As an educator, there’s a lot of responsibility resting on your shoulders with today’s kids. You not only face the usual challenge of preparing them for secondary education and the workforce, but have to do so with the mindset that comes in an age of unparalleled technological advancement.
Tomorrow’s business leaders are going to face challenges unique to their generation when it comes to dealing with technology, including how they communicate. Much gets lost in translation over a text or an e-mail, and as our apps and channels continue to evolve, it’s difficult to say whether that will get better or worse.
Of course, in the here and now, technology is an excellent educational tool, but also a relentless distraction. Students are more plugged in than ever, and getting them to put down their phones long enough to absorb a lecture can be all but impossible.
On top of this, we have the added trouble that comes with mixing their school social life with their online world. Where students’ interactions used to take place over lunch room tables and at lockers, the majority of it is now happening over text messages and wall posts.
This newly connected form of social interaction has presented new spins on old problems, including cyber bullying. With the advent of wildly popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, bullies are now able to pursue their victims behind the safety of a computer screen, and the victims never get a break.
Cyber bullying can be relentless and humiliating, with the ability for content to go viral and spread amongst the victim’s peers at the height of the potential consequences. Embarrassing photos that are posted or shared without the subject’s permission, persistent belittling comments or messages, and public defamation on social media are a few ways kids can be cyber bullied.
Despite the scope of this problem and the fact that it should be happening outside of school, the bottom line is that this is still a massive part of your student’s social interaction – if it’s happening between your students, it’s time to get involved.
So much of kids’ lives are spent within the four walls of a classroom, that you are often as much, if not more so, privy to their social lives as the parents are. If you see a child being bullied, it’s reasonable to assume that it’s not stopping when they go home for the day.
The first step in curbing cyber bullying in your school is addressing bullying in general with a comprehensive, strict, zero-tolerance approach for the practice. Don’t let anyone slide, and make sure that all staff is on board with strict and immediate repercussions for anyone caught harassing another student.
From there, it’s wise to have teachers and staff read up on cyber bullying on sites like these, and get a scope for just how damaging it can be. Imagine having a job you don’t like, with a boss who’s mean, and then imagine never getting a break from that boss – incessant, day in, day out belittlement every time you check your messages.
It’s more than some kids can handle, and cyber bullying has caused its share of tragic suicides. Get your staff up to speed with the problem and the severity it can get to, and make sure that they’re mindful that physical bullying is likely translating to cyber bullying.
It’s important to use affirmative action and always follow up on cases in which you suspect cyber bullying could be taking place – not only for the student’s sake, but also where liability it concerned.
In several states, laws have been passed that require schools to take action immediately in cases of bullying, and that hold them responsible if a child suffers damages at the hands of a classmate with no intervention on the part of the institution. Though these bills were originally passed with face to face bullying in mind, most are ‘understood’ to include cyber bullying, and in many states legislation has in fact been rewritten to specifically include it.
If you suspect that the bullying of a student has progressed to cyber bullying, notify the parents immediately. Talk to the child, or have him or her speak with the school counselor, and see if there’s something you can do to help the situation. In every way possible, leave the way it’s handled up to the victim – often enough is out of their hands as it is, and adults forcing their solutions only serves to stress them out even more.
Advise the parents to talk to their child about the cyber bullying, and to make sure their child knows to come to them if there are ever threats of a sexual or physically violent nature made. If it ever crosses the line, ask the parents to print the material for records and contact the authorities immediately.
In any case, the most important thing you can do is be proactive – all too often, teachers dismiss bullying as a natural part of the education system, but in the case of cyber bullying, it can go far beyond the extent that we’re used to.
Take swift action to ensure it doesn’t go too far, and that a student isn’t distracted and distressed to the point of tragedy.