As part of our Digital Citizenship program the first module focuses on cyberbullying. The staff has been trained by Mr. Watson, our IT Director, and special guest Mr. Ed Moakler, Symantec Partner, in the curriculum and implementation of this important topic. During Homeroom yesterday, January 14th, and on February 6th, students will participate in a training and then be assessed on it to ensure that students retain the important content and skills discussed. As stated, the January 14th topics were the appropriate use of social media and cyberbullying. The February 6th training will focus on plagiarism and internet content integrity. We hope that your student comes home and speaks with you about the content and skills learned through each module. Know that we welcome your input and observations; and, we will present the curriculum, skills, and extra resources to parents at our February SFPA General Meeting.
What's the Issue?
Cyberbullying is the use of digital media tools, such as the Internet and cell phones, to deliberately humiliate and harass others, oftentimes repeatedly. Though most teens do not do this, those who do are often motivated by a desire for power, status, and attention - and their targets are often people they are competing with for social standing. Cyberbullies often take advantage of the Web's anonymity to antagonize someone without being recognized.
Cyberbullying can take a variety of forms, such as harassing someone, impersonating someone, spreading rumors, or forwarding embarrassing information about a person. A bully's mean-spirited comments can spread widely through instant messaging (IM), phone texting, and by posts on social networking sites. This can happen rapidly, with little time for teens to cool down between responses. And it can happen anytime-at school or at home-and oftentimes it involves large groups of teens.
Why Does It Matter?
Cyberbullying is similar to face-to-face bullying, but online tools magnify the hurt, humiliation, and social drama in a very public way. Whether it's creating a fake Facebook or MySpace page to impersonate a fellow student, repeatedly sending hurtful text messages and images, or spreading rumors or posting cruel comments on the Internet, cyberbullying can result in severe emotional and even physical harm.
And though anyone can spot bullying behavior in the real world, it's much more difficult to detect it in the online world. Sometimes an entire social circle will get involved, and then it becomes harder for an individual teen to disengage from it. In fact, whole groups of teens may be actively or passively participating, and the target can feel that it is impossible to get away from the bullies. In addition, hurtful information posted on the Internet is extremely difficult to remove, and millions of people can see it.
The following tips can help you recognize the warning signs of cyberbullying and serve as a guide for talking to your teens about preventing it.
What Families Can Do
You seem down. What's going on at school? Is anything upsetting happening online?
I'm here for you and so are your friends. Talk to me anytime.
Are there any teachers at school who have dealt with these kinds of situations before? I think you should tell one of them about what's been happening.
Bullies want attention, power, and status, which explains why they need to cause drama.
I saw a news story about a teen who was bullied online. What would you do in that situation?
Common sense says
Recognize context. Cyberbullying is often not thought of as "cyberbullying" to the teens involved. Even though an incident has a history, a story, and nuance, rather than referring it as "cyberbullying," try the words "digital cruelty," "abuse," or "being mean" online.
Help teens understand when behavior crosses the line. Help your teen tune into his or her own feelings. If they feel emotionally or physically scared, it's time to get help.
Encourage empathy. Help teens understand the detrimental impact of cyberbullying on people who are targeted, now and later in life. Encourage them to listen to targets and to become their allies.
Be realistic. Teens have their own social dynamics that often don't include parents, so helping them directly may be difficult. Encourage teens to find friends or other trusted adults to help them through the situation, even if it's not you. Websites are often slow to respond, if they respond at all, but reporting an incident to a website administrator can be an empowering step.
Remember that your teen might be the bully. Teens can take different roles in cyberbullying at different times. A teen who is cyberbullied might turn around and cyberbully someone else to feel powerful again. Ask questions to understand what role or roles your teens are playing.
Tell them to disengage. Encourage your teens to ignore and block the bully, and even log off the computer for a while. Point out that cyberbullies are often just looking for attention and status, so don't let them know that their efforts have worked.
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