The Internet can be a wonderful thing.
A place to connect and reconnect with families and friends. A source of distraction and de-stressing from our day. A way to unwind and be entertained.
A respite from the world and its worries.
However, for many children, the internet offers not a respite but sorrow — a way for bullies to find and torment them, in school and out.
Cyberbullying may not be something you’ve thought of much as a classroom teacher. After all, most schools typically limit students’ online activity while in class.
It’s something that our children, and your students, face with growing frequency and ferocity (frighteningly enough, there’s even evidence that cyberbullying among adults has increased, too).
Today, we’re going to address cyberbullying and six ways you, as a teacher, can work to prevent this form of bullying and aid its victims.
Let’s get started.
Cyberbullying is the use of digital means to repeatedly do any or all of the following to a person:
Cyberbullying aims to frighten, intimidate, anger, shame, or control the person being bullied.
What differentiates it from other forms of bullying is simply the bullies’ electronic, digital means to carry out the attacks.
These digital means include social media apps like Facebook and Instagram, text messages, SMS apps, gaming platforms, chat rooms, and even online schooling websites and portals.
Unlike other forms, such as physical bullying, cyberbullying victims seldom find an escape from their attackers. The online world follows us everywhere, and cyberbullies use this pervasiveness to their advantage — especially given current events.
The COVID-19 crisis only added to our digital lives.
Everything — schooling, scouting, shopping, religious services, dance, music, art, celebrations (like birthdays and holidays) — all moved online. Online gaming grew, too, as well as the streaming of entertainment and educational materials.
Social media like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok became ways to be entertained and stay connected. But, too often, those connections were not healthy ones.
And parents were often too busy with everything they had to deal with — working from home, keeping house, homeschooling, cooking, stress, and so on — during the pandemic and its lockdowns to monitor their children’s online activities adequately.
One online watchdog reported a 70% increase in cyberbullying among kids and teens in 2020 over previous years.
But that’s not even the worst of it.
Cyberbullying isn’t always one-on-one. Our online world is populated by different people — from our circles of connections, friends, and gaming squads, to our classmates and family members.
In short, cyberbullying almost always has, or tries to find, an audience. This leads to a situation with a potential for public shame and public involvement, otherwise known as “ganging up” on the victim.
This ganging up, and all forms of cyberbullying, can have two severe consequences for the victim.
Further reading: 3 Essential Ways to Prevent & Stop Bullying in Schools
The first is the constant nature of the harassment. After all, you can send texts and DMs at all hours of the day and night with no one the wiser to your actions.
The second is the physical, emotional, and mental effects bullying has on its victims.
Cyberbullying can cause a physical reaction, such as loss of sleep, tension headaches, stress-induced stomach aches, and more.
It can also cause mental harm, especially feelings of embarrassment and shame. It can even lead to devastating emotional damage.
The emotional effects of cyberbullying often result in depression, anger, loss of self-respect and self-esteem. In this, it’s not much different from other types of bullying, except that the cyberbullied, for unknown reasons, seem to have a more challenging time with these issues.
Cyberbullying has even been reported in the media to lead to cases of suicide. Young people who experience this type of bullying are twice as likely to self-harm and attempt suicide as their unbullied peers.
Even the perpetrators of cyberbullying are more prone to suicide.
With all of this potential for long-lasting, and even life-threatening, effects, it’s easy to see why it’s so important to take action and prevent cyberbullying as much as possible.
There are 6 ways recommended by professionals that are best for preventing cyberbullying.
Learn the difference between a bully using an Instagram post to engage in cyberbullying and a negative comment from a fellow classmate. Learn what cyberbullying is so that you, and your students, can identify it properly.
Parents and teachers who are easy to talk to — trusted communication partners — are often approached earlier by the victim in a bullying situation. Assure your students they can come to you to be heard.
A child who was once always being scolded for being on their phone in class, and who now suddenly isn’t, likely has a reason for the behavior change. Another sign is deleted accounts, such as suddenly finding a student MIA in a class Facebook or Instagram group.
They may not get good online guidance at home, so a few lessons in class can be of assistance. Teach them simple acts that can help, such as:
Awareness of how and where your students are spending time online in class is a major way to prevent cyberbullying. You can be speedy with an appropriate response to any bully.
With 45% of children claiming to have experienced cyberbullying and another 70% saying they’ve witnessed it, some preemptive guidance and strategy is called for. Make a plan for dealing with this type of bullying in your classroom now.
Cyberbullying can be very dangerous to young people. Here are some tried and true ways to help those who have been the victim of a cyberbully:
Many children fall prey to an online bully, and even celebrities and professional athletes have been victims. Reminding them that a friend or hero has been in their shoes can shine a different light on their situation.
Whether it’s reporting the bully to online and school authorities, creating a new social media account for class work, or helping them speak with their parents about it, ending the bullying is important and often requires your adult help.
Many times, the bully is looking for a reaction or response. They don’t receive the attention by ignoring their attacks and will often try elsewhere to get it.
Most bullies look for weaknesses and use them mercilessly. By reaffirming strengths and positive aspects of the victim’s life, you can work to undo the damage the cyberbully has tried to inflict.
We recognize the damage bullying in all its forms can have on our children. We take the threat to our future society that bullying presents seriously, and we are deeply concerned in the increases seen over the last year.
We have programs divided by grade level to ensure that your students get the right information at the right age. We have a whole school reform program that involves your entire student body, as well as family and community partners.
We also offer workshops for you to help you address, prevent, and stop bullying of all kinds — including cyberbullying.
We invite you to check out our available resources today. It’s never too late, or too early, to begin bullying prevention.
Our children deserve it. Our communities deserve it. And our future depends upon it.
Further reading: What is Verbal Bullying? How to Prevent it?