The issue of bullying never really seems to go away, does it? Nowadays, thanks to technology, bullying has gone digital if the increase in cyberbullying on social media is anything to go by.
I came to realize how widespread this problem was when my daughter got cyberbullied in high school. It got to the point where her grades began slipping because she was skipping classes. Finally, it took the collaborative efforts of her teachers and I to get to the root of the bullying and put an end to it.
Cyberbullying is just as – or perhaps more- devastating than being bullied in real life. For one thing, it is pervasive and not constrained by time and space so the victim gets little respite. Additionally, the internet provides anonymity for cyberbullies while allowing their message to spread to a greater audience.
There are many effects of cyberbullying with victims often experiencing isolation, powerlessness, humiliation or anger. It can lead to anxiety, stress, truancy, violence and poor academic performance. Due to this, we parents and educators can’t afford to ignore cyberbullying. We need to take appropriate steps to address and combat it.
How Can Parents and Educators Combat Cyberbullying?
My daughter’s experience taught me that parents and educators need to work together in the fight against cyberbullying. Both groups have a role to play in educating children and finding solutions to this scourge. Their efforts need to complement each other.
Here’s what you can do as a…
- Educate yourself. The more you know about cyberbullying, the better placed you’ll be to help your child. So read up on the effects, risk factors warning signs and different forms of cyberbullying.
- Talk to your child and gather evidence. When your child comes to you after being bullied, listen to them. Next, gather as much evidence as you can to prove that they were cyberbullied. You can take screenshots or print out the DMs. Emails, IMs, comments or anything else you can record or document.
- Contact and collaborate with the school. Once you have evidence, contact your child’s school and bring up the issue with the teachers and administration. Cyberbullying can spill over into other aspects of school life so it’s important to alert educators.
- Teach your child self-advocacy. Cyberbullies often pick on those who they consider different or weak. Helping your child come up with strategies to speak out against the bullying and stand up for himself can empower them and restore their confidence and self-esteem.
- Teach students good digital citizenship. Students need to be taught how to behave online and this is where good digital citizenship comes in. As their teacher, you should emphasize that they need to treat others online with kindness and respect and that they need to speak out when they see cyberbullying happening.
- Encourage open communication in the class. Cyberbullying thrives in part due to the unwillingness of victims to report it. Let your students know that they can report any form of bullying to you and that action will be taken against the perpetrators.
- Establish firm policies against cyberbullying. Schools are required to have clearly outlined policies against all kinds of bullying. You can work together with the school administrators, counselors, and fellow teachers to come up with an anti-cyberbullying policy that suits your school. Once the policy is in place, ensure that staff members and students are aware of it.
- Get parents involved. Cyberbullying often flies under the radar of most parents so it’s crucial to bring it to their attention. That way, they can keep an eye on their children’s online activity and take additional steps to protect and talk to their kids if need be.
- Create an environment of tolerance and cohesion in the class. Finally, as an educator, you can come up with different ways to encourage students to socialize especially with those they wouldn’t normally engage with. For instance, you can organize weekly class meetings or team building activities to bring students together. This promotes cohesion as it helps them realize and appreciate that everyone has different strengths and talents.
Whether you are a parent or educator, you can take steps and make significant changes that will play a big role in combating cyberbullying.
Tyler Jacobson is a proud father, husband, writer and outreach specialist with experience helping parents and organizations that help troubled teen boys. Tyler has focused on helping through honest advice and humor on: modern day parenting, struggles in school, the impact of social media, addiction, mental disorders, and issues facing teenagers now. Follow Tyler on Twitter and Linkedin.