No matter how proactive you are, the reality is that students may still very well witness or experience cyberbullying. Acknowledging this and understanding how to deal with the aftermath is just as important as knowing how you can prevent it.
Changing the culture of how we prevent and respond to cyberbullying can lead to powerful effects in the larger community. Rather than simply focusing on the aftermath, we must guide students to understand that they have a choice in all of their online relationships. They can say something positive or say something mean. They can create great community support around activities or interests, or they can misuse the public nature of online communities to tear others down.
To best help students make the right decisions, it’s important that schools and communities understand all facets of cyberbullying and digital drama.
Try the strategies and resources below to address and prevent cyberbullying in and out of your classroom.
All reports of cyberbullying — no matter the perceived severity — should be investigated. When determining the appropriate response, first find out what policies your school has in place to address cyberbullying incidents. For additional guidance on how to respond to cases of cyberbullying, refer to this helpful flowchart for schools, Responding to Cyberbullying, a collaborative effort by Common Sense Education, No Bully, and California-based law firm Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost.
Prevent Future Incidents
Stop cyberbullying before it happens by tackling the subject head-on. Focus on helping students create positive online communities; learn to identify, respond to, and limit the negative impact of cyberbullying; and help them recognize their role in escalating or de-escalating online cruelty. Try these lessons from Common Sense Education to get started:
- For grades K-5: Screen out the Mean (K-2), The Power of Words (3-5), and What’s Cyberbullying? (3-5)
- For grades 6-8: Cyberbullying: Be Upstanding, The Reality of Digital Drama, Cyberbullying: Crossing the Line
- For grades 9-12: Turn Down the Dial on Cyberbullying, Taking Perspectives on Cyberbullying, Becoming a Web Celeb
Empower Students to be Upstanders
Upstanders are those who aren’t directly involved in a cyberbullying incident, but who step in to help anyway. They empathize with the targets of cyberbullying and help to do something about it. As teachers, it’s important to help students think about the important role they can play when it comes to cyberbullying and digital drama. Help your students become upstanders with these resources:
- Grades K-5: Help young students learn how to be safe, responsible, and respectful online and offline with the Pause & Think video and free classroom poster.
- Grades 6-12: Help students explore how to recognize and respond to cyberbullying with this free downloadable tip sheet for middle and high school students (also available in Spanish).
Get Parents Involved
We know that for parents and caregivers, cyberbullying and digital drama can be both confusing and worrying. Help families start thinking about these topics by exploring Common Sense Education’s Parent Tip Sheet on cyberbullying (also available in Spanish).
In addition, the Connecting Families program (available in Spanish as well), helps parents and kids address important topics and have meaningful conversations about making great choices in their digital lives, from cyberbullying to photo sharing. Be sure to look at both the Digital Drama and Cyberbullying cases to explore how these behaviors not only affect schools, but also the greater community.
Eisha Buch is the Senior Manager of Education Programs for Common Sense Education. She works on the Common Sense Education Digital Citizenship Program to oversee content creation and development of the curriculum. Prior to joining Common Sense, Eisha taught middle and high school math in New York City and has also focused on international education development in East Africa and South America. Eisha strongly believes all kids around the world deserve a high-quality education and that digital citizenship is critical to their success, now more than ever. She has a B.A from the University of Michigan and an M.A.Ed from St. John’s University. In her spare time, Eisha loves to travel, hike the mountains of the world, sing, and explore coffee shops wherever she goes.