It’s November, which brings with it not only the falling of the leaves and Fireworks Night, but also Anti Bullying Week from the 16th to the 20th of November. It’s important that, as a teacher, you not only help deal with bullying from an authoritative perspective but also help teach students how to act when confronted by intimidating behaviour. Cyberbullying in particular is an ever-growing problem, with social networks and email offering semi-anonymous tools for pupils to talk about one another, or even upload private footage and images. Here are our top tips for reducing cyberbullying in your school.
The most dangerous thing about the internet is its permanence. Although you can pull down files or request they’re removed once they’ve been shared, it can be impossible to prevent a video or image from spreading everywhere. The internet has a rather unfortunate habit of being almost spitefully efficient at making sure that, if something is requested to be taken down, it is then shared even more.
To avoid having to request the removal of images or videos it’s best to prevent them being created in the first place. Make sure teachers and students are protected from the ever-present glare of the camera lens by blanket banning the use of the smartphone cameras in lessons. Try to enforce a policy of discouragement: don’t film things or take photos unless you absolutely feel you have to, and certainly don’t film people without their permission. If you feel you can enforce it, ban these activities altogether. While it can be fun to take a selfie at break time, once uploaded to the internet anybody can access those images, and an embarrassing moment can end up lasting a lifetime.
Try to explain to students how they should treat the internet like any other public place. Would you be happy if a stranger saw that photo? Do you want strangers to know your name or where you are? If your students have had a “stranger danger” style lesson emphasise to them that the same rules should apply online.
But more specifically, make sure that students are aware that by sharing and commenting on pictures or videos being used in cyberbullying attacks they are contributing to cyberbullying’s effects. If you see something you believe to be either putting someone at risk or humiliating them, let someone you trust know and do not engage with the content.
If a pupil ends up being cyberbullied their first instinct might be to delete the hurtful messages. It’s important you encourage them not to. If students keep the messages, they have evidence of the bullying as well as important details such as when they received the messages, from what source they came and the form the bullying is taking. All of this can be vital in helping both find the perpetrator and prevent future bullying by the same means. Even if the bully uses a false name, messages can be traced back to email addresses and IP addresses – especially while connected to the school network.
Teach pupils how to block people who are abusing them on any social networks they might be using. It’s important to make sure that pupils are aware that blocking and ignoring are not the same thing, and that blocking shouldn’t be the end of dealing with a cyberbully. That said, a constant stream of abuse is unpleasant and should not be tolerated.
On social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter there are built in blocking features for exactly this reason, and they’re very simple to use. Blocking people in this way is important, as not only does it prevent hurtful comments from badgering the bullied pupil but it also removes the ability and itch to respond to the comments and cause further spiraling out of control of the situation. Bullies want a rise, and ignoring them, while not completely dealing with the issue, means they cannot get the satisfaction they’re looking for.
These are just some of the basic tips we think can help you create a safer school environment online. Throughout the month, we’ll be providing you with more help about how you can help tackle bullying in your school. We’re even launching a safety shield button in School Jotter, which we’ll be talking about next week so stay tuned.