October is National Cyberbullying Prevention Month, but it’s a problem that must be addressed persistently at all times of the year. Studies show that over 70 percent of students have witnessed cyberbullying of some kind. It happens in all online platforms, whether social media, text messages, instant messages in apps, or email. Since online data never dies, it can never really be erased and can ruin the lives of the bullied as well those who bully.
Evan Abramson, director of technology at Millburn Township Public Schools in New Jersey, gave an edWeb.net seminar entitled “Developing a Cyberbullying Prevention Program” in September 2018. He talked about the types of cyberbullying, what his district is doing to stop it, and some resources to help educate students, parents, and staff.
Abramson mentioned three types of bullying:
- Verbal — saying or writing mean thing, such teasing, in appropriate sexual comments, taunting, and threatening to cause harm
- Social — hurting someone’s reputation or relationships, such as leaving someone out on purpose, telling other children not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors about someone, or embarrassing someone in public, and
- Physical — hurting a person’s body or possessions, such as hitting/kicking/pinching, spitting, and tripping/pushing. Physical bullying often comes as the result of other bullying or online arguments.
Students are less likely to bully when they know that they are not anonymous and that there are state laws against cyberbullying. You can see the cyberbullying laws for your state at https://www.stopbullyingnow.gov/laws/.
There are also tools for monitoring student behavior, such as provided by Gaggle, which can monitor all student email, Google doc accounts, chat accounts, and even drafts. Lightspeed has a web filter that shows Internet activity, as does GoGuardian.
Most important is to educate students, parents, and even staff. Abramson designed an entire program for the district, which he outlined in his presentation. He also listed some educational resources, which include:
- Learning.com. They have a free cyberbullying prevention toolkit available for download, as well as a variety of other educational resources
- Nearpod.com has free lessons about cyberbulling, as well as digital citizenship lessons which Abramson said were not free but were well worth the money
- CommonsenseMedia.org offers a variety of online and offline resources educational resources about cyberbullying and digital citizenship
Abramson also suggested having staff read The Fire Within by Mandy Froelich, which in part talks about the trauma caused by bullying.