Educating Schools and Families on using Technology to Prevent Cyberbullying
Despite evidence that spreading awareness can help reduce the issue of cyberbullying in our evermore technologically integrated society, education on such preventive measures remain often neglected in school. When schools teach students how to use technology safely and respectfully, and how to identify and report cyberbullying that has been seen or experienced, parents will also become more aware and be better able to recognize the signs at home as well. When schools and families are aligned in this endeavor, they can do more to prevent cyberbullying from occurring and provide more support to protect their students' digital interactions. Given the immensely critical role technological interactions now play in our daily lives, it is imperative that students, parents, and educators understand the impact of cyberbullying and what can be done to prevent it.
While all bullying is defined by intentional, often repetitive, hurtful behavior toward another person or group, there are distinct characteristics for its digital variant, which include:
- Persistent. Most students have access to some form of technology at all times, which means cyberbullying can happen at any time.
- Hidden. While typical bullying tends to be overt and physically apparent, cyberbullying is usually emotionally damaging in nature, making it much more difficult to detect.
- Anonymous. Since cyberbullying can be done anonymously, those being bullied might not know who is perpetuating the behavior and hold them accountable.
- Presence. Information online can be easily and quickly shared, which makes it difficult to contain or stop negative messages once they are posted online.
- Indifferent. Using technology to facilitate bullying means that the person doesn’t see the immediate response to their action, thus, distancing them from the pain they caused.
- Permanent. Once something is shared on the internet, it becomes available to anyone, anywhere, where removing such information is challenging if not impossible.
Furthermore, to fully understand the scope and effect of this issue, we must be informed on the types of cyberbullying, how students can protect themselves, and what can be done to resolve the problem if it occurs. Below is a brief list of the most common types of cyberbullying.
Exclusion is the act of leaving someone out deliberately through digital means.
A student might be excluded or uninvited to groups or parties, or left out of conversations that involve mutual friends.
Sustained and constant pattern of hurtful or threatening online messages sent with the intention of doing harm to someone.
A student receives text from his teammates, blaming him for the team’s loss and constantly telling him that he does not know how to play and should quit the team.
The act of openly revealing sensitive or personal information about someone without their consent for purposes of embarrassing or humiliating them.
Spreading of personal photos or documents of public figures to sharing a student’s saved personal messages in an online private group.
Includes behaviors such as monitoring, false accusations, threats, and is often accompanied by offline stalking.
Someone using another student’s digital presence to identify their location, schedule, or typical routes and letting the victim know of this.
When someone uses another individual’s social networking accounts to post inappropriate content with their name.
Someone posting racial/homophobic slurs through another student’s profile to ruin their reputation.
When someone creates a made up profile or identity online with the sole purpose of harassing others.
Creating a fake email, social media profile, and selecting a new identity and photos to fool the victim.
The act of spreading information about someone through public posts or private messages to either ruin their reputation or relationships with other people.
Someone writing a pointed post or comment targeting a specific student with enough hints about their identity that it is obvious to the community who is being ridiculed.
Three key aspects to protecting students from cyberbullying include increasing school-home collaboration, teaching digital citizenship in schools, and using technological tools and apps to combat the proliferation of this problem.
As families often look to schools for advice on dealing with cyberbullying, educators should be informed to offer them advice. If a student has been the victim of cyberbullying, families should be referred to the school’s bullying prevention policy to learn more about the resources the school provides in helping students cope with the problem. In many states, schools must include cyberbullying in their bullying prevention policies. Furthermore, suppose a student with a disability becomes a victim of bullying. In that case, federal laws require schools to take immediate and appropriate action to investigate the problem and take all necessary steps to stop the bullying and prevent it from happening again.
Digital Citizenship Education
Another approach is to integrate cyberbullying and digital citizenship education into the student experience and school system. Administrators may also host workshops or events for educators and students on the effects of cyberbullying and how to stop it. A range of tools is available to help schools track students' online activity and improve online communications about cyberbullying within the school environment. School personnel should also recognize the signs and the most common platforms (e.g., social media, messaging, forums, chatrooms, online gaming communities) to be on the lookout for occurrences of cyberbullying. Additionally, school administrators and IT personnel can seek to reduce the potential for cyberbullying by restricting access to websites and apps that might encourage students to engage in problematic interactions with their peers.
Technologies and Apps
Just as the use of technology and the spread in popularity of social media apps have led to the rise of cyberbullying, these tools can likewise help to solve these issues when utilized properly. Specifically, training in the use of technologies or apps and how changes in communication in the digital environment affect students’ interactions is essential for reducing cyberbullying. Additionally, the incorporation of these tools into a school’s network not only helps to prevent cyberbullying and provide students with valuable digital literacy skills, but it also allows educators and school administrators to acquire data regarding their students’ needs and access to social-emotional supports. Moreover, educational technology can be used as a preventative solution to minimize school harassment and facilitate better communication between teachers and students.
Educational Bully Prevention Apps
ReThink aims to prevent instances of cyberbullying before they have even occurred by flagging messages that have been predetermined to contain hateful or abusive content and offers senders the chance to reword or reconsider their messages. Users then have the option to change their choice of words. This extra encouragement to reflect on word choice could go a long way in preventing cyberbullies from hurting others.
Take a Stand Together
Take a Stand Together provides its users with a host of handy tips, resources, and support that they can use in the occurrence of harassment. The app offers stories, advice, and animated clips that explain bullying in all its different forms.
KnowBullying provides a framework for parents, teachers, and caregivers to talk to young people about bullying and how to spot it. The main features of the app include regular encouragement, conversation starters, tips, and guides to social media usage.
Join the Conversation!
These three apps are just a few examples of how technology is helping in the fight to combat cyberbullying and online harassment. Awareness of resources such as these can help to address the problem of cyberbullying. What other applications or tools do you use to support bullying prevention? How do you ensure your educators, families, and students themselves are aware of the availability of these supports and value the importance of preventing cyberbullying? Join the CIDDL community and keep the conversation going!