Bullying is a serious issue within K12 Schools across the US, a problem made worse in the digital age where social posturing and physical separation contributes to growing numbers of bullying incidents. Half of all young people today grow up experiencing some form of cyberbullying and 25% report being bullied on a regular basis. Today, 95% of teens who witness cyberbullying on social media say that they ignore the behavior which means the bad behavior is both unreported and worse, unresolved.
Relatively constant cyberbullying statistics show that current attention to the issue has done little to slow it down, let alone stop it. It is our shared responsibility to shift the focus of education toward teaching kids to be responsible digital citizens, and to engage in effective strategies to prevent, detect and respond to cyberbullying. Good digital citizens includes being aware of your actions online, appropriate etiquette and safety protocols, and how to prevent and report cyberbullying.
Schools must work with parents to look at what their students are doing on the Internet both at home and school. Together, schools and parents should work to highlight and reiterate the 9 Pillars of Digital Citizenship, which includes basic digital literacy, rights and responsibilities, as well as tips to ensure students are taught to protect themselves and others.
Digital citizenship is not a one-off presentation, but a premise embedded in the curriculum alongside technology use with ongoing dialogue between school and parents. Education on digital citizenship can begin as early as kindergarten, teaching kids about appropriate limits for device use, the importance of keeping devices in public areas of the house (ie. not locked away in bedrooms), and later incorporating more mature themes on social etiquette as students move online.
One key take-away in effective digital citizenship education is recognizing the power of the bystander. In cyberbullying situations, there are often 3 roles: bullies, victims and bystanders. Although the bully has an obvious impact on the victim, the bystander also plays a role in the impact on the victim because their lack of action, whether done in person or online, reinforces the victimization.
One of the best ways to prevent bullying or to intervene when it occurs is to involve the bystanders. When bullying behavior is not reinforced with social acceptance, there is less incentive for its repetition over time. Common Sense Education offers many more great tips for school administrators and educators including grade-differentiated lesson plans.
At Absolute, we regularly work with schools to help kick-start these digital citizenship campaigns across the community of staff, students, and parents. If you would like to learn more about how to curb cyberbullying through digial citizenship initiatives, join me at the School Safety Advocacy Council Conference on Bullying in Reno, Nevada March 7-9, 2018.