This will be my final blog in the series I have been reporting on regarding cyberbullying. Again, if you haven’t already done so, I would recommend that you go back and read the previous two blogs to get some background for this one which will deal with schools and what they can do to tackle this form of bullying.
I apologize that due to technical difficulties, I was unable to pull up the Cyberbullying Research Center report on what role schools should play to battle cyberbullying. However, I was able to find information from the National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention which I felt would be just as helpful. If you are a teacher, I would encourage you to read the report from the Cyberbullying Research Center on your own as well.
First, it is important to note that this is a difficult form of bullying for schools to deal with since it usually takes place outside of school. Regardless, since cyberbullying has become so prevalent and the affect on its victims can be so devastating, there are actions that experts suggest schools should take to join in the effort to stop cyberbullying.
The first step according to the National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention is to figure out to what degree cyberbullying is an issue in your school or in the district. It suggests surveying students regarding their level of exposure to cyberbullying using input from students, parents, school staff, and computer techs to devise the right survey for your school or district.
The center suggests establishing an anti-cyberbullying task force consisting of the principal, school board attorney, disciplinary officer, and both a parent and student representative to get a fuller understanding of the problem and to develop some anti-cyberbullying proposals.
Through the information obtained from the survey and with the help of the task force, develop an awareness campaign for teachers, school staff, students, parents, and the community at large to talk about what cyberbullying is and its different forms, as well as how it can be stopped or prevented within the authority of the school. Web sites such as Stop Bullying Now! are helpful tools for spreading the word about bullying.
Get kids actively involved in creating a policy which spells out how to appropriately use the school’s technology. The AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) should clearly state what constitutes cyberbullying, prohibit the use of the Internet for bullying, devise strategies for preventing and stopping cyberbullying, and lay out the consequences for violations of the policy. The center recommends that the policy provide consequences for cyberbullying occurring outside of school if it affects the well-being and safety of the victim while they are in school.
Teachers should educate their students to avoid, respond to, and report incidents of cyberbullying. In these discussions, it is important to explain the negative consequences of cyberbullying, which include school discipline, civil litigation, or even criminal prosecution. Students need to learn to refrain from giving out private information and to report any forms of cyberbullying that they either experience or witness firsthand.
Schools need to educate their staff in regards to cyberbullying through professional development and guidance from school counselors. Teachers should all be aware of their school’s AUP and the actions they should take if they suspect cyberbullying is taking place.
Coordinate your school’s efforts with those in the community, and invite local police and law enforcement representatives to come into your classrooms to talk and answer questions about cyberbullying. Even local Internet service providers might be willing to send a representative to explain their company’s regulations against cyberbullying.
Get parents involved by educating them about the forms cyberbullying takes and explain how their children might be affected. Have them sign an AUP along with their child, agreeing that they won’t use the computer to harass others, and ask them to be responsible and watchful at home to insure that their children are using the Internet appropriately. (This was touched on in my blog yesterday.)
The center recommends trying to coordinate consistent cyberbullying prevention education with all other schools in the district from primary to secondary schools.
Finally, the center suggests that your school system reviews state laws related to bullying. They recommend visiting the website, Bully Police USA, for a compilation of state-by-state legislation, and they suggest that you petition state legislatures to add a cyberbullying component to laws that prohibit traditional bullying if your state does not already have that component spelled out.
I’ve taken a significant amount of time with this subject due to the prevalence of this form of bullying and its destructive results. I plan to spend much of health time at the beginning of this year addressing bullying in an attempt to get the school year started off positively. We will spend a large portion of that time discussing cyberbullying, and I plan to use some of the above suggestions as I create this unit.
Schools need to get much more proactive when it comes to dealing with all forms of bullying, and that means teaching our children that bullying is wrong and will not be tolerated in our schools. Please join me in spreading that message!