How can schools prevent cyber-bullying?
In an age where trolling and online abuse are common, this blog looks at ways to help schools prevent cyber-bullying and encourage kids to act responsibly.
Technology has undoubtedly transformed the way we live and interact with each other. The internet, social media, and devices like smart phones and iPads have been quickly adopted and absorbed into daily life. However, despite technology making our lives easier in many respects, there are some practical measures that schools should implement to keep young people safe online.
With cyber-bullying on the increase in society, schools should have strategies in place to promote respectful and responsible use of technology. This will also help increase student awareness of this often-uncomfortable subject.
What does cyber-bullying look like?
Cyber-bullying has many faces, but it usually involves one (or more) of these typical acts:
- Sending threatening or abusive messages online or by phone
- Creating or sharing embarrassing or inappropriate videos or images
- Trolling, or sending threatening or upsetting messages via social media networks, online games or chat rooms
- Shaming an individual online
- Excluding an individual from online games or groups
- Setting up hate sites about someone
- Creating fake social media accounts or identify theft to upset or embarrass someone (or get them into trouble)
- Sexting, or sending messages that are explicit
- Pressuring young people into sending sexually explicit images or engaging in sexual conversations
How big an issue is cyber-bullying?
Cyber-bullying is widespread and can affect people of all ages. The diagram below, compiled in 2019 by an international organisation dedicated to this issue, shows the extent of the problem for 12 to 17-year-olds:
With almost 37% of respondents stating they’ve been cyber-bullied in their lifetime, and 17% being bullied in the previous 30 days, there’s little doubt about the size of the problem.
How can schools prevent cyber-bullying?
Schools therefore have a large role to play in tackling this issue. Despite the majority of harassment taking place outside the school gates, schools should ensure they’re aware of its impact.
One of the most significant roles a school can play is to teach its students to be responsible users of technology. This might include the following steps:
1) Have a usage policy for school technology
A usage policy is a shared document that governs the use of technology in the school environment. It covers issues like rights, responsibilities and sanctions for misuse.
Its main aim is to keep students and teachers safe, and to encourage responsible use of technology. The usage policy will feed into the school’s overall ICT policy and will be linked to the school’s anti-bullying and child protection policies.
2) Report any incidents
Cyber-bullying and misuse of technology is only likely to stop when collective pressure is applied. So, encourage your students to speak out against it and refuse to engage with malicious messages.
3) Respond to incidents
If an incident of cyber-bullying has been reported, encourage the target of the bullying to share the evidence with an adult rather than delete it straight away (even if it’s upsetting). For example, he/she could take a screenshot of an abusive message to share with a parent or teacher.
4) Educate students and parents
Teach kids about their digital footprint, what to share online and about being kind and responsible digital citizens, for example.
Ask parents to familiarise themselves with any guidance or policies your school has re online safety or responsible use of technology. You could also consider holding occasional workshops or talks on the subject to raise parent awareness.
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