers, it is all the more important that educators and parents come together to make the digital world safe for youngsters today.