TRENTON — Social media and technology have created thousands of new ways to be a bully, posing significant challenges for school administrators, staff, parents and students, according to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators. Knowing how to deal effectively with these new circumstances will go a long way toward reducing the problem of cyberbullying.
“With the pervasiveness of social media and mobile communications, kids can be bullied anytime, anywhere,” said Richard Bozza, Ed.D., executive director of the NJASA. “Bullying used to be confined to a physical location. Students could at least find refuge at home. But with cyberbullying, victims no longer have a safe zone. Technology has effectively moved bullying from the playground to the bedroom.”
Cyberbullying is defined as harassment using electronic media. This may include sending mean, vulgar or threatening messages; impersonating others; or posting sensitive, private information. Cyberbullying can occur via e-mail, Internet chat rooms, cell phone calls or text messages, social network pages, instant messages, blogs, digital images, and any other form of digital communication. Even though it often occurs away from school grounds, cyberbullying still affects students at school. They suffer both socially and academically.
A recent survey of middle school students1 revealed that 9 percent had been cyberbullied in the past 30 days and 17 percent had been cyberbullied during their lifetime. In addition, 8 percent had cyberbullied others in the past 30 days and 18 percent had done so during their lifetime.
Cyberbullying differs from traditional bullying in many ways, according to the NJASA. Because it is posted in a public forum, it is easily accessible and often a permanent record. As bullies are emboldened by the anonymity of electronic media, they often don’t even identify themselves. Victims, fearful that they will lose technology privileges, are often reluctant to report cyberbullying to parents or teachers. This makes cyberbullying difficult to combat.
“A community-wide approach that includes the school, the parents and the children is necessary to prevent cyberbullying,” said Dr. Bozza. “We need to arm our teachers, parents and students with the tools to effectively confront cyberbullying.”
What administrators and teachers can do about cyberbullying
- Define cyberbullying among students, faculty and parents.
- Assess cyberbullying in your school through a survey.
- Develop clear rules and policies about cyberbullying. Train staff on cyberbullying and encourage the reporting of it.
- Teach students about netiquette, safe blogging and how to monitor their online reputations.
- Train and use student mentors to help continue to monitor cyberbullying.
What parents and students can do about cyberbullying
- Keep Internet and social media devices outside of the bedroom. This will help to create the bedroom as a safe zone and limit the opportunity for cyberbullying.
- Talk about cyberbullying as an unacceptable form of behavior.
- Emphasize that parents will not remove technology if children confide about a problem they are having.
- Monitor children’s online activities. This is not an invasion of privacy but the action of a responsible parent.
- If your child is a victim, strongly encourage him or her not to respond to the cyberbullying. Report it to the school and the appropriate authorities. Do not approach the bully or the bully’s family. Do not erase pictures or messages; keep them as evidence.
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