Cyberbullying has become a bigger concern for many schools than traditional bullying, and schools and districts must ensure they have effective policies in place to address the issue, Kaitlin Beckmann, a graduate education student at MarymountUniversity, writes for eSchool News.
Beckmann suggests that the entire school community be involved so the policy is clear and consistent, and is supported by a leadership team, a strong school culture, training and shared ownership.
Additionally, she writes that the strategy must focus on encouraging positive behavior as much as, if not more than, it does on consequences for negative actions, and it must include students in the process, with Australia's Cyber Friendly Schools Project cited as a successful example.
While bullying is reportedly on the decline, a reported 28% of students in the U.S. are still victims of cyberbullying, compared to 25% for traditional bullying. These figures have been further complicated by the increased use of devices in schools, but keeping students off of computers all together isn't an option.
Digital citizenship lessons have been a major component of efforts to prevent cyberbullying. On the most basic level, students must understand that the internet doesn't afford them anonymity like they think it does, and that what they say or do impacts real people and can also stay online for a very long time.
According to a YouthTruth survey, students report their appearance as the most common reason for bulling, followed by race or color (17%), perceptions of sexual orientation (15%), and their parents’ income (12%). With attention to social-emotional learning on the rise in schools, such responses also drive home the importance of instilling a sense of empathy and compassion in students and making sure they understand how words and actions can impact others.