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January 1, 2011
Vol. 53
No. 1

Cyberbullying: Is It Happening In Your Class?

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Technology
Teachers hope and believe that they know the children in their classes well, but unfortunately, there are certain undercurrents a teacher may fail to notice. Many problems that occur in the classroom are connected to incidents that occur outside the classroom.
Bullying has always been present in schools. Traditional bullying took the forms of verbal or physical abuse, but with students' access to technology, bullying has changed dramatically. Many students have a digital life of which their teachers and parents have little knowledge. For many teachers, social networking sites are a whole new and unfamiliar world, making identifying and managing the effects of cyberbullying among their students particularly difficult.
The main difference between face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying is the anonymity. People can use multiple online identities and avatars to harass others, and technology allows digital content to circulate very quickly to a very large audience.
Cyberbullies don't conform to a particular type. They can be male or female. And a cyberbully doesn't need great physical strength to harm his victim. In some cases, teachers themselves are the victims of such bullying.
Cyberbullying may take many forms, including these:
  • Hacking into a person's e-mail account and sending inappropriate messages or pictures to the people in the person's contact list.
  • Hacking into someone's personal website and leaving inappropriate messages.
  • Posting the mobile number of the person online with an indecent message so that person is bombarded with vulgar messages from Internet users.
  • Circulating photographs (actual or morphed) that will embarrass the victim.
  • Discussing the person on social networking sites, creating "hate groups," or spreading rumors about that person online.
  • E-mailing a virus to crash another person's computer.
  • Copying important data—for example, an important project that's due soon—and deleting it from the person's computer.
Cyberbullying in these forms and others can have very serious psychological, emotional, educational, and even monetary costs.

What Can We Do?

Cyberbullying is everyone's problem. Teachers, students, parents, and administrators all have a role to play in stopping cyberbullying.
A teacher should be aware of behavior changes in students who have been bullied or harassed. It's also important for teachers to be tech-savvy and have a presence in cyberspace where bullying is likely to take place.
The student community culture plays a very important role in stopping cyberbullying. Both victims and witnesses should be encouraged to report bullying of any kind to school authorities. It helps tremendously if bullies are confronted by their own peers who stand up against their actions.
Bullied children should be able to talk to their parents about the harassment without being judged. It is important to note that sometimes it is difficult for parents to believe that their child may be a cyberbully because the child does not show any sign of being a bully otherwise. Whether children are bystanders, are being bullied, or are bullies themselves, parents must be aware of what is happening in their lives.
School administrators have to take a firm stand against bullying of any kind. Counseling can be offered, and appropriate disciplinary actions should be taken. Students should all understand the school's policies regarding cyberbullying.
Often parents, teachers, and school authorities dismiss bullying among kids as a normal part of growing up, but bullying is harmful. It can lead children and teenagers to depression and other psychological problems. In some cases, cyberbullying has led students to substance abuse, violence, and even suicide. The effects of bullying can last a lifetime; therefore, such behavior should be dealt with while still in its nascent stages.

Resources

  •  Stop Bullying Now 

 

Bijal Damani has contributed to Educational Leadership

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