Bullying in schools is not a recent phenomenon. According to statistics from the National Center for Education , 1 in 5 students report being bullied during the school year. While COVID-19 took schools online, it didn’t stop bullying. Cyberbullying has been found to be more harmful than traditional bullying since it isn’t restricted to a single location. It makes students vulnerable both in school and at home. Therefore, educators need to be vigilant in creating a safe digital environment for all students.
Unfortunately, some people view bullying as merely teasing, and this dismissive attitude can encourage cyberbullies to mount even more vicious attacks. Studies have also shown that victims who are bullied at school may become perpetuators themselves, retaliating with similar bullying tactics against the person who bullied them or against a person who is weaker than them. Sujung Cho, a criminology and criminal justice professor at Southern Illinois University, found there is an overlap between those who were victims of bullying and those who have become bullies themselves. As they continue to bully others, they may become desensitized to the pain they cause.
There are certain steps that can be taken to ensure that students are not bullied:
Enforce Netiquette: Establishing “Internet etiquette” is crucial to setting behavior expectations for your students in digital spaces. Just like schools have rigorous policies for a safe learning environment, stringent policies on online safety and communication must be developed and enforced.
Mentor: A mentoring program between students and trusted adults can provide support for cyberbullying victims. A mentor can offer support and guidance, and help students academically, emotionally and socially.
Report: All educational institutions must have a mechanism by which students, faculty or staff members who feel bullied can report the occurrence. Schools should also have a formal policy and procedure for investigating incidents of bullying or cyberbullying.
Training: When people don’t step in to help in bullying situations, victims can feel isolated, rejected and demoralized. Workshops and training can help staff members develop appropriate strategies to intervene in bullying situations.
Cyberbullying is a systemic issue and cannot be eliminated by the actions of just one person. Raising awareness of this behavior can reduce the incident rate. We must take every step to ensure that our students feel safe and that no one is bullied or harassed online. To create a harmonious and trusting learning environment, leaders must ensure that the school environment meets ethical standards and that everyone’s rights and privacy is safeguarded.