According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, more than half of teens and adolescents have reported that they’ve been bullied online, and between 10 and 20 percent say it occurs regularly. As a slew of recent news stories have demonstrated, the consequences can be devastating. A recent study conducted by the Center found that 20% of respondents who had been bullied, “reported seriously thinking about attempting suicide.”
Not all cases result in such poignant tragedy, of course, but cyberbullying has become a widespread problem that affects students of all ages and backgrounds. What’s worse is that many victims of cyberbullying don’t reach out for help, and they may continue to suffer from the consequences of bullying — such as low self-esteem and heightened levels of stress — for years after they’ve finished school.
What can educators do to put an end to this often invisible issue? The following resources will help to further education about cyberbullying and the best methods to combat it.
The Facts About Cyberbullying
The term “cyberbullying” may seem self-explanatory, but there is more to it than many people assume:
The National Crime Prevention Council explains cyberbullying in a simple, straightforward manner. It also lists some of the techniques that cyberbullies use, which range from simple things, such as sending tasteless emails, to more complex endeavors, such as creating websites with the goal of humiliating a certain person.
An infographic at teachthought.com presents the facts about cyberbullying in an easy-to-scan format. Teachers can use the statistics there as a launchpad to help students think more seriously about cyberbullying.
Another infographic is from stopbullying.gov, a government website that offers advice and tools for stopping all kinds of bullying.
Notable Updates in 2014
Perhaps now more than ever, Cyberbullying is showing up as a large red storm front on our society’s proverbial radar. Not a month seems to pass where we don’t hear about some terrible tragedy in the media. Fortunately, awareness of the problem is growing at a national level. Here are some of the latest resources and articles on the issue:
In anticipation of Bullying Prevention Month (which is October, if you didn’t know), ChicagoNow.com’s “Bully Boot Camp” blog recently posted an article titled, Bullying Prevention Month: Overcoming Cyberbullying. The piece offers some excellent actionable tips and insights, and the blog itself is well worth adding to your RSS feed, too.
Check out this IEEE Spectrum video on Youtube from this year’s Google Science Fair. It’s an interview with 14-year-old programming phenom Trisha Prabhu, who designed an app called “Rethink” to help put an end to cyberbullying. It works as a browser add-on, and she says it will “call out” cyberbullies before they ever even post hateful or harassing comments. She says it could potentially stop more than 90 percent of would-be bullies.
The Atlantic recently published a first-hand account, Confronting My Cyberbully, 13 Years Later, that follows the story of a young woman who reaches out to the bully who tormented her between the ages of 13 and 16. All at once, it’s enlightening, captivating, and poignant. The piece currently has more than 350 comments on it, so it’s also valuable for understanding the range of conversations that often surround such stories.
In September, Education Week posted an interesting blog post that serves to underscore the problem and provides further insight into how it works. Among other things, it cites a recent study by School Psychology Quarterly that found students tend to segue from traditional bullying into cyberbullying as they get older. Although the post is relatively short, it also includes research by the American Psychological Association to reinforce its findings.
Earlier in October, EduTopia posted an article by Megan McCarter about how to cultivate a bully-free community. She recommends speaking compassionately to resolve conflict with students.
One Key Strategy: Building Positive Relationships with Students & Families
The issues at the heart of cyberbullying are many and complex, but most of them boil down to relationships. By striving to build strong, positive relationships with both students’ families and the students themselves, educators can create an environment that (by its very nature) is a bulwark against cyberbullying.
You and your students’ parents should adopt a team mentality toward educating young ones and protecting them from online bullies. This article at teachhub.com gives some useful pointers on how to communicate with parents.
A past article here on Edudemic, “How to Create Powerful Student-Teacher Relationships” gives tips that can help you build positive relationships with students, which puts you in a better position to help when cyberbullying crops up.
This guide by the National Education Association points out things that can make or break your relationships with your students.
- Support groups can have a big impact on students, helping them build their confidence and feel more comfortable talking about bullying. This paper from Educational Psychology in Practice discusses the benefits of using support groups to combat bullying and why this approach is so effective.
More Resources for Taking Action
After you get up to speed on cyberbullying and its effects, it’s time to take action. While no two cases of cyberbullying are the same and the proper action to take can vary, there are some principles that can help.
Helping students see the seriousness of online harassment can go a long way toward stopping it. Mediasmarts.ca is a Canadian website, so not all of the information there about cyberbullying laws is relevant for U.S. schools. However, the lesson plans can serve as an invaluable tool for bringing cyberbullying out of the shadows.
Stopcyberbullying.org is a simple website, but it is rich with information. It has pointers that you’re unlikely to come across elsewhere, such as how to deal with the four different types of cyberbullies.
The Cyberbullying Research Center is an organization that actively seeks to raise awareness and help students, parents, and educators take steps to create a more comfortable online environment for children. You can download activities — such as puzzles and games — from its website that shed light on cyberbullying.
Endcyberbullying.org is a non-profit organization that, as its mission statement says, wants to “create a global social networking arena devoid of cyberbullying.” It organizes support groups, offers online counseling, and posts articles about the latest news related to cyberbullying.
Kidshealth.org covers a range of topics that relate to how adults can help children thrive. Its cyberbullying page gives some tips that can help adults recognize when a child is a victim of online abuse. Since kids hesitate to speak up, knowing the signs of cyberbullying is vital. It also provides guidance to parents on what to do if they discover that their child is the bully. Knowing how to talk to parents about that side of the issue can smooth out the process of beating specific cases of cyberbullying.
Overcomebullying.org has a broader focus than the other resources listed here. Its goal is to help victims of all types of bullying, whether it happens at school, in the workplace, or online. If you’re interested in doing deeper research, overcomebullying.org has lists of books that address specific types of bullying.
The article “15 Strategies Educators Can Use to Stop Cyberbullying” at opencolleges.edu.au outlines ways in which educators can make students feel more responsible for their online behavior. A couple of the techniques outlined include creating “digital citizens” and using team building activities in the classroom.
Deletecyberbullying.org is another project that wants to put an end to online harassment. The website includes news articles, helpful guides, and a list of resources that can help educators, parents, and students.
Connectsafely.org gives tips on how to stay safe online, and it has a downloadable PDF guide about cyberbullying. The guide is designed for parents, but the information there can help educators as well.
Cyberbullying often goes unnoticed by school faculty members, parents, and the students who have the good fortune to escape becoming a victim. However, addressing cyberbullying is vital because lives are at stake. Bullying victims are at least twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who are not victims. By being observant and staying up to date on the latest methods to fight cyberbullying, educators can play a role in eliminating the problem.
This article was featured on Edudemic on October 17 2014 and was written and researched by the Edudemic staff.