Published : 24 April, 2019 | Last Modified : 25 May, 2021 | Mental Health
Cyberbullying in schools has become a serious challenge for both educators and parents alike. With students spending more time online, the number of cyberbullying incidents reported has shot up.
In a study conducted by NSPCC (National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children) in 2016, there was an 88 percent increase in cyberbullying incidents among school-going children.
“Where geographical distance once made homes and other private places safe havens, it’s harder to get away from bullies in a constantly connected world. Many kids who face in-person bullying also have to deal with online bullying even when they’re not in the physical presence of their bully.”
School administrators are grappling with this new threat in an increasingly challenging environment that’s demanding additional resources – manpower, technology, processes – to keep students safe, while budgets are being cut.
So, how to stop cyberbullying in schools?
We put together this comprehensive guide on cyberbullying to help make sense of this issue and document strategies to identify and prevent cyberbullying in schools.
Bullying as a practice has always been around and cyberbullying is not very different from bullying except the latter takes place over a digital medium.
The surge in the use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the introduction of virtual classrooms in schools such as Google classrooms and Moodle has made it necessary for students to be active online. These channels of communication also provide opportunities for students to harass, threaten or embarrass their peers online.
Cyberbullying includes creating, sending and sharing negative, harmful or false content about someone else online. Texts, audios, videos, and images are used as a means to harass others in private or public.
Private cyberbullying happens through text messages and chats on social media or online games; whereas, the open comment sections in popular social media networks like YouTube or Facebook provides an opportunity for bullying others publicly.
You may wonder what makes cyberbullying more dangerous than bullying.
1. Any information on the internet can rapidly spread over social media and reach millions. This makes it harder for the victim to carry on with their day-to-day life.
2. Unlike bullying, a cyberbullying victim finds it difficult to go to a safer place online. Even if victims change their social media accounts, attackers can easily track them down and harass them again.
3. It is very difficult to remove pictures, videos, and comments used to bully someone online. Online bullying victims have to deal with repeated taunts long after the incident.
4. Perpetrators can easily mask their identity behind a gadget. This makes it very difficult for school administrators and parents to find the attacker or stop the harassments.
In 2016, a survey conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Centre found that nearly 2.57 million students in the age group 12–17 in the US skipped classes at some point in time due to cyberbullying in schools.
The survey found that children who were bullied online were also bullied physically at school.
A 2015 research conducted by Dr. Sameer Hinduja and Justin Patchin in a US school found that 34.4 percent of the students were cyberbullied at least once in their lifetime, while 21 percent of students reported that they were cyberbullied more than once in the past 30 days.
When asked about specific types of cyberbullying in schools within the last 30 days, ‘rumors spread online (19.4%)’ and ‘mean or hurtful comments (12.8%)’ continue to be among the most commonly cited ones.
When schools and parents refuse to act on cyberbullying or remain unaware of this issue, the results are not pretty.
It’s clear from these incidents that school administrators and parents cannot remain on the sidelines and have to take decisive steps to stop cyberbullying in schools. School administrators should implement effective cyberbullying solutions to reduce and prevent such incidents.
Unlike bullying, cyberbullying in schools is a difficult problem to manage. There are limitations to what schools can monitor, technical challenges in flagging incidents of cyberbullying, as well as understanding the nuances of detecting cyberbullying in schools.
Cyberbullying can happen within the school network or outside. School administrators are constrained by what they can do to control cyberbullying outside the school network. Parents have a role to play, however, there are privacy issues, and parents may not have access to their children’s online accounts.
Without specialized tools and technologies, it’s impossible for school administrators to monitor content on their school network. Students even use shared cloud folders, emails, and chats to get away with cyberbullying. Considering the large volume of data that schools administer within their networks, schools cannot effectively control cyberbullying without sophisticated tools.
It is quite difficult to find whether a derogatory comment on a student’s post is really cyberbullying or an insider joke. Cyberbullying is a series of repeated harassments over the internet. Many see only fragments of these harassments. For example, if one saw a rude comment on someone’s post, it’s easy for an online bystander to dismiss it as a one-time incident. They might not see the sequence of harassments that span other social networks. There are also chances for mistaking an insider joke between two people as cyberbullying.
The increase in incidents of cyberbullying in schools has forced the Government to take the necessary steps to tackle this problem.
There are laws that cover cyberbullying both inside and outside the school campus.
There are different types of cyberbullying:
Flaming is the posting of sensitive or embarrassing content on someone’s social media page or writing rude comments for their posts. This type of cyberbullying comes out of anger and usually contains obscene language.
Flaming can easily escalate into physical fights.
Spreading bad rumors and gossip about a person through online media is called denigration. Such an action can come out of an inferiority complex or a feeling of authority.
A denigration is usually an act of revenge for reasons such as being bullied or for not being let into a group.
Sometimes the perpetrator hacks into the targeted victim’s account or creates a fake account with the victim’s information and sends messages in their name. This is also called identity theft and is a crime. Impersonation is usually done to degrade a person or ruin friendships.
The perpetrators blackmail or trick the victim through texts or emails into doing things against their will or force them to reveal secrets about their close friends. In order to prevent the bullies from leaking their personal information online, the victim is forced to comply with their demands.
An outing is when someone who pretends to be a friend reveals private and personal information online about victims to embarrass them in front of their peers.
This type of cyberbullying is slightly different from denigration. In denigration, they spread false rumors, whereas in outing they reveal an embarrassing truth about the victim online.
Cyberstalking is the constant monitoring of someone through their social media accounts and keeping a tab on their daily activities with a motive to either harm the person, create fear in the victim, seek sexual advancements, or for revenge.
Self-cyberbullying is the practice of sending abusive and hurtful messages about themselves from fake accounts. Teens indulge in self-cyberbullying either to get attention or sympathy from others.
This is also a form of self-harm. Some teens who are regularly bullied, self-cyberbully as a means to mentally prepare themselves for real bullying incidents.
Trolling is the act of making hurtful and sarcastic comments about someone or something they did. When an attacker constantly trolls a particular person with the intention of emotionally hurting them, it becomes cyberbullying.
Most online games allow gamers to chat with other players. Some people misuse the chat feature to harass others online.
The study also found that students who are perpetrators or victims of cyberbullying were twice as likely to have been exposed to violent video games. Around 6% of the survey participants also stated that the game design was a major cause of cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying has adverse effects on the mental health of the victims, especially youngsters. It might negatively affect their personal development and confidence.
These are some of the negative effects of cyberbullying:
As shown in the above graph, cyberbullying impacts a student’s self-identity the most. As a result, students may have low self-esteem and low self-confidence. Cyberbullying in schools also has a strong impact on the academic performance of the victims. Their grades begin to plummet as they have difficulty concentrating on their studies and other activities amid the constant bullying. They start avoiding their family and friends and slip into depression, leading to physical ailments as well.
The survey reported a range of negative emotions as a consequence of cyberbullying among LGBT students. These include feeling depressed, embarrassed, and/or anxious about attending school and having suicidal thoughts.
As the effects of cyberbullying are quite devastating for its young victims, it is necessary for the school authorities and parents to identify the victims of cyberbullying and offer necessary support.
Cyberbullying can cause physical harm as well as psychological trauma among students. It is practically impossible for school administrators to identify behavioral changes that can be directly attributed to cyberbullying.
The following behavioral changes will help school administrators and parents to identify possible victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying in schools.
1. Start a mentoring program at school and invite community and business leaders to participate in the program. 2. Develop a school-wide anti-bullying curriculum. 3. Make administrators set strict anti-bullying and anti-cyberbullying rules and ensure that students are aware of the consequences if they fail to comply. 4. Conduct sessions to inform parents about how students misuse technology. 5. Train the school staff on anti-bullying policies and appropriate versus inappropriate technological use. 6. Invite eminent guest speakers to speak with students about cyberbullying and its harmful effects. 7. Make students and parents sign computer contracts at the beginning of each school year, highlighting appropriate and inappropriate uses of school computers and inform them about the consequences of violating the rules. 8. Install firewalls and check systems on school computers to prevent students from visiting inappropriate sites. 9. Subscribe to third-party security applications that will monitor students’ online activity using machine learning technologies. It will flag the school administrators upon finding any objectionable content.
1. Never share your username and password with anyone except your parents. 2. Don’t let people use your phone without your permission. Never let anyone take pictures using your phone without your supervision. 3. Always save unwanted and derogatory messages. Never delete a threatening message; keep it as evidence. 4. Never respond over social media or by text when angry. 5. Always block unwanted calls. 6. Never respond to someone that you don’t know. 7. Don’t just accept anyone as a friend on social networking sites. 8. Use good technological judgment. If it is something you would not say to others in person, then do not say it online either. 9. Remember, there is no anonymity online. Everything is traceable even if deleted. 10. If you are the victim of cyberbullying, always inform an adult. 11. Help your fellow peers speak out against cyberbullying attacks.
1. Set up monitoring systems on your computer. Know what your kids are doing with technology. 2. Have strict house rules on the appropriate usage of internet and cell phone; inform children of the consequences if they violate it. 3. Request the username and password of all emails, accounts, and social networking sites that children are using. Advice your children to never share their password and username with anyone outside the family – even with friends. 4. Set up Google alerts to do periodic internet searches on your children’s friends. You may be surprised by what you find. 5. If your child receives threatening messages, texts, or phone calls, always keep a copy of it for proof. If the harassment continues, report it to the school administrators and local authorities. 6. Have open communication with your kids. Know what’s going on in their life. 7. Respond thoughtfully when your children complain of cyberbullying attacks. Resist the urge to blast out your concerns on your own social media channels. 8. Be vigilant and assertive in letting the cyberbullies know that it is a serious matter. 9. Talk to your children about being upstanders. Discuss the importance of reporting bullying or inappropriate content, even if it doesn’t directly impact your child. Teach them to leave positive comments when others are leaving negative ones, and reach out to those students who are victimized online.
As cyberbullying takes place over digital media, it is important to use technology to flag such incidents. Human monitoring alone cannot stop cyberbullying. School administrators should consider using sophisticated monitoring solutions in their school networks.
A majority of the schools in the US use G Suite. Schools can use G Suite features to detect cyberbullying in their networks. To enable this feature, a policy has to be created in the admin account, wherein school administrators can insert keywords to be detected and flagged.
SysCloud is a security tool that uses machine learning to monitor a domain to flag any content that could point to a possible cyberbullying incident.
Here is an example of how a cyberbullying violation alert appears in the SysCloud threat center.
SysCloud also sends an email after a violation is detected. Here is an example.