Over half of adolescents and teens report that they have been bullied online. Perhaps more shockingly, the same number of teens admit that they themselves have bullied someone online. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, over 80% of teens regularly use a cellphone. With easy access to social media and anonymous messaging apps, cell phones are the platform for cyberbullying. In a 2016 study, Alabama ranked as the 8th worst state for bullying problems. Also, Alabama was ranked 5th in terms of the percentage of students who attempted to die by suicide. Clearly, there’s a high need for intervention both in terms of student mental health and cyberbullying. Training and monitoring can help prevent tragedy in Alabama schools.
Anti-Cyberbullying Training in Alabama
In 2018, the Alabama Department of Education and Attorney General’s office joined forces to create a training program to fight cyberbullying. Such a program is even more necessary now that the COVID-19 pandemic brought technology front-and-center in education. In 2018, Ed Richardson, the interim State Superintendent of Education, told Alabama Today that “as parents, educators, and law enforcement, we all have a unique responsibility to keep [students] safe.” The state’s anti-cyberbullying training program hopes to do just that.
How Does Training Prevent Tragedy in Alabama schools?
The program takes a two-pronged approach to preventing cyberbullying in schools by training parents, faculty, and staff. Through the program, parents learn important information about cyberbullying. For instance, they learn how quickly and easily predators can contact children online. Parents also learn about cell phone apps, such as SnapChat, and video chat programs, like Omegle, often used for predatory grooming. Additionally, parents learn how to respond if predators approach their children as well as the signs that this has happened. The program similarly educates school faculty and staff. Additionally, according to Alabama Today, faculty training includes “how to develop policies that address the issues before they start.”
Screen Monitoring Can Prevent Tragedy in Alabama Schools
In order to protect students’ mental health, schools should consider installing screen monitoring software on school computers. This technology detects instances of cyberbullying. However, it also helps schools know when individual, grade-level, or school-wide intervention regarding mental health is necessary. When installed on school computers, screen monitoring programs like LearnSafe detect mentions of depression, suicidal ideation, and self-harm. This helps schools intervene before a tragedy occurs – which can save student lives. In one case, LearnSafe’s Digital Safety Representatives noted that a student expressed an intent to self-harm. LearnSafe immediately notified the school safety team, who were able to give this student the help they needed. Additionally, LearnSafe offers tele-health services to help students who may be suffering. With LearnSafe, schools can protect their students’ mental health by quickly getting students the help that they need.