Image retrieved from https://www.whatsup.co.nz/teens/cyber-bullying/
School bullying today is no longer confined to just the lunchrooms, hallways and grounds of schools. Bullying has evolved to cyberbullying, online bullying, granting bullies access to their victims 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
What exactly is cyberbullying?
According to Brewer and Kerslake (2015), cyberbullying is a “unique phenomenon, distinguished from traditional bullying by the speed at which information is distributed, permanence of material and availability of victims” (pg. 255). More simply defined, cyberbullying is the use of technology to knowingly, willingly, and repeatedly inflict harm on someone (Hinduja & Patchin, 2015). There are several different types of cyberbullying. Chadwick (2014) identified eight common forms of cyberbullying in his book "Impacts of Cyberbullying, Building Social and Emotional Resilience in Schools" which I used to create the following graphic:
How does cyberbullying affect our students?
Those who are affected by cyberbullying are the victims who have been harassed, threatened, and/or publicly humiliated by the culprit(s) who choose to target them on the world wide web. Cyberbully, while at its root is like traditional bullying due to its repetition, can have a more severe effect on the victim because of the possibility the content may go “viral” and reach a larger audience (Chadwick, 2014). One lewd or defaming photo posted by the bully online could bring about multiple cyberbullying responses and reposts, making the material permanent and available to all at any time. With traditional school bullying, the victim is usually not constantly surrounded by it, that is not the case with cyberbullying. Victims of cyberbullying get no break from it, it follows them home. It notifies their phone or computer each time another message or post is made. Cyberbullying taunts its victims at all hours of the night, it knows no boundaries and gives bullies 24/7 access to their victims. Victims of cyberbullying are affected greatly because even after the photos and content have been deleted, the digital footprint of what has happened is still there; leaving the victims always wondering if it will pop up again or be uncovered by someone else (Chadwick, 2014).
My district's current cyberbullying policies:
According to our student handbook, bullying includes cyberbullying and is "defined by Section 37.0832 of the Education Code as bullying that is done through the use of any electronic communication device, including through the use of a cellular or other type of telephone, a computer, a camera, electronic mail, instant messaging, text messaging, a social media application, an Internet website, or any other Internet-based communication tool" (HISD Student Handbook, pg. 25). Bullying of any kind is strictly prohibited by the district.
District policy includes...
If a student believes that he or she has experienced bullying or has witnessed bullying of another student, it is important for the student or parent to notify a teacher, school counselor, principal, or another district employee as soon as possible to obtain assistance and intervention.
The administration will investigate any allegations of bullying or other related misconduct.
The district will also provide notice to the parent of the alleged victim and the parent of the student alleged to have engaged in bullying.
A student may anonymously report an alleged incident of bullying by going to the district website and completing the Incident Reporter link.
If the results of an investigation indicate that bullying has occurred, the administration will take appropriate disciplinary action and may notify law enforcement in certain circumstances.
Disciplinary or other action may be taken even if the conduct did not rise to the level of bullying.
Available counseling options will be provided to these individuals, as well as to any students who have been identified as witnesses to the bullying.
Any retaliation against a student who reports an incident of bullying is prohibited.
Parents also have the right to request their child be transferred to a new classroom or campus if their child has been bullied in anyway.
It is time to be proactive instead of reactive.
Students need to be taught that cyberbullying carries consequences for both its victims and the bullies. I believe that teaching students about how to use technology, protecting themselves online and how to report when they encounter something that could be harmful to themselves or others needs to begin at a young age. Many schools today are being reactive to cyberbullying, not putting an educational program in place until someone has been a victim of cyberbullying that resulted in a leak of underage nude photos or worse. Instead, schools need to take a proactive approach and that begins in elementary school. It is my opinion that we need to begin teaching digital citizenship and appropriate online etiquette during the early elementary ages, when a child is still developing their fundamental values and ethical standards.
If we want our students to be good digital citizens and no longer fall victim to cyberbullying, as hard as it may be for many educators and education administration to swallow, maybe it is time we begin teaching the whole child instead of teaching just the state-mandated curriculum. If we want to prevent cyberbullying and all bullying for that matter, the time to pause from the standards and begin teaching our students about how we treat each other, online and offline, is when the child’s character is still being molded.
Brewer, G. & Kerslake, J. (2015). Cyberbullying, self-esteem, empathy and loneliness. Computers in Human Behavior, 48 (2015). 255- 260. Retrieved from Brewer_Cyberbullying_Self- esteem_Empathy_Loneliness.pdf
Chadwick, S. (2014). Impacts of cyberbullying, building social and emotional resilience in schools. New York: SpringerBriefs in Education.
Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (2015). Bullying beyond the schoolyard: Preventing and responding to cyberbullying. (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
McDunnigan, M. (2013). Can cyberbullies be caught? Techwalla. Retrieved from https://www.techwalla.com/articles/can-cyberbullies-be-caught