The statistics about teen’s perception of cyber-bullying are startling. With more than three-quarters of the nation’s teens admitting that they have little or no parental supervision while online, the need for adult intervention is apparent. Even more alarming than the lack of supervision is the reason that students give for cyber-bullying. 81% of polled teens admitted that they thought it was funny.
When the President and First Lady of the United States held a conference on bullying prevention, there was a clear message that not only is cyber-bullying not funny, but it has potentially deadly consequences. As parents, teachers, and community leaders, it is important that we not only be aware of the problem, but that we give children the tools to help them protect themselves.
Identify and Educate About Cyberbullying
One of the best ways to do that is to share examples of inappropriate incidences that can happen online. Role-playing is, by far, the most effective way to address this. In the classroom, encourage students to come up with ideas that would qualify as inappropriate and do a short skit in front of the class. The role-play should conclude with examples of what to do in that situation to stop the bullying (see below for tips). Sometimes hearing and seeing concrete examples from their peers can be a much more effective way of making the impact of cyber-bullying known.
Teachers should feel comfortable sharing information with parents about how they can prevent and detect cyber-bullying. Posting information to the class website or blog, sending an email home with links to information, or even printing out an article such as this can all work in tandem to get the information out there. Some of the points that you might want to include to parents are:
- Be aware of what children are doing online. Keep the computer screen where you can see it while your child is on it.
- Know about the social networking sites that your child uses. If your teen is on Facebook, make sure you show him how to report abuse, block a user, and set privacy controls.
- Know your child’s password to all social networking sites.
- Establish clear guidelines about what you expect of your child while he is online.
Pledge to Stop
As teachers and community leaders, the responsibility to combat the problem of cyber-bullying also weighs heavy. Create an Internet Safety/Anti-Cyber-Bullying Pledge for students to sign. An awareness rally or a special day designated during the school year to keep the issue front and center is also a good idea.
Perhaps the best thing that teachers and parents can do for their children is to remind them of what cyber-bullying is and how they can prevent themselves from becoming victims. What one child thinks is a funny or prank text message may actually be considered cyber-bullying. In some states, cyber-bullying where a threat of personal injury to the person, or the person’s family, is actually a felony. If that person is under 16 years of age, there does not even need to be a threat of bodily harm for the incident to be considered a felony. Check with your state’s laws about cyber-bullying and make your students aware of them.
Tips for Discussion
The tips below are broken down into two sections. The first section helps you talk confidently with your students about what cyber-bullying is. Remember, that getting their input in the discussion is going to be the most effective way of getting the information across. The second section deals with important cyber-bullying prevention methods, as well as, basic Internet safety guidelines. Use the points as a basis for discussion and encourage parents to do the same at home.
What Is Cyber-Bullying?
- Pretending to be someone else online with a malicious intent to “prank” someone else.
- Spreading lies or rumors about someone.
- Tricking someone into revealing personal information or sending personal photos.
- Sending or forwarding malicious texts or emails.
- Posting pictures of someone without their permission.
- Threatening to physically harm someone or their family.
Ways to Stop Cyber-Bullying and Stay Safe Online
- Block all communication from the bully.
- Delete messages without opening and reading.
- Talk with a friend or a trusted adult about the bullying taking place.
- Report the bullying communication to the Internet Service Provider or email provider.
- Refuse to forward or pass on bullying texts or emails.
- Tell the bully to stop.
- Talk to parents.
- Never share your passwords with anyone except your parents.
- Never meet someone from online face-to-face.
- Never post personal information about yourself online (i.e. – birthday, phone number, the school you attend, etc.).
Children need to feel safe enough to approach parents and teachers with incidences of bullying. Talking with them before it happens and letting them know that you support them, can go a long way toward building that trusting relationship. Do not let the school year pass without giving your students the information that they need to stay safe.
This article was originally published in 2011 and updated in 2016.