Technology is an indispensable resource in today’s world. Never have we had so much information instantly accessible to us. It’s worked its way into every aspect of our lives, especially in how we interact socially with one another.
Unfortunately, with all these new methods of communicating, some use this technology to harm others. The negative effects can be especially devastating to children. With almost constant online activity, the possibility of cyberbullying is very real, and it can create a continuous and harmful atmosphere that reaches a large audience anytime, anywhere, even when a child is alone. Cyberbullying is especially difficult because there is no escape. It can take place across media forms from websites, text messages, social media apps, video, pictures, emails, and chats. Here are some ways you can educate yourselves and help your students stay safe.
The first step is to understand different forms of bullying. Although not as overt as regular bullying, microaggressions can be very offensive. The subtlety of prejudice can be especially insulting. There are three different forms of microaggressions.
- Microassaults are the most obvious types of microaggressions. They are explicit actions or words with the intent to discriminate against a marginalized group. Microassaults may include using derogatory names or epithets or displaying offensive symbols of established hate groups.
- Microinsults are much subtler. This is a type of communication that conveys insensitivity or disrespect and may be verbal or nonverbal. An example of a microinsult is asking Asian Americans where they are from or commenting that they speak English really well. This may not seem harmful, but the insinuation that they don’t belong here can be hurtful.
- Microinvalidation is the third microaggression. This is when a person shows disregard for another person's experiences, thoughts, or feelings. A common example of this is when a person is describing another person’s reaction as “too sensitive.” These are all harmful forms of bullying that can be subtle and sometimes even unintentional.
One of the best ways to protect students in your school from the effects of cyberbullying is through prevention.
Set school-wide rules for which websites and social media they are allowed to access on school devices. Convey the importance of thinking before posting. Have a conversation about what they should and shouldn’t post online so they can learn to recognize if something could be potentially embarrassing for themselves or someone else. Make sure students know that personal information like where they go to school, home addresses, and phone numbers should never be published online. The online world is the most publicly accessible form of communication, and what is published may never be erased.
There are a variety of tools available that parents can use to help your students maintain a positive online experience. Parents should be aware of what their children are doing online and utilize monitoring and parental control software on the devices they are using. Since children have not yet honed their decision making skills, it is important to educate parents that they should follow their children’s social media accounts so they can observe their activity. Several websites have privacy settings that parents can enable. These settings may allow children to select who sees their profile and posts. Other settings may allow children to block users from communicating with them. Make sure parents know that these settings can be very valuable tools if cyberbullying occurs.
It’s not always possible to protect students from cyberbullying. Children may choose not to tell anyone they’re suffering. If you see changes in the way a student behaves in your school, this may be a sign of cyberbullying. And when students are out of school, notify parents that they should be aware of other signs, including children being visually upset after computer or phone use, keeping online activities secret, expressing anxiety when getting online notifications, avoiding family and friend group activities, and suddenly avoiding engaging in and talking about online activity.
If you discover a student in your school has been the victim of cyberbullying, it’s important to step in immediately before further escalation. Contact the student’s parents right away and advise them to not allow their child to respond to the offender or post something in retribution. This may get their child into trouble as well and potentially encourage further offenses. Parents can utilize the block function if able and report the incident to the appropriate media account. If the bully is someone in your school, make sure to take action and contact the bully’s parents.
The way technology is ingrained in your students’ lives means the potential for cyberbullying will always be prevalent. Understanding different forms of bullying and identifying signs that students are being bullied online will help you take the right steps to resolve the issue. By working with parents to discuss appropriate online behavior and using provided software tools, you can help ensure your students’ online experiences remain positive.
Laura Pearson is a contributor at Edutude.net and the parent of a child who has been affected by cyberbulling.