Last week I blogged about online reputation management and dealing with damaging online rumors. Both topics are very relevant and a risk that each one of us, from personal brands to major corporations, face today. It’s a serious issue that you need to be prepared for in advance. (For more tips, strategies and insights on how to do so, click here.)
Another related topic to online reputation management and damaging online rumors is cyberbullying and online defamation. It’s a big deal that, besides from potentially ruining brands, leads to a lot of suicides each year – especially of pre-teens and young adults.
In fact, “a study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying”, states BullyingStatistics.org, and “Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.”
We’ve all heard of the tragic case of Amanda Todd, a 15 year old girl who, after years of online torment finally took her life last week, only 1 month after her cry-for-help video was published to YouTube.
Cyberbullying is a real issue that parents, schools and society in general need to be more aware of.
In the past, when you and I were in school, a rumor could take days to circulate throughout the school and the damaging impact it had on the victimized youth was substantial. Today, a rumor can be made global in mere hours – even minutes. And the damaging impact of these awful situations, well, you read the suicide stats above.
So what should schools be doing to better protect their students from such viral bullying? What is their responsibility in the matter?
It’s a little bit different than the topics I usually blog about, but relevant just the same – and an issue that I find deeply troubling. I’ve done some research and below you will find some actions and policies that schools should be putting into place in order to protect their student body from the overwhelmingly damaging impact of cyberbullying. Below that, you will find a list of global resources for schools, parents and anybody else, that can be used as educational resources and policies on the matter, as well as resources for seeking help and guidance from professionals – and hopefully, to help inspire action.
Steps that educational institutions should be taking to protect their student body from cyberbullying
1- Be aware of what is going on in your hallways. Get guidance on what keywords and red flags to pay attention to.
2- Monitor the online activity of students. Randomly check Twitter feeds and have an online monitoring system in place. Empower students on the student council (for example) to take an active role when it comes to keeping their ears open in the hallways and being aware of what is circulating online about other students.
3- Establish awareness-raising and curriculum-based activities. The following was taken from “The nature of cyberbullying, and strategies for prevention“, a paper published by Robert Slonje, Peter K. Smith and Ann Frisén:
“An example of a successful general anti-bullying program is the KiVa program in Finland, which includes computer based classroom activities, and support for victims from high-status peers. Although primarily designed with traditional bullying in mind, evaluations so far show that KiVa is as effective in reducing cyberbullying as it is for a range of traditional forms (Salmivalli, Kärna, & Poskiparta, 2011).”
4- Educate your student body. Hold an annual assembly that focuses on educating students of the repercussions of cyberbullying and providing them with resources of secure places to turn to if they, or someone they know, is a victim of online bullying. “The nature of cyberbullying, and strategies for prevention” states that:
“If the perpetrator does not see the victim, then s/he may have less awareness of the consequences and the effects that their actions are causing [...] without the direct feedback that traditional bullying may offer there may be fewer opportunities for empathy or remorse (Slonje et al., 2012) and therefore the bullying may continue for longer. In our student interviews there were some indications that incidents of cyberbullying did continue for longer periods than incidents of traditional bullying.”
That said, it is very important that schools hold annual assemblies to discuss both the consequences and the impact cyberbullying can and does have on students. This is a great opportunity to showcase real scenarios and the effects of such bullying on peers.
5- Have a cyberbullying / anti-bullying policy and procedures plan and include it on your school’s (or school board’s) website.
6- Educate your staff and train them for detecting the signs of cyberbullying. Make certain that they are aware of what their responsibility is if/when such an incident comes to their attention.
7- Educate parents of the same.
Below are a list of resources for anti-cyberbullying, from different areas around the world
- State Cyberbullying Laws
- Cyberbullying Research Center
- Cyberbullying Legislation and School Policies
Additional Global Resources:
- Born This Way Foundation
- Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace: Cyberpsychology
- The Nature of Cyberbullying, and Srategies for Prevention
Cyberbullying is a serious issue that we are all responsible to defeat when the opportunity presents itself. Don’t stay silent. Help educate your school systems, parents, neighbours – and most importantly, children in need. Please share this post – and if you have additional resources to include, please list them in the comments section below.