Week 4 Blog
Bullying has been around forever, but cyberbullying is a relatively new issue. Although this does effect adults, most victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying are teens, which makes this an issue for schools. The fact that kids have online access almost 24/7 has made cyberbullying more and more prevalent. Recent research has shown a slow but steady rise in cyberbullying. 25% of kids have been cyberbullied. 15% had been cyberbullied within the previous 30 days. Being in the online realm, which almost feels anonymous, causes many people to be less inhibited in what they post and teenagers are not immune to this. Many say things online they would never say in person.
Being involved in cyberbullying (whether the bully or the victim) can lead to an assortment of psychological issues including poor self-esteem and suicidal tendencies. It is also related to poor school performance, behavior problems, and substance abuse.
So what can we do about this?
First of all, parents and teachers need to be involved. We need to be aware of our children’s online activity. We need to be observing their online use. Some teachers and parents are intimidated by their kids’ online abilities. We can’t let that stop us from helping them. While it is important to honor their privacy, children need to understand that parents and teachers can and will check their emails, browsing history, etc. if they feel it is necessary.
If your children or students are victims of cyberbullying there are some immediate steps to take. Keep evidence of the cyberbullying. Report cyberbullying. Do not respond to the cyberbullying. Many sites have advice on how to deal with this. For example, Cyberbullying.org has resources that give kids tips on cell phone, social media and password safety, in addition to tips on coping with cyberbullying. They also have tips for adults on handling cyberbullying.
Signs that your child may be a victim of cyberbullying may consist of:
• Being very upset after being online
• Being extremely secretive about online activity
• Failing grades
• Changes in mood, behavior, or sleep patterns
• Choosing to stop online activity
• Being edgy when receiving a text or email
As I read this list, I realize that many of these can be signs of multiple issues, not just cyberbullying. I believe that as teachers our first job is to build a relationship with each student. That is extremely hard with large numbers of students, but kids aren’t going to tell us cyberbullying (or anything else) is going on if we don’t take an interest and build a relationship. These kids need to feel safe coming to us when they need help.
A few years ago at my school, we had an issue where several girls were cyberbullying one girl through Facebook. The victim was brave enough to come forward and report it to the school. Since it was not taking place on school grounds, there was little we could do about it. All of the involved students’ parents were contacted. In this case, all parents agreed to rescind their daughters’ Facebook privileges. I wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t agreed? Would their daughters have continued bullying others through social media? Since proximity is no longer required for bullying, schools must have the support of parents to prevent and stop cyberbullying. If parents aren’t willing to provide appropriate consequences to these bullies, schools will be hard-pressed to stop it.
I never really thought about it before reading Ryan’s blog last week, but now I realize that we definitely need to be teaching digital citizenship to our students. We must model good digital citizenship. We need to teach the kids that there are online rights and responsibilities just like real life. Acceptable digital behavior is just like acceptable real life behavior in that kids need to be taught right and wrong. They aren’t going to just automatically know without modeling and instruction. Cyberbullying is an unforeseen and unfortunate byproduct of the digital age.
Cyberbullying Facts (n.d.). Retrieved on 9/20/16 from http://cyberbullying.org/facts
Report Cyberbullying (n.d.). Retrieved on 9/20/16 from https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/how-to-report/index.html
Cyberbullying (n.d.). Retrieved on 9/20/16 from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/cyberbullying.html