Cyberbullying is "willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phone, and other electronic devices" (Hinduja). In other words, for some bullying no longer stops when you leave the school grounds, it's no longer enough to get inside your own home, now bullies can follow you basically wherever you go. They are on your facebook page, they are texting your phone, it seems like they are everywhere.
So what can you do?
As part of our reading for class this week we read about several strategies. Both parents and teachers need to stay alert, know what technologies, website and platforms the kids/students are using. A lot of it seemed to boil down to making yourself visible and available if someone needs help. Another aspect of dealing with cyberbullying revolved around education. Make sure everyone knows what the signs are and what to do if something is going on. This can be based on the schools anti-bullying rules, which should also include cyberbullying. We also need to make sure the students know how to behave online. They should understand how public spaces online work, how discussion boards and social networking sites function. They need to be taught how to keep their information private and how to keep themselves protected from potential bullying. It will serve the students in the long run if we teach them to be responsible users of the internet and all it has to offer.
For me the biggest piece of the puzzle with not only cyberbullying, but bullying in general is that there needs to be swift and consistent consequences. There should be no grey area. If you are bullying someone, physically or emotionally, in person or in cyberspace, there needs to be consequences. The consequences need to be clearly outlined in the student handbooks and students need to be reminded of them at the start of the year, and maybe a few more times along the way. Parents need to be informed of what the procedures are in cases of bullying. If a student is being bullied then there needs to be a procedure that everyone follows. A person they can turn to and trust that they will be taken seriously, a plan of action to investigate any claims in a timely manner, a consistent set of punishments that will be handed down to anyone who is doing the bullying. One thing I've found is that there is a huge lack of respect from many children. They don't respect each other and they don't respect the teachers. This obviously doesn't apply to every kid at every school, but it is an observation I've made at several schools I've visited. They do not fear that there will be consequences for their actions and therefore are not afraid to act, this makes it easy or the bully to do so. The victims have the same feeling, that there will not be consequences, so what is to be gained from seeking help? All it serves to do is to tick the bully off more. By having a clear and consistent plan of action, by being visible and available, by responding quickly and fairly you can create an environment where your students know that they are heard and that they will be protected. They also will know that bullying of any sort will not be tolerated.
Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2007). Offline consequences of online victimization: School violence and delinquency. Journal of School Violence, 6(3), 89112.