Tackling Cyberbullies
Photo courtesy of Missouri Southern/Flickr
Mobile technologies and social media platforms make bullying more prevalent than ever, but the power of the Internet can also be used to fight cyberbullying.
How schools can address difficult topics like bullying with online tools.
By Ed Murphy

Calling the new girl a name that insults her culture or ethnicity; pushing a young boy on the stairs and laughing when he falls; spreading a false rumor about someone; threatening words or stares: These are all traditional examples of bullying. Adding modern technologies has only exacerbated this chronic problem. Cyberbullying through the use of electronic technology such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as text messages, chats, websites and social media has resulted in bullying becoming one of the most socially relevant topics of today.

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Reports say bullying affects one in four students, and there are a projected 55.5 million students enrolled in the nation’s primary and secondary schools during the 2011-2012 school year, according to the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics. That means that nearly 14 million students could face bullying in some form within one school year, potentially resulting in permanent physical, mental or emotional damage. When students do not feel physically and emotionally safe at school their ability to learn can be negatively impacted.

While technology has increased the instances of bullying it also presents us with an opportunity to bring awareness to the situation; but technology is not the answer, it is just one tool in an overall program to address this tough-to-teach topic. Research shows that anti-bullying programs have reduced bullying by 50 percent, and it starts with a zero-tolerance policy.  As daunting a task as this might seem, experts agree on a few clearly defined steps that will assist in introducing and managing successful anti-bullying programs. 

Assess Bullying

  • It all begins with awareness.  Before beginning a prevention program or modifying prevention efforts, it’s important to know some of the facts and statistics about how often bullying occurs, where it happens, how students and adults intervene, and which tactics have been successful. Having staff-wide discussions will help move the process along. Once a focus is set, schools can move forward with an awareness program in the classroom.

Engage Schools, Families and Communities

  • Bullying affects everyone and communities should work together to send a clear message that it will not be tolerated. Schools should launch an awareness campaign that addresses the program’s objectives. Establish a committee that involves students, parents, staff and teachers who will be responsible for the implementation and on-going evaluation of the prevention program. Hosted events, webinars and regular communications via PTSO meetings, phone campaigns, student information systems, and media-on-demand solutions ensure that the awareness campaign is not an event but a key part of the schools culture.

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