ictQATAR’s Social Media Specialist, Mina Nagy Takla, shares this insightful post on the important issue of cyber bullying and what can be done to help prevent it. (Also written in Arabic.)
One word. That’s all it takes for someone to get really hurt. So what about full videos or pictures or offensive words that many of today’s kids face online? It’s not just about the pain that causes – but the silence that surrounds it. Simply nobody’s talking about it – be it parents, teachers or even the bullied students themselves!
If you are a school principal or a teacher, don’t just focus on the physical fights between your students during recess. What you don’t see is far more dangerous and hurtful. You may walk around peaceful corridors in your own school but behind computer lab doors, cyber bullying can be cleverly hiding; a student faking an obscene photo of his colleague or another insulting someone on Twitter or a video of a student being beat up posted on YouTube so that the whole world can see it! Cyber bullying is here already and it’s not going away unless we do something about it!
Cyber Bullying is thought be a Western phenomenon, something that could happen in Europe or the US but not in the Arab World. Well, that’s not true – the Internet is the Internet, in any part of the world. Actually, the US has recently realized the dangers that cyber bullying causes and have taken legal measures to stop that. Sadly, laws remain just laws and they end up in drawers or on paper. 30% of American students are still being bullied online & the figures aren’t declining!
So what’s the problem? If laws aren’t stopping it, what can? That’s what the 7th Annual Conference Of The International Bullying Prevention Association discussed last November in Washington DC. The Conference called for what’s more than just law enforcement – but rather school strategies to fight cyber bullying. And it’s actually not about the stopping – it’s more about motivating the students not to bully one another online and these are too different things. So rather than enforcing school rules that set punishments for the bullies, focusing on student’s personalities and teaching them qualities of self respect and respect for one another is far more valuable.
No longer can schools sit in the spectator seat – it’s time to stop waiting for cyber bullying prevention laws and stop blaming them for being absent from Qatar. Isn’t time for Qatar’s schools to stop viewing bullying from its mere physical side to a more conceptual understanding of how invisible bullying is far more critical? So, for every school teacher or principal out there in Qatar, go beyond computer labs. Open the doors and you’ll find many scared students who are hurt but won’t talk because no one listens. Here are some of the Conference’s conclusions – a series of best practices on how schools can have their own bullying prevention strategies: (http://www.stopbullyingworld.org/Best-Practices-In-Bullying-Prevention_W418.cfm)
1. Focus on the social environment of the school. everyone in the school environment-teachers, administrators, counselors, school nurses, other non-teaching staff (such as bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, and/or school librarians), parents, and students should be aware of what cyber bullying is.
2. Assess bullying at your school. Have an anonymous questionnaire to students about bullying. A number of bullying prevention programs listed in the Resource Kit include these measures.
3. Obtain staff and parent buy-in and support for bullying prevention. Bullying prevention efforts require buy-in from the majority of the staff and from parents. However, bullying prevention efforts should still begin even if immediate buy-in from all isn’t achievable. Usually, more and more supporters will join the effort once they see what it’s accomplishing.
4. Form a group to coordinate the school’s bullying prevention activities. Bullying prevention efforts seem to work best if they are coordinated by a representative group from the school. This coordinating team might include:
- an administrator
- a teacher from each grade
- a member of the non-teaching staff
- a school counselor or other school-based mental health professional, and
The team should meet regularly to review findings from the school’s survey; plan specific bullying prevention activities; motivate staff, students, and parents; and ensure that the efforts continue over time.
5. Provide training for school staff in bullying prevention. All administrators, faculty and staff at a school should be trained in bullying prevention and intervention.BIn-service training can help staff members to better understand the nature of bullying and its effects, how to respond if they observe bullying, and how to work with others at the school to help prevent bullying.
6. Establish and enforce school rules and policies related to bullying. Developing simple, clear rules about bullying can help to ensure that students are aware of adults’ expectations that they not bully others and that they help students who are bullied.
7. Increase adult supervision in “hot spots” for bullying. Bullying tends to thrive in locations where adults are not present or are not watchful. Adults should look for creative ways to increase adult presence in locations that students identify as “hot spots.”
8. Intervene consistently and appropriately when you see bullying. Staff members also should be designated to hold sensitive follow-up meetings with students who are bullied and (separately) with students who bully. Staff members should involve parents whenever possible.
9. Devote some class time to bullying prevention. Students can benefit if teachers set aside a regular period of time (e.g., 20–30 minutes each week or every other week) to discuss bullying and improving peer relations. These meetings can help teachers to keep their fingers on the pulse of students’ concerns, allow time for discussions about bullying and the harms that it can cause, and provide tools for students to address bullying problems. Anti-bullying messages also can be incorporated throughout the school curriculum.