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4 ways to prevent cyberbullying

Friday 16th June is Stop Cyberbullying Day. Here are 4 tips for teachers, pupils and parents to help prevent cyberbullying.

Often the burden to prevent cyberbullying falls on teachers, so how can schools work to create a safe environment, with healthy student relationships?

1. Train staff - teachers, assistants, support and office teams

Learning about the signs and effects of cyberbullying is the first place to start. With students glued to their phones, online abuse is constant. It doesn’t stop when school finishes, or when a child is at home, and with many students feeling adults just won’t understand what they are experiencing, it is often hidden.

The Signs

Cyberbullying shares some signs of traditional bullying: isolated, withdrawn children with reduced participation and confidence in the classroom. If a pupil is experiencing online abuse, you may see:

•  A change in how frequently they use their devices.
A student who normally keeps their phone in their bag may start using it more often. Or a student who is always on their phone may stop using it as much.
•  Pupils hiding their screens
This counts for victims of cyberbullying, and bullies. A student could start hiding their screen – because they feel ashamed, or because they don’t want to get in trouble.
•  A visible change in demeanour after being online
This could be any device including during classes that use online resources. Children experiencing cyberbullying are vulnerable with any use of the internet. If the child is being actively bullied, they will seem upset, angry or withdrawn. If they aren’t actively bullied during these online sessions, they’ll still be highly anxious that they may be targeted again.

You can find out more about the different types of cyberbullying here.  A content monitoring tool could also be a great way to help flag whether a student has undertaken any concerning online activity to suggest that they are being cyberbullied.

2. Refresh your anti-bullying policy

If it isn’t already, Cyberbullying should be included in your anti-bullying policy. Students will know clearly what will happen if the rules are broken. This not only helps deter cyberbullying, but supports current victims, showing that something will be done to stop it.

Each school will need specific measures in place based on their individual needs. To check whether your school’s current anti-bullying policy is effective – you can:

•  Hold an anonymous survey
Find out what your students know about cyberbullying and find out whether they have experienced it themselves.
•  Ask parents
The majority of a student’s screen time occurs outside of school. Reach out through updates to parents, requesting they regularly monitor their child’s  device use and asking if they’ve seen signs of cyberbullying.

Once you’ve updated your anti-bullying policy, set up a plan of action to make improvements to ensure it is fit-for-purpose moving forward. Your policies may require changes based on the type of online bullying that’s happening.

Discussion between the victim and the bully should encourage empathy and understanding. Severe or recurring bullying should be met with a stricter approach.

prevent cyberbullying

3. Encourage a positive environment and community

Many cyberbullying victims aren’t comfortable talking to anyone about what they’re experiencing. Bullies work to isolate them from their family and peers, making it harder for them to reach out for help.

Teachers can help break this cycle by creating a class community, where each student is recognised for their strengths. Team exercises are a great way to foster friendship between different groups – try creating tasks that need a range of different skills so each student can shine:

  • •  Assign a class scribe or illustrator to highlight artistic students
  • • Lively, confident students could act out parts of the lessons, or present to the class
  • •  Is one student very organised? They could help plan class rotas and activities.

The key point is that each pupil feels appreciated and important. This can be tough in a class of 30 students, which is why group and team based activities are ideal. 

Once a healthy environment has been established, an open dialogue can begin:

  • •  Discuss cyberbullying in class between students and classmates
  • •  Change groups around. If cyberbullying is happening, this gives a chance for any victims to discuss with friends offline, away from the bullies
  • •  Have an open door policy for students to discuss issues with teachers, or an anonymous contact box by the door

Take a look at our article all about how to encourage conversation about online safety with your students.

Cybersmile has some fantastic resources, including learning programmes for different age groups and a toolkit for students wanting to help prevent cyberbullying.

4. Involve outsider aid if appropriate

Sometimes cyberbullying can be dealt with internally, between the victim and the bully, discussing and understanding the impact of their actions. If this doesn’t solve the issue, you may need to involve people from outside the school:

•  Parents
The first port of call will always be the pupils’ parents. As mentioned above, a key step is to educate parents about the signs of cyberbullying. But what should they do when it’s been identified? Parents can help their children avoid bullying online by starting conversations about internet use – what do they do online? Get parents to go through some key advice:
– Privacy settings
Social media sites are frequently updating privacy settings to try protect people from being bullied online. Including stopping messages from strangers, blocking users, or even limiting it to people they consider ‘close friends’.
– Collect evidence
A challenge to prevent cyberbullying is a lack of evidence. Some features on social media apps like Snapchat and Instagram stories disappear after a limited time. Encourage children to take a screenshot of any abusive activities or comments. ‘Resharing’ apps for social media can also help students download any videos.
•  Counsellors
The aftermath of bullying can be messy, and could affect personal and academic progress for a student. Victims can talk to Councillors about the effect their experience has had on their self esteem and work on healing, while bullies could uncover the underlying cause, which lead them to bully their peers.
•  Community support/Police officers
Sometimes bullying can be extreme, including illegal activities like hate speech, harassment, and releasing explicit images. For these cases, the situation will be required to be reported to the authorities – This can be done by dialling 101.

In short

The best way to prevent cyberbullying is by staying connected. Talking to teachers, students and parents helps keep lines of communication open, so instances of online bullying can be reported quickly and dealt with efficiently. Try using the resources below to raise awareness in your school.

Cybersmile Education Programme – a series of modules covering the different aspects of cyberbullying and its effects

The Changemaker Toolkit – A document helping teenagers prevent cyberbullying in an active way online

Cybersmile Education Resources – Links learning programmes for different age ranges 

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