Combating Cyberbullying is not a job for just one person. The sheer span of the ways bullies can attack victims online requires vigilance and attention from all adults in a child’s life. Talking about bullying in the classroom can be difficult, as you presumably have a mix of the victims and victimizers in each class, along with people who believe themselves to be untouched by either end of the cyberbullying spectrum. Students do not often like to open up in a group context, but a meaningful discussion on cyberbullying may enable them to speak with you one on one about problems concerning them, leading to a healthier, safer social environment in school and online. Here are some ideas to help you get started. Learn How to Start Talking to Class About CyberBullying!

Talk to the whole class

Never assume that cyberbullying involves just a few specific, seemingly troubled teens. Teenagers are particularly good at covering up things that bother them. Even if students do not believe they engage in some form of cyberbullying, chances are an event has happened online that in one way or another coloured their feelings and behaviour. Cyberbullying affects everyone in a class, not only online, but in how students are treated in school- flame wars and harassment rarely stay in purely the online form.

Identify for teens what cyberbullying is, and what forms it constantly takes place in. Students tend not to realize that certain activities, like excluding and image disseminating, actually are forms of bullying and can do a world of detriment to both the victim and the bully’s self-image. Get the entire class in on the conversation by giving examples and stories of cyberbullying incidents and what can happen when an instance of cyberbullying goes unchecked.

Also, identify both sides of cyberbullying. Explain what the effects are on the victim, as well as what could happen to the perpetrator if caught. Discuss motivation for bullying someone else, and how that bullying could impact life choices down the road.

Make sure every single person in the classroom is hearing you through a series of interactive activities.

Engage the students

Make sure that the discussion of what cyberbullying is and how students can prevent it remains student-focused. Do not lecture them, but rather invite them to effectively change their actions and the actions of their peers. A cyberbullying talk need not be pedantic; you can empower your students to change how people interact online through a series of engaging and effective activities, such as these:

  • Assign a fun research project in which the students get to go online to look for examples of cyberbullying in everyday life. Have the students compare these methods to “traditional” methods of picking on somebody, and have the students reflect on these differences and their possible outcomes
  • Have the students conduct interviews with experts in the fields of psychology, social work, and behavioural science to discuss the impact of cyberbullying on a person’s development. Go over interview etiquette and give the kids a few starter questions to help.
  • Have your students create posters and video PSAs (Public Service Announcements) about what they have learned in their research on cyberbullying. Post them around the school or invite other classes in for a conference.
  • Have your students develop a website or blog that they will moderate in order to promote positive social interaction online.
  • Have your students mentor or teach younger classes about the dangers of cyberbullying. The mentor-mentee relationship empowers your class to feel in control of an issue that may otherwise seem overwhelming or surreal.
  • Have your students start a letter writing campaign. They can write an op-ed to your local newspaper regarding the prevalence of cyberbullying, open letters to bullies about what the effects of their actions are on younger students, or letters to politicians insisting on legislation and assistance in the fight against bullying online and everywhere.
  • Create a pledge campaign. Get tee shirts, buttons, or any paraphernalia you like to promote an anti-bullying campaign. Ask your students to pledge not to engage in online bullying, nor to let others’ actions impact their feelings about themselves and about the world around them.
  • Review your own anti-bullying policy. What measures are already in place at your school? What could use a little work? How can your students implement a more useful anti-bullying policy in their school?

Talking to Class About Cyber Bullying: Follow up!

Do not have anti-bullying be a one-day thing. Rather, create projects that necessitate following ups and progress reports. Use effective means of communicating continually with your students, have talkbacks, and use fun vocab techniques. You can create a crossword puzzle, word find, or word scramble with words like “phishing”, “happy slapping”, and “harassment” in order to better cement the significance of each phrase into the student’s memories. Or, give them a quick quiz for guaranteed attention-getting.

Get the parents involved.

You are not at home with your student, so you cannot protect them 24/7. Send home a memo or newsletter to the parents of your students explaining what your cyberbullying session was on and how they can help. Here are some parent empowerment tips-

  • Monitor the use of your child’s name and image online. Do not allow pictures that are easily compromised or too much information to go on social networking sites or other websites, such as their school, their dance studio or sports team, or community service sites. Also, watch your child’s mobile phone use for inappropriate or worrisome activities.
  • Have an open and honest conversation with your child about online activity and its effects. Let them air out whatever is worrying them in a judgment-free context. If you can, suggest an online support network that may comfort them or understand them better than an older person for additional ability to talk.
  • Set age limits and firewalls. Get tech savvy and find ways to set up protection that your teen cannot override. Make sure the content your child is accessing is appropriate and positive for them.
  • Be aware of who your child is talking to. Ask them questions (non-accusatorially) and give them answers to difficult concepts and more.
  • Teach your kids serenity. Let them know that certain things should not be taken to heart and that cyberbullies are generally not indicators of society as a whole- they should let insults and assaults roll off their backs, when possible.
  • Make it clear to your child that the internet is FOREVER. When something goes online, there is always a record of it. It DOES NOT GO AWAY, so post with care and consideration.

Combating cyberbullying is hard, but with cooperation from parents, teachers, and students, we can create a happy, more secure generation of internet users. Spread the word about Talking to Class About Cyberbullying!