You work hard to provide a safe space inside your classroom. As you know, your job as a teacher extends beyond presenting academic material to your students; you are a role model and resource for them as they navigate the world.
But what about what happens outside your classroom? How can you help support your students as they spend more and more time in a cyber world full of Snapchats, texts, and private messaging?
June is Internet Safety Month and there’s never been a better time to rethink how your students are spending time online, particularly when it comes to the issue of cyberbullying.
Bullying, in general, has become a hot topic in schools across the country, with many instituting strong anti-bullying programs. Today’s students face an unprecedented onslaught of bullying that extends well beyond the classroom and the school day.
Cyberbullying is pervasive. Consider these sobering statistics from DoSomething.org, an international organization devoted to promoting positive change among young people:
- Close to 43 percent of kids have been bullied online, with one in four having experienced cyberbullying more than once.
- 70 percent report seeing frequent bullying online.
- 81 percent of young people think it’s easier to get away with cyberbullying than bullying in person.
- Only 1 in 10 victims of cyberbullying will inform a parent or trusted adult about what’s happening.
Being the victim of cyberbullying can have long-lasting effects. Kids who are bullied can suffer from depression and anxiety, change in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. Academic performance can also be impacted by cyberbullying, with victims experiencing a drop in grades along with a decrease in school attendance. Victims of cyberbullying can feel helpless and hopeless—so much that, at the extreme, some consider suicide.
The facts may seem bleak, but there is hope. There are things you can do to stop cyberbullying and encourage students to confide in you if they are either aware of cyberbullying or are victims themselves.
Discuss the problem
Talking about cyberbullying with your students is the first step toward tackling the issue. Explain that it’s wrong and that it can have devastating consequences.
Telling students not to bully online isn’t enough. Many students need specific rules when it comes to how to behave online. Discourage posting negative comments, sending mean texts, or engaging in any online conversation that disparages another person. Remind them: If you wouldn’t say it to the person’s face, don’t say it online.
Enlist parental support
Provide resources to parents for reinforcing online guidelines at home while providing strategies to stop cyberbullying.
Make your classroom a safe space where students can feel comfortable coming to you with concerns about cyberbullying. Keep an open mind and refrain from judgment. Reassure victims that they will not be punished for revealing the cyberbullying.
Talk to your students about saving messages or posts as proof of the cyberbullying. While the victim may be tempted to delete the negative comments, keeping a record will serve as evidence if the incidents are eventually reported to the authorities.
Ignore or block the bullies
Just as you’d encourage a student to walk away from bullies in their school, promote the same idea online. Tell students to block cyberbullies from their cell phones or social media sites, and, if necessary, change their cell phone number. Bullies thrive on a reaction and they can’t get one if they can’t reach their intended target.
Cyberbullying may seem like an overwhelming problem, but it doesn’t have to be. By educating yourself and your students about the issue and providing a safe space for victims of cyberbullying, you can have the upper hand. You have the power to fight back.