Articles for Teachers
With the prevalence of the Internet, the way that we communicate has changed. Young people are taking full advantage of text messaging, chat rooms, instant messaging, websites, and email to communicate with their current friends and to reach out to new friends. And although most of the interactions between kids and teens online are positive, there are an increasing number of kids who use the Internet to intimidate, antagonize and bully others - which is known as electronic bullying or cyberbullying. Unfortunately, cyberbullying has become quite common, and many children have experienced it at least once in their life.
What is Cyberbullying?
In the realms of cyberspace, young people can enter a world that is far removed from adult knowledge and that is often unsupervised. And since the bully thrives on intimidation and harassment outside the line of vision of an adult figure, the Internet is prime territory for him or her. Children are often quite trusting, making it easy for the cyberbully to take advantage of them. The cyberbully might use threats to terrorize a child, or they might post derogatory information about the child on social networking sites or blogs. They might also send e-mails, or threaten to send e-mails, either to other people or to the child personally. Cell phones are also commonly used for cyberbullying, especially if the child can send and receive text messages. The tactics of the cyberbully can be quite devastating, because the average child just wants to "fit in" with his or her peers. There have even been cases where the stress of cyberbullying has pushed a child too far, and injuries or even suicides have occurred.
What Can Teachers Do?
Unfortunately, a teacher may not even be aware that a child is being singled out for cyberbullying. However, there are still things that a teacher can do to prepare children for the possibility that this may occur. It can be helpful to educate your class about cyberbullying, making sure that students know about your school's rules against this practice. Keeping close tabs on how the classroom computers are being used can also be helpful. If you hear about any incidents of cyberbullying, investigate promptly. However, be cautious about trying too hard to protect a child in front of his or her peers, as this could actually make the problem worse. The school's administration should be notified about suspected incidents of cyberbullying. Any threats of violence, extortion, obscenity, or pornography should be reported to the police. Students who have been victimized by cyberbullying can often benefit from the support of a school counselor or mental health professional. The victim should also be reassured that they didn't deserve the abuse, and that the problem lies in the abuser, not in themselves.
Proceed with Caution
Parents of the victim should be notified, as should parents of any child suspected of participating in the practice. However, parents of a cyberbully may react quite badly to any accusations against their child. Never put yourself at risk, and avoid potentially volatile confrontations. Notifications are best made in writing, coming from the proper authorities. If you have any proof of cyberbullying, be sure to turn them over to the proper authorities, since they may be needed as proof.
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