As cyberbullying rates reach an all time high among young adults, what are parents and teachers to do?
Yes, Anti-Bullying Laws do exist and cyberbullying is ILLEGAL! Laws vary by state, but cover the necessities. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, while only 23 states directly mention “cyberbullying”, 48 states include protection against electronic harassment. These laws essentially grant school systems authority to enact mandatory cyberbullying prevention policies and decide upon appropriate consequences. Stopbullying.gov believes there are 11 key components (shared by each state’s anti-bullying laws) to consider when creating an anti-cyberbullying strategy.
Though seemingly verbose, these components are quite simple and perfectly adaptable to everyday classroom culture. See below for the *top items to share with your students:
Purpose Statement = Why do we need cyberbullying laws?
1 in 10 students grades 6-12 experienced cyberbullying and 15% of high school students were bullied last year.
Explain to your students why these laws are necessary, and the effects of cyberbullying. Students who are cyberbullied are more likely to struggle personally and in school. Bullying can worsen feelings of rejection, isolation, depression, etc. which can lead to suicidal behavior.
Statement of Scope = How far do cyberbullying laws reach, and should they?
Most cyberbullying occurs away from school grounds.
Explain to students that no matter the location, cyberbullying is still criminal and under the jurisdiction of school policy.
Over 25% of states have specified that schools are able to discipline students for incidents that endanger the learning environment off campus. Federal law allows them to do so; a variety of Supreme Court cases rule in favor of school authority.
Specification of Prohibited Conduct = What actions count as cyberbullying?
Clearly define and provide examples of what qualifies as cyberbullying.
It seems that many students are unsure about the concept, even casually writing off teasing and taunting online as the norm. Sending a mean or threatening text, posting hurtful words/images, and impersonating someone online are all considered cyberbullying to a certain extent. For a more extensive list, see here.
Enumeration of Specific Characteristics = What topics should one avoid?
Harassment need not be based on a specific characteristic to be considered bullying. Mockery of differentiating factors –race, ethnicity, color, gender, sexual orientation– should not be tolerated.
North Carolina: N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-407.15(a) (2010): “Bullying or harassing behavior includes, but is not limited to, acts reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, socioeconomic status, academic status, gender identity, physical appearance, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, developmental, or sensory disability, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics.”
Communication Plan = How can students report cyberbullying? What are the consequences? How will parents, faculty, and students be involved?
Alert students and parents of the cyberbullying policy and how to get help.
Students should feel safe reporting instances of cyberbullying, and schools should provide avenues of seeking help – hotlines, guidance counselors, etc. The student body, as well as their parents, should be notified of the cyberbullying policy and consequences of violation.
Take for example a San Ramon Middle School’s policy. Their “communication plan” lists examples of cyberbullying, consequences (from a minimum of suspension to a maximum of expulsion), and the appropriate supporting education codes.
Training and Preventative Education = What can I do prevent cyberbullying?
The more you know about cyberbullying and how to handle it, the easier it will be to implement prevention methods! Schools must equip their staff with the tools to stop the bullying at the source!
In addition, teach students to be good digital citizens and respectfully utilize online resources.
*Missing components from Stopbullying’s analysis include Development and Implementation of LEA Policies, Components of LEA Policy, Review of Local Policies, Transparency and Monitoring, Statement of Rights to Other Legal Resources
Much is to be considered when creating overarching anti-cyberbulling measures, and schools try their best. However, keeping your kids safe from cyberbullying starts at home. Implementing social media safety measures and monitoring your child’s online activity are just some of the many ways to do so. For other good resources on cyberbullying prevention check out the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.