While we as educators are all sadly familiar with “traditional” means of bullying, you may not be aware of a new flavor of this distasteful reality of YA life: “cyberbullying.” According to eSchoolNews, as many as one in three children have been bullied, threatened, harassed, or taunted through some means of computer or electronic communications, such as text messages, social networking site postings, or chat rooms. While many of us may be more familiar with the more extreme cases of cyberbullying, such as the teen suicide related to bullying from a MySpace hoax last month in Missouri, research indicates more subtle forms of cyberbullying occur on a daily basis. The issue is of such great concern that the December 2007 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health includes a supplement devoted to “youth violence and electronic media.”
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) even has a web page that outlines the problems associated with technology and youth violence. The CDC says:
Youth can use electronic media to embarrass, harass or threaten their peers. Increasing numbers of adolescents are becoming victims of this new form of violence. Although many different terms-such as cyberbullying, Internet harassment, and Internet bullying-have been used to describe this type of violence, electronic aggression is the term that most accurately captures all types of violence that occur electronically. Like traditional forms of youth violence, electronic aggression is associated with emotional distress and conduct problems at school.
How can we as adults stop cyberbullying? Stop Bullying Now has these tips for educators:
- Educate your students, teachers, and other staff members about cyber bullying, its dangers, and what to do if someone is cyberbullied.
- Be sure that your school’s anti-bullying rules and policies address cyber bullying.
- Closely monitor students’ use of computers at school.
- Use filtering and tracking software on all computers, but don’t rely solely on this software to screen out cyber bullying and other problematic on-line behavior.
- Investigate reports of cyber bullying immediately. If cyber bullying occurs through the school district’s Internet system, you are obligated to take action. If the cyber bullying occurs off-campus, consider what actions you might take to help address the bullying:
- Notify parents of victims and parents of cyberbullies of known or suspected cyber bullying.
- Notify the police if the known or suspected cyber bullying involves a threat.
- Closely monitor the behavior of the affected students at school for possible bullying.
- Talk with all students about the harms caused by cyber bullying. Remember — cyber bullying that occurs off-campus can travel like wildfire among your students and can affect how they behave and relate to each other at school.
- Investigate to see if the victim(s) of cyber bullying could use some support from a school counselor or school-based mental health professional.
- Contact the police immediately if known or suspected cyber bullying involves acts such as:
- Threats of violence
- Obscene or harassing phone calls or text messages
- Harassment, stalking, or hate crimes
- Child pornography
Educators may also want to check out this great PDF file: Educators’ Guide to Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats from The Center for Safe and Responsible Use of the Internet. If you are a parent, check out their tips for moms and dad at http://stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/adult/indexAdult.asp?Area=cyberbullying .
Other resources for identifying, preventing, and stopping cyberbullying:
- eSchoolNews tips
- Cyberbully 411: Stop Cyberbullying
- CDC Podcast on Cyberbullying/Youth and Electronic Aggression
- Search SIRS Researcher for current articles on cyberbullying
- PARADE magazine article on cyberbullying
- WiredSafety.org resources for adults and teens on cyberbullying
- Information on cyberbullying for students and parents at http://csriu.org/cyberbully/