Cyberbullying in Schools: Prevention Tools for Today

Statistics show that 70% of K-12 students have witnessed cyberbullying in schools. While cyberbullying has become an all-too-familiar term over the past decade, the form it takes evolves with the ever-changing landscape of social media, online forums, and increasing cell phone use by what seems like younger and younger students.

Given our need to teach to these sudden but ongoing shifts in technology, we should look at cyberbullying like the flu. While it looks mostly the same each year, the strain can evolve and thus, so does the vaccine. By keeping up with cyberbullying trends, we can better equip ourselves and our students to push back against cyberbullying.

Let’s take a look at the numbers:

  • 70% of students in grades K-12 report that they have witnessed cyberbullying
  • Cyberbullies don’t look for victims online; the majority use the internet as another tool to intimidate victims they’ve already targeted at school
  • Only 10% of cyberbullying victims report the incident to an adult
  • Victims are 7 times more likely to be cyberbullied by a friend or acquaintance than by a stranger
  • Victims of bullying are more likely to expression depression and anxiety, and are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide

What does cyberbullying look like today?

  • Harassment: repeated hurtful or threatening messages sent via text, email, private message, social media or in gaming platforms;
  • Shaming: public negative comments, gossip or humiliating photos posted on social media;
  • Flaming: hurtful, angry or shaming messages sent to the victim in a message visible to a group, such as in gaming chats;
  • Exclusion: deliberately excluding a victim from an online group, and then going on to make fun of them within the group.

What can we do?

  • Acknowledge
    • It’s crucial to let our children and students know that we’re aware of the pervasiveness of cyberbullying and show them that we acknowledge it as a serious problem
  • Set expectations and invite dialogue
    • Be clear about your expectations when it comes to your students’ online conduct (sending harmful content is never okay, in any format);
    • Listen to your students: let them talk about their perspective and experiences around bullying; invite them to set classroom expectations with you (put the ideas into a poster); this will lead to greater buy-in by your students.
  • Teach online safety
    • Don’t assume your students already know that they shouldn’t share personal information online and that passwords need to be strong, private, and changed regularly; teach them how to stay safe online.
  • Look for warning signs
    • Anxiety, withdrawal, irritability and depression are signs that something is wrong; talk to any students you notice warning signs in and refer them to someone who can help them if you aren’t equipped.
  • Provide clear instructions for what to do
    • Make sure your students know what to do if they are the victim of or witness cyberbullying, and repeat it throughout the year;
    • Guidelines for students: block cyberbullies whenever possible; do not respond to the perpetrator; don’t encourage your friends when they engage in online harassment; report instances to an adult you trust;
    • Share resources visibly in your classroom and talk about them (counseling, hotline, informational websites).

Lisa currently works on EVERFI’s Communications team, curating content to support K-12 teachers across the U.S. and Canada. Her previous experience in social work convinced her of the powerful impact whole child education and positive role models can have on youth development. Outside of work, Lisa’s passions are her 9-year old daughter and perfecting her Mexican culinary skills.

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