Technology and cyberspace have become an integral part of today’s education. School children constantly use the latest technologies, including PCs, Smartphones, the Internet, and Social media, for learning and entertainment.
It is near impossible to separate children from the internet. However, as much as the internet is a fun and educational platform, it comes with different risks for students, one of the most prominent ones being cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is a growing concern for both parents and teachers around the world. According to Cyberbullying Research Center, 33.8% of 12-17-year-old kids have become victims of cyberbullying in their lives. As the world is getting more and more digitized, it is only natural that the cases of cyberbullying will increase. So, teachers and parents alike need to take steps to minimize the risk of cyberbullying as soon as possible.
Cyberbullying: Types, Causes, and Impact
Cyberbullying is an online form of bullying that occurs over the internet through electronic devices like computers, smartphones, tablets, etc.
There are several types of online bullying actions that constitute cyberbullying. Some of them include:
- Exclusion: Excluding someone from an online forum or a social media chat group.
- Harassment: Sending someone text and messages that are threatening and hurtful.
- Cyberstalking: Monitoring other’s online activities constantly and stalking them online.
- Impersonation: Stealing someone’s identity and posting inappropriate content online.
- Trolling: Intentionally posting incendiary messages about a person’s race, age, religion, etc., to cause conflict and inflict harm.
What causes Cyberbullying?
Various factors cause cyberbullying. Some of them are:
- A lack of empathy: The Internet causes a lack of empathy. People do not realize the level of harm that they are causing just by sitting in their homes and posting something. This lack of empathy is a major cause of cyberbullying.
- Insecurities: Students bully others online because they are insecure, and they feel the only way to feel superior is to bully a fellow student.
- Boredom: Boredom constitutes a lot of cyberbullying. Bullies who have nothing productive to do with technology start cyberbullying to relieve themselves of boredom.
- To satisfy someone’s ego: This is the same cause as normal bullying. Bullies often use online platforms to bully their fellow students and inflate their own egos.
- As a form of revenge developing into addiction: A cyberbullied victim sometimes will start bullying others online as a form of revenge, which soon turns into an addiction.
How cyberbullying affects victims?
Cyberbullying causes serious harm to a victim’s physical, mental, social, and emotional life. A student will not be able to concentrate on his studies if he is getting bullied. Lower grades, lack of sleep, missing out on classes, developing social anxiety, mental disorders, depression, and suicidal thoughts are all effects a cyberbullying incident can cause to a victim.
Cyberbullying In Schools
Cyberbullying has become pretty common in schools now that remote learning has started getting popular. Since classes, assignments, and reports are increasingly happening online, students are being forced to use much more time on the internet, resulting in cyberbullying cases rising.
As per this 2017 research from Florida Atlantic University, 73% of students reported being victims of cyberbullying. Another report by Qing Li of the University of Calgary, Canada, suggests that one in four students have been a victim of cyberbullying. These research statistics show that cyberbullying has become a very serious problem in schools that all teachers need to be aware of.
It is difficult to recognize and confront cyberbullying as it happens online. As cyberspace gives anonymity, bullies can use it to perform repeated actions of cyberbullying without fearing consequences. It also poses severe challenges for teachers as they cannot witness the bullying behavior and cannot confront it. However, there are several strategies teachers can use to stop cyberbullying.
10 Essential Ways For Teachers To Stop Cyberbullying
- Take cyberbullying seriously
The first step is for teachers to accept that the cyberbullying problem is serious. Teachers not caring even as the cases of cyberbullying rise is negligent behavior that encourages cyberbullying. Only when you, as a teacher, take cyberbullying seriously can you come up with ways to confront it.
- Keep a lookout for any cyberbullying indicators
For teachers who want to prevent cyberbullying, observation is the key. As a teacher, you need to observe the behavior of your student. If a student suddenly starts showing erratic or unusual behavior, he/she may have been the victim of cyberbullying. In this case, talk to them and find out what is going on.
- Encourage others to report a cyberbullying incident
As a teacher, you cannot always witness a cyberbullying incident. However, there are cyber bystanders like classmates and friends who can see their fellow classmates getting cyberbullied. You should encourage these bystanders to report any incident that they see. Prompt reporting means prompt action is taken, which helps reduce the consequences of cyberbullying for the victim.
- Come up with an effective and actionable response plan for cyberbullying reports
You need to have an action plan on how to handle reports of cyberbullying. Someone might report to you as a joke, and some reporting incidents may be severe (like cyberstalking) while some may be less severe (like expulsion). You need a proper response plan for all these cases.
As a teacher, you have to make sure that if a student reports an incident, it gets considered. You cannot make it seem like no action is being taken even after an incident of cyberbullying has been reported.
- Act as a bridge between parents, students, and school authorities
As a teacher, you can bridge the gap in communication between parents, students, and school authorities. You need to consult with parents regularly about their child’s online presence and make plans to reduce any negative online activities. Moreover, you can also communicate with the school leaders if you find a student of yours being cyberbullied.
- Encourage good digital behavior among students
Encouraging your students to become good digital citizens is part of the teacher’s duty. You need to teach your students not to engage in any online bullying or other inappropriate online behavior. You should also clearly explain the consequences of cyberbullying and how it is harmful.
Moreover, teaching your students not to share their sensitive personal information online and take their network security and privacy seriously also comes as part of your job. So, encourage students to behave well online. You can give praises and rewards for good online behavior along with punishments for those engaging in cyberbullying.
- Listen to the victim’s problems calmly and respond thoughtfully
You should listen patiently to the troubles of a cyberbullied student and come up with constructive solutions to tackle those problems. Understand that no two cyberbullying cases are the same. So, there is no one-size-fits-all kind of approach when looking for a response to a troubled student who gets bullied often.
Calmly listen to your student and make them know that they can share their bullied experience with you. Be supportive of your student’s perspectives, and make thoughtful responses after carefully thinking about their problems. You can do a little bit of research on your own through the internet, talk to other teachers or their parents, and make sure to come up with good solutions to their problems and not misguide them.
- Try and add anti-cyberbullying principles in the teaching curriculum
Cyberbullying needs to be taken seriously. You need to make this point clear to your school leaders and students. Create project works and assignments related to cyberbullying in your teaching agendas. Make your students do a bit of research on cyberbullying.
You can also show various statistics in your class on how cyberbullying has increased over the years and how to keep yourself safe from it. Try to make the school authorities add cyberbullying lessons to the school curriculum. These are some of the jobs that only you, as a teacher, can do in the school.
- Help cyberbullied victims re-integrate in with their classmates
Once a student gets cyberbullied, it becomes very difficult for him to re-integrate with his classmates. Social anxieties, self-loathing, depression, etc., cause anti-social behavior among the cyberbullied victims. So, helping these students re-integrate themselves into their class and making them feel safe during lessons will be your job as a teacher.
Helping victims re-integrate among their fellow classmates makes them more confident and friendly. Furthermore, after being re-integrated, the current victim can, in turn, help other victims in the future. This encourages positive behavior among students and negates the effect of cyberbullying to a minimum.
- Prompt students to become leaders to stop cyberbullying in schools
There is a saying: Instead of giving a man a fish, teach him how to fish. You are a teacher and cannot always be present whenever a student gets victimized online. So, a great option would be to make the students themselves the leaders in stopping the cyberbullying activities.
Oftentimes, students tend to understand other students better than their teachers. Thus, you can make the students, especially the senior students, leaders that help report a cyberbullying incident, make other students not engage in cyberbullying, etc. As students often copy their senior’s activities in school, making their seniors leaders in confronting the cyberbullying definitely helps in stopping cyberbullying activities in schools