Cyber-bullying is, alongside the technology that has spawned it, a relatively new phenomenon. Bullying of any type is harmful and anti-social, and can result in negative outcomes for both the victim as well as the perpetrator - What Are the Effects of Bullying? There are major differences between cyber-bullying and a “traditional” style of bullying:
Previously, the plight of the victim would often only be observed by the bully or a small group of bystanders. Once you were away from the attacker(s), then there would be some sense of relief as you were out of the immediate physical vicinity of the perpetrator. Leaving the playground and heading home would offer some respite from the actions of a bully.
However, technology has allowed greater scope and more chance for attack. Phone text messages, digital photographs, hate-sites, blog posts and any other types of digital media can be manipulated at any time; in effect it is possible to be a target 24 hours a day. Just going offline has no real effect, as the internet can be used to post images or words immediately, to a worldwide audience. This information is considerably more difficult to erase than words graffiti-ed onto a desk or wall.
The impact of this on young people can be severe and long lasting. It is for these reasons that cyber-bullying should be taken very seriously by educators. We need to ensure that our students are taught about this, from the time they start to actively and routinely integrate technology into their everyday life. Many students may be actually unsure of what constitutes cyber bullying; to some it may be just a “bit of fun”. We need to make sure that if a student ever finds themselves being targeted, that they understand what they should do to deal with the issue. There are a number of steps that can be taken, to Prevent cyberbullying. This may include the importance of keeping a record of any text or message, which would allow the identity of the bully to be determined, and action to be taken. There are also helpful internet resources that can be shown to students.
As teachers we can work together to prevent this type of abuse from becoming a part of the school culture. In the past, bullies could often continue to terrorize others, because to confront them would have meant “catching them in the act”. With technology, it is possible to track comments or texts to their source. It is our job to ensure that our students know this, and know it from early on. The key will be to integrate this important topic successfully into an already packed academic, cultural, sporting and social calendar.
Our Middle School AUP regarding cyber-bullying reads as follows:
"Cyber-bullying is not tolerated at ISB. ISB becomes involved when student’s online activities impact at-school life and community. In other words, if the actions of students outside of school have an effect on students feeling unsafe or uncomfortable at school, then ISB administration will act and remedy this. Additionally, if members of ISB staff or its community are targeted, then the school administration will get involved."
This means that if online activities away from school, on personal computers, negatively impact members of the ISB community, then action can be taken by ISB. While this may be some kind of deterrent, I believe that it is important for the school to also take a pro-active approach by educating all students about cyber-bullying.