The impact of cyberbullying on the lives of young people is undoubtedly drastic. Most of the emotional traumas endured by teenagers are linked to social interactions they have in school and extended to after-school hours over the Internet. Policies, guidelines and protocols will be effective only when parents coordinate with school officials and work in tandem outside campus as well.
We live in an era of technological innovation. Everything is becoming digitized, and technology has changed the way we see and do things. It is estimated that all of the technical knowledge we work with at present will represent only about 1% of the available technical knowledge in the year 2050. This makes dealing with technology-related threats increasingly challenging.
As technology has become fully integrated into the lives of teenagers, they are becoming more addicted to the digital medium and comfortable spending extended hours with digital devices and on the Internet rather than socializing with real people.
The bullying that starts at school orally is becoming virtually possible from anywhere. The consequences of what teenagers do online has an impact upon their academic performance and hence the school. For instance, if a student attempts a severe measure on account of cyberbullying, the school administration will be accused of not providing safety and guidance for its students. Therefore, schools should play a wider and vital role in providing online safety as well as physical safety for students.
Now that some countries have declared cyberbullying as a punishable crime, we have to ensure that our schools take proactive measures to stop cyberbullying rather than wait to react after an incident has occurred. Ideally, the school administration should have discussions with parents and educators on regular basis to identify areas where students are prone to cyberbullying and other online threats. Areas of interest include:
- Student’s attendance records – to detect frequent absenteeism
- Student’s academic records – to detect decline in academic scores
- Observe student’s behavior on the playground – teasing, fights and misunderstandings
- Student’s input on key interests and concerns
- Conduct open discussion among students to help them interact with school administration informally
- Student’s technical baseline – to assess their online knowledge
- Student’s online timeline – to know from parents the amount of time spent online and where
- Student’s online boundaries – to know the extent of parental control
All these inputs will help you understand your students better and identify problems they face or might be prone to.
Convene a meeting with parents and conduct workshops and professional programs on cyber threats. Share true incidents of cyberbullying and show how their involvement can make a difference in children’s life. Get parents to join school initiatives to prevent cyberbullying and work in collaboration with them to have statements of agreement, such as:
- We will supervise our children’s online activities.
- We will teach them to respect everyone online and in the real world.
- We will teach them to make friends with real people rather than only virtual people.
- We will teach them never to meet an online friend outside without our knowledge.
- We will not allow underage children to access social networking sites.
- We will supervise their access to digital and media devices.
- We will learn more about computers, so that we can enjoy life with our children.
- We will make sure that children feel comfortable sharing their concerns with us, and will not overreact if things go wrong.
- We will get to know their online friends the way we know their friends in reality.
- We will discuss safe cyber practices, help set up parental control software to control games and applications children use.
Encourage each parent to outline these safe cyber practices on paper and keep them beside the computer as a reminder.
Schools can also collaborate with external authorities and social activist groups to conduct anti-bullying workshop among students. These can include the following topics:
- Helping students understand that cyberbullying is becoming a serious threat
- Increasing awareness of right and wrong online practices
- Sharing true incidents of cyberbullying, so that children learn how to respond
- Sharing disciplinary actions outlined by school against a cyber-bully
- Interviewing parents who have suffered due to their children being bullied
- Have activity-based workshops on cyberbullying
- Make students sign up for campaigns and take a stand against cyberbullying
In this way, schools should become centers of service delivery enabling enhanced collaboration among parents and experts, and should help bring together students and their caretakers to defend against cyberbullying.
To learn more about how to protect your students and children from cyberbulling, you can visit Safe Space website.