Tips for Preventing Cyberbullying Among Students

A report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development examined the experiences of over 250,000 educators in 48 different industrialised countries and regions; the results indicated a more frequent occurrence of cyberbullying among students in England compared to other regions. Another study by Public Health England found that 17.9% of students aged 11-15 had experienced cyberbullying during the two months prior to their evaluation. While bullying takes many forms, cyberbullying is an increasing issue, and more difficult to combat due to the vast and anonymous nature of the internet. Being aware of it is the only means of prevention.

Look For Warning Signs 

Obviously you can’t put an end to cyberbullying if it goes unnoticed, but monitoring every student’s individual internet activity is nearly impossible, and you certainly can’t do it alone. Involve parents in cyberbullying prevention by discussing the importance of safe interactions among students - both in person and online, and in and out of the classroom - and go over some possible indications of cyberbullying. Warning signs that a student could be involved in online bullying include emotional responses to something they’re viewing on their device/computer (if they’re looking at something and seem upset or laugh, for example); a noticeable increase or decrease in their time online; hiding their screen when someone else is close by; and loss of interest in social activities and/or things they enjoy doing. In class, this could look like avoidance of other students, isolation during breaks and lunch time, and lack of participation in class discussions or activities.

Further Investigate

Once you’ve picked up on any potential warning signs, it’s time to delve into things a bit further. Start by opening a dialogue; ask questions to determine what’s happening, who's involved, and how it started. Document what you learn and observe to keep a record, including taking screenshots of harmful posts or content. Follow up by reporting any incidents to parents/guardians and other teachers if necessary. If you’ve seen harmful posts on a regulated platform, like most social media, you can report them to the platform itself to have the post removed. Most social media platforms have rules and policies to help protect users, especially children. If a child has been physically threatened, or if there’s other illegal behaviour, report it directly to the police.

Offer Mediation and Support

As a result of both bullying and being bullied, students often withdraw and don't ask for help, which is why it’s important to take initiative and offer support, guidance and conflict mediation to all parties involved. For the student/s bullying, there is usually an underlying emotional issue that results in this type of behaviour. For the individual/s on the receiving end, they often have trouble with self-esteem, and can begin to develop their own feelings of anger stemming from being bullied, which can further the cycle of bullying. Take the time to address both sides. If possible, try to determine if additional counselling or professional help would be beneficial.

We may be living in the digital era, but online interactions have real-world impact. Take the same serious approach to address cyberbullying as you would any other form of inappropriate behaviour among students.

Are you a parent of a young child or teenager? If you're concerned about how much time your child is spending online, take a look at these 5 tips to keep your children safe on the internet.

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