Cyberbullying: Top Six Ways to Prevent Threats
By: Victoria Zambito, SVP of Content and Communications, Vector Solutions
Keeping kids safe while in school is becoming increasingly difficult as we see the proliferation of technology among youth. One of the newest threats is Cyberbullying, which has quickly become a serious problem among kids in elementary school through high school.
According to Pew Research, more than half of all students in 5th grade and above report either being a victim of Cyberbullying or know someone who has been Cyberbullied. And, furthermore, Cyberbullying has been linked to depression, school violence and suicide.
Older forms of bullying were bad enough, but Cyberbullying can be particularly devastating for students since messages can be transmitted to and accessed by anyone in seconds — and traditional school safeguards are often ineffective. In fact, 95% of social media-using teens who have witnessed cruel behavior on social networking sites say they have seen others ignoring the mean behavior and 55% witness this frequently (Pew Research).
So how can schools work to prevent Cyberbullying or restrict access to some technological features that put kids at risk? We reached out to our friends over at Vector Solutions, a leader in online education and parent company of SafeSchools, and they provided us with six key elements to help in the prevention of Cyberbullying in K-12 schools:
First you have to know what it is. Cyberbullying occurs when a bully or group of bullies uses communication technologies, such as cell phones and computers, in a way that meets the definition of bullying.
Bullying, by definition, occurs when one or more students exhibit behavior toward one or more other students that meet three criteria:
- Harm – the bully intends physical or emotional harm for the victim.
- Unfair Match – the victim(s) cannot fairly defend themselves. (and the bully’s harassment is)
- Repeated – the harassment occurs more than once.
Once you clearly understand what it is, you can detect it and prevent it.
Be aware that cell phones can do much more than just place phone calls. Cyberbullies use voice messages, text messages, e-mail, instant messages, images, videos and/or social networking websites in a deliberate attempt to repeatedly harass, intimidate or embarrass another person or group of people. Be aware of capabilities and students’ preferred communication methods. This will allow you to closely monitor more commonly accessed technology platforms. And most importantly, don’t allow phones to be out at all during classes.
Technology is changing faster than ever before. And for parents and teachers it can be tricky to know what is the latest social media or app kids are using. Ask IT professionals at school to help with this. Often, they are much more informed. With regular updates, they can help staff know what “bad apps” to look out for. Also, go direct to the source. Talk to kids openly about what is going on. If you create an open dialogue, you can gain invaluable insight.
School staff and parents should be aware that most tools and apps have a minimum age requirement for users, which is typically 18 years old or 13 years old with parental permission. As a school, you can require “Acceptable Use Policies,” or AUP. This is a contract among the school, the student and the student’s parents. AUPs are increasingly popular and necessary. In exchange for permission to use the school’s computer hardware, software and network, the student and his/her parents agree that the student will exhibit responsible online behavior. If students violate the AUP, they can be disciplined.
All school staff members are responsible for knowing the anti-bullying policies of their school as well as carefully following the procedures detailed in those policies. If you are not familiar with your responsibilities regarding Bullying and Cyberbullying behavior in your school, ask your supervisor or principal. Failure to follow your school’s policies may result in harm to the students involved. Some threats, such as violence, may even potentially result in legal action against the school and against you individually.
Track & Monitor Incidents
Many schools are leveraging technology like SafeSchools to monitor bullying incidents as well as train staff in prevention methods. Through a custom alert system parents, teachers and students can anonymously report incident 24/7, 365. Districts are notified immediately and can take the necessary course of action to prevent or resolve problems. Systems like this unify all fronts on the fight against bullying.
At the end of the day, prevention is the safest, most effective strategy to reduce Cyberbullying and Bullying behavior. Effective anti-bullying efforts promote a culture of respect and an atmosphere in which bullying behavior is unacceptable. A school-wide approach to Cyberbullying prevention and intervention, with buy-in from all staff and parents, is key to its effectiveness. Be sure your students and their parents are fully informed about your school’s prevention program as well as understand what it means and their individual responsibilities.
Victoria Zambito, SVP of Content & Communications
As a member of the Vector Solutions executive team, Victoria Zambito is responsible for, and has been successful in, growing the highly profitable online education business since she joined the company 17 years ago. As Senior Vice President of Content and Communication, she is responsible for aligning and rationalizing Vector’s extensive library of over 5,000 courses across its multiple brands, enhancing, standardizing and modernizing content, and driving creative, agile solutions to deliver products. She also focuses on centralizing strategic communications and public relations as the company seeks to develop its brand globally.
Prior to this, Zambito led the Business to Professional (B2P) business unit, where she provided strategic leadership by collaborating with the CEO and core management team to establish long-term goals, strategies, plans and policies for growing the company’s direct-to-consumer business. From 2009 to 2012, she served as Vice President of Marketing for the Vector Solutions family of brands, supporting sales pipeline development, brand awareness and demand generation for both B2B and B2C efforts.