Cyberbullying can be a tricky situation for administrators. It is every school’s duty to maintain a safe learning environment. This, of course, includes face-to-face learning in the classroom. However, schools are also responsible for maintaining a safe learning environment in digital learning spaces and online classrooms. It is therefore not only a school’s duty to prevent in-person bullying but cyberbullying as well. In fact, in most states, schools are legally required to prevent and punish instances of cyberbullying. Strong appropriate use policies combined with in-person monitoring and technology goes a long way towards preventing cyberbullying in schools.

Create Clear Anti-Cyberbullying Policies

It may not be clearly stated in school district’s technology use policies that cyberbullying is not considered an acceptable use of the internet. Bullying should be included in policies regarding internet usage at school. There must be a clear definition of bullying, specifically referencing social messaging and media sites. Consequences should be established as well, especially those that range to levels serious enough for law enforcement. Your state board of education may provide a sample policy against cyberbullying. For example, the New York State Education Department offers a series of strong guidelines for internet safety and cyberbullying prevention in schools.

Limit Social Media Use at School

Technology is part of everyday life. It’s also an everyday part of a student’s education, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic led to school closures and remote learning. It is therefore unreasonable – and impossible – to prohibit computer use at school. However, schools may limit certain kinds of technology use. For instance, schools have a right to restrict access to personal cell phones or social media sites during school hours. Cyberbullying occurs most frequently on social media sites. Therefore, restricting access to such sites can limit the amount of cyberbullying during the school day. However, any restrictive policies of this nature must be clear and explicit. 

Supervise School Computer Use

Bullying incidents occur almost exclusively out of sight from teachers and administrators. Physical supervision, such as a simple walk by the computers while students are using them, can send a strong message. Many schools depend upon physical supervision of student computer use in the classroom. However, no teacher can see everything that students do on their computers. Screen-monitoring software offers an efficient – and educational – solution. When installed on school computers, programs like LearnSafe detect instances of cyberbullying online. Furthermore, the mere presence of LearnSafe on school computers acts as a deterrent towards cyberbullying. If students know that their activity is being monitored, they will think more carefully about their actions online.

Create an Anonymous Reporting System

A standard school- or district-wide reporting system makes it easier for schools to track cyberbullying. It also makes it easier for students, teachers, and parents to report such instances. Ultimately, teachers can’t catch everything, especially when incidents occur off of school grounds. An online system can make things more comfortable for students with anxiety about reporting their fellow classmates. The Cyberbullying Research Center offers suggestions for setting up an anonymous reporting system.

Text by Anna Khan


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