Friday, February 21, 2014

The Role of Teachers in Addressing Cyberbullying

Teachers play two important roles in addressing cyberbullying in schools. They are primarily educators and are expected to convey credible information and approaches to the students. But perhaps even more importantly when cyberbullying is implicated, teachers are often the “trusted adult” students turn to when they are targeted by cyberbullying or learn of others being targeted.

In addition to teaching students not to lend their efforts to aid the cyberbully, teachers can help encourage their students to report cyberbullying when they encounter it. While it is wonderful that teachers are trusted with this crucial information, they are often unprepared to advise their students on next steps. With good cause, they fear legal liability for mishandling any of these reports and don’t know how to preserve the student’s confidence while reporting the cyberbullying. Teachers may be reluctant to turn them over, especially if they promised the students to keep their identity confidential.

If an anonymous tipline or tip box is created, teachers can remind their students to use it. School administration and school policing staff can act on these tips and take action quickly as necessary to shut down the site or profile or stop the cyberbullying itself.

Education can help considerably in preventing and dealing with the consequences of cyberbullying. The first place to begin an education campaign is with the kids and teens themselves. These programs need to address ways they can become inadvertent cyberbullies, how to be accountable for their actions, and not to stand by and allow bullying (in any form) to be acceptable. 

We need to teach them not to ignore the pain of others.
Teaching kids to “Take 5!” before responding to something they encounter online is a good place to start. Jokingly, we tell them to “Drop the mouse! And step away from the computer! That way nobody will get hurt!”

Encourage them to “Take 5!” to help them calm down if something upsets them online or offline to avoid their acting out online. This may include doing yoga or deep-breathing. It may include running, playing catch, or shooting hoops. It may involve taking a bath, hugging a stuffed animal, or talking on the phone with friends. They can create a Take 5! Bulletin Board illustrating their favorite Take 5! activities or discuss them with others in the class.

Each student has their own way of finding their center again. If they do, they will often not become a cyberbully, even an inadvertent cyberbully. This method even helps with offline bullying and impulse control in the classroom.

There are several ways teachers can educate kids not to support cyberbullying:
·         Teach them that all actions have consequences;
·         Teach them that cyberbullying hurts;
·         Teach them that they are liable to being used and manipulated by the cyberbully;
·         Teach them that the cyberbully and their accomplices often become the target of cyberbullying themselves; and
·         Teach them to care about others and stand up for what’s right.

We need to teach our children that silence, when others are being hurt, is not acceptable. If they don’t allow the cyberbullies to use them to embarrass or torment others, cyberbullying will quickly stop. It’s a tall task, but a noble goal. In the end, our students will be safer online and offline. We will have helped create a generation of good cybercitizens, controlling the technology instead of being controlled by it.

The more teachers know about cyberbullying and how it works, the better they can address and prevent it. Art Wolinsky, WiredSafety’s Director of Technology Education has created professional development materials just for teachers. Check them out at

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