How to Deal with Cyberbullying

"Kids become cyberbullies because of the power and anonymity they are afforded by the Internet," said Donlin, a member of Qwest's Online Safety Coalition in Washington. "Because cyberbullying can impede a child's ability to succeed in school, it must be addressed at home and in the classroom."Tips for Teachers: Understand what cyberbullying is: By definition, “Cyberbullying” is the willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices. Lay down the rules: Teach safe and responsible behaviours online, monitor online activities for cyberbullying and unhealthy social networking, and lead by example. Recognize the symptoms: Drop in grades, dread going to school, and diminished involvement in school. Raise awareness of cyberbullying with parents: Arrange a parent council night to address the issue of bullying, and provide parents with an understanding of how bullying is now being carried out via Internet and cell phones. Run through “Tips for Parents” with the council. See below. Encourage kids to develop their own moral principles: Kids need to be able to discriminate right from wrong behaviours online on their own. Go over safe and responsible Internet use. Teach them to always think twice before they post or share anything online. Use the following as a guiding question: “Do I want the whole world to read or see this, including adults like my parents or teachers, or even an online predator?” Educate the student body: Have students oversee a school-wide awareness campaign. Students can be responsible for creating posters, giving presentations, and conducting polls/surveys to raise awareness about bullying and cyberbullying, while also addressing the positive ways to react to this issue. Encourage dialogue: Encourage students to speak up, not suffer in silence. Keep an open door policy. Empower victims with the knowledge of how to prevent and effectively respond to cyberbullying. Review school policies: Many school districts have anti-bullying rules and policies in place. The Canadian Public Health Association created an assessment toolkit for bullying, harassment and peer relations in schools. It identifies the criteria for a successful school-based anti-bullying program, which involves: School/Classroom/Environmental Change Strategies:o Strong teacher/adult leadership, student-teacher bonding.o Clear consistent and fair behavioural norms.o Cognitive-behavioural instruction (gender-responsive and culturally competent)o Ongoing teacher/administration training (teachers are more likely to respond to physical bullying compared to verbal and social)o Effective supervision (and playground design).o Restorative justice interventions, which prioritize safety and led by trained facilitators.o Parent training. Individual Change Strategies:o Cognitive-behavioural approach.o Inclusion of students in out-of-class activities to increase sense of belonging and skills.o Closely supervised peer intervention strategies (peer counseling and mediation). (Boys are unlikely to participate in these strategies without recruitment and support. Girls are more likely to participate and intervene to support victims.)(Source: An Assessment Toolkit for Bullying, Harassment and Peer Relations in Schools, Canadian Public Health Association, 2004)Tips for Parents: Be web aware: Learn the basics of the Internet - risks, safeguards, and standard uses. Keep up with the latest and popular developments: Find out websites they’re visiting and what they’re doing online through open discussions. Be aware of what your kids are posting online: This includes pictures, videos, profile information, and comments. Be available and open: Encourage your kids to report online behaviours that make them feel threatened or uncomfortable. React calmly, build trust, and communicate with your children on a regular basis. Write up an online agreement for computer use: Have your kids involved in the process so that it encourages cooperation and understanding of why the rules are necessary. Also, ensure that the rules are made clear. Recognize the symptoms: Some signs include hesitation to use the computer, and loathing going to school. Consult school officials: If your child is being bullied by a fellow student at school, get teachers and principals involved to help deal with the problem. Report any incident of online harassment and physical threats: Contact your Internet Service Provider and local police. If the harassment is being conducted via a cell phone, report the incident to your phone service provider. If the harassment is persistent, change your child’s phone number.Tips for Students:Most incidents of bullying do not take place in front of teachers and parents. That is why kids must be equipped to protect themselves in bullying instances and respond effectively in the moment. Do not share your contact information online unless it is absolutely necessary: If you do, ensure that the website is legitimate and verifiable. Giving your cell phone number, email address, instant messaging nick name, or passwords to people you don’t know online is equivalent to sharing personal information with a stranger on the street. Speak out: If you come across someone cyberbullying another online, take a stand and let your peers know that cyberbullying is unacceptable. Chances are peers will be more affected by criticism from other peers as opposed to adults. Reach out: Don’t suffer in silence. Tell a guardian, parent, teacher, grandparent, or older sibling. Stay away: If you are being harassed online, stop the activity or stop visiting the site of harassment. (i.e. gaming forums, blogs, chat rooms, instant messaging services, social networking sites etc.) Save all harassing messages and forward them to your Internet Service Provider: Internet Service Providers have policies against online harassment. If the harassment involves physical threats, contact your local police.You can download an abridged PDF version here on Kiwi Commons.

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