Schools Fighting Cyberbullying Face Many Challenges

Cyberbullying occurs when someone is a victim of deliberate and repeated online humiliation, harassment, blackmail or emotional abuse. The attack is carried out online through social media and email, as well as through smartphones and their array of messenger apps. Teenage students can be some of the most malicious forms of cyberbullies, but cyberbullying can happen to anyone, and their effects can be extremely emotionally draining and sometimes outright terrifying. For middle schoolers and high schoolers, getting out of cyberbully attacks can be overwhelming and exasperating to the point that parents feel that they must take away smartphones and Internet access because of the negative impact bullies have had on their child. The problem initiates with interactions at school, but schools themselves are not the ones responsible for the activities that their students engage in online.

There are many who believe that schools do not have the responsibility nor the authority to regulate the online engagement of teens on their personal smartphones, tablets or computers. The cyberbullying attack must usually come to a breaking point and the fight must break out physically before administrators can do anything about it. Parents who feel they need help from the school are usually assured that the problem will be looked into, but there is not usually effective follow-up or infrastructure to prevent the act of cyberbullying from happening. Many school districts require their schools to do something about cyberbullying, but they don’t define what cyberbullying is, let alone how to deal with it.

In order to combat cyberbullying, it must first be properly identified. Many parents disagree with where to draw the line on what is merely in jest and what is inappropriate and malicious. The best most school administrations can offer is the same type of remedy for traditional bullying and harassment. Counselors can sit down with both parties and try to reach a resolution. The problem with cyberbullying is that it is much more prevalent and largely unverified as the communication happens without witness behind the anonymity of a computer screen. Schools need a team dedicated strictly for cyberbullying in order to effectively mitigate every reported instance of alleged cyberbullying.

What a lot of schools are doing is presenting cyberbullying education in their curriculum and going over exercises with the children in how to deal with it. Guest speakers can show up to share their experiences with cyberbullying growing up and try to encourage others to be more self-conscious about how they treat each other. These are great tools for educating about the subject, but often it lacks the connection needed to convince bullies to change their ways. Cyberbullying education is a way to teach everyone to work together to spot cyberbullying and speak out any time they notice online bashing or harassment.

Any form of harassment should always be met with clear requests for no more contact and malicious contact should be documented for later reference. Once the offender has proven to be malicious over and over, then the proper disciplinary action can be taken. Parents use monitoring software and parental controls to keep logs of smartphone and Internet communications to stay on alert for derogatory content or unscrupulous individuals. PhoneSheriff gives parents flexibility for online retrieval of logs so that the information about their child’s online communications can be presented to the appropriate people. Once parents know what to look out for, they can have productive conversations with their children to talk about their Internet use and how to be good cyber-citizens. The Internet can be dangerous. Respecting others and knowing boundaries can go a long way in making sure kids stay safe online.

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