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How to Prevent Cyberbullying in Your Classroom

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National Bullying Prevention Month is a nationwide campaign founded in 2006 by PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center. The campaign is held during the month of October and unites communities around the world to educate and raise awareness of bullying prevention. The goal is to encourage communities to work together to stop bullying and cyberbullying by increasing awareness of the prevalence and impact of bullying on all children of all ages.

According to Sameer Hindua and Justin Patchin authors of, School Climate 2.0: Preventing Cyberbullying and Sexting One Classroom at a Time, cyberbullying is defined as willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices. In short, it is bullying using technology.

Cyber bullying occurs when electronic communications such as text messages, emails, instant messages, and social media updates are used to threaten or humiliate someone. Its consequences can be just as serious as the effects of bullying that occurs in person, yet cyberbullying is unique in many ways.

What makes cyberbullying so different than in-person bullying?

  • 24/7 access to technology and target
  • Perception of invincibility while online
  • Reduced restraint and increased freedom due to physical distance
  • Extent of victimization quickly spreads far and wide
  • Difficult to recognize the harm that is being inflicted
  • It is often anonymous and unlimited by time and place to the victim has little respite from the abuse.
  • It can reach hundreds or even thousands of people quickly and the anonymity leads students who would not normally participate to do so.

Below are 9 strategies we as educators can employ to prevent cyberbullying in our classrooms.

  1. Create digital citizens. Cyberbullying is impersonal in nature. It is important to teach kids that the same rules apply in and out of the digital world. Clearly teach students how to be cyber safe and savvy. Much like rules are taught, digital citizenship can be imparted through explicit teaching.
  2. Educate yourself. Not being “in the know” or current on the newest technologies puts teachers at a disadvantage. Set aside 1 hour per week- just 60 minutes- to intentionally educate yourself about what your students are using (or misusing) will help even more. Then you can broach the topic with confidence in class.
  3. Discuss Bullying. Awareness is powerful. It changes social perceptions. Put cyberbullying in the spotlight in your classroom. Teach students about the psychological and legal ramifications. Explore issues like technology risks, cyber safety and positive online communities. Talk about age-appropriate cases of cyberbullying and their resolution.
  4. Supervise. Students using computers or other devices in school often have access to the Internet and social networking sites despite efforts to restrict them through filters and firewalls. Teachers who do not properly supervise their students’ usage of on-campus computers and personal cell phones allow them to potentially engage in cyberbullying or fall victim to it while on school grounds. Actively monitor the online activities of students and set the tone that students who use technology in a distracting or harassing manner will be disciplined.
  5. Teach students it’s okay to report abuse. Students need to know that they should report abuse. Every student should be encouraged to report instances or evidence of cyberbullying to a teacher, counselor, or any other staff member. Set up an anonymous reporting system so that youth can inform school officials of a problem without fear of repercussion. Organizations such as Safe2Tell, allow students to report incidents anonymously. Knowing there is a way to report cases may also stop students from engaging in the behavior
  6. Establish firm policies. Rules regarding technology need to be explicitly taught, rather than assumedA student should be aware of policies before a problem occurs. Create clear boundaries.  Policies serve as a good way to curtail verbal aggression and establish it as an unacceptable behavior. Policies should also be specific, including any legal implications.
  7. Encourage Active Student Participation in Decision Making. Students should feel that they have a voice at school. Enlist the assistance of students from your school to help. They know- perhaps better than anyone else- what devices, programs, or sites are being used and misused. Have the class come up with rules against bullying and involve them in determining that bullying behavior is unacceptable.
  8. Finding the Right Response: Although there should be consequences for cyberbullying, many experts say it should not be all about punishment. Those who bully need to understand the impact of their actions, and they can often benefit from counseling. Listen to the students and let the target be part of the solution. Often, restorative justice techniques — where students talk with each other to understand the impact of the incident — are effective.
  9. Know when to use community resources. There may be situations that require the intervention of greater community resources such as counselors, administrators, and law enforcement.  Cyberbullying needs to be taken seriously and getting the community involved may prevent larger problems. Offer counseling services to both victims and perpetrators. Let students know that it is okay to need to talk to someone.

Bullying is an ever-present problem in our schools and with the advent of technology, bullying has a different look, feel and emphasis in today’s school culture- although victimized students are no less affected. But, by being both an advocate for bullying victims and a school leader for positive change, we can make school a safe, positive and bully-free place to be.

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Topics: Classroom Management, Teaching with Technology

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