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Technology & Bullying in Schools

Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years and has a focus on special education and urban education. She received her Master's degree in teaching from Simmon's College and her Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology.

In this lesson, you'll learn how technology is used in school bullying. After the lesson, you'll be able to describe what cyberbullying is, how it becomes a problem, and interventions the school can take to prevent and mediate bullying situations.

What Is Cyberbullying?

You're teaching a high school math class. As you start the lesson, Jimily comes in late. The whole class starts to snicker, and several students take out their phones. On social media, people have been posting embarrassing photos of Jimily and harassing her about her sexual orientation. As Jimily cries to you about the situation, it's clear this isn't a new problem. You wonder how this could have escaped the notice of the school staff for so long.

Jimily's problem is, unfortunately, common in schools, especially middle school and high school. This type of harassment is called bullying through technology, or cyberbullying. Bullying occurs when there is an imbalance of power between two people, and the person with more power uses it to emotionally or physically abuse the other. Cyberbullying is different from physical bullying because it uses technology, such as computers, phones, social media, texts, and e-mail. This type of bullying can be quite insidious and go unnoticed by staff, since all the harassment usually occurs online.

Bullying through technology can be hard to detect by school staff.
cyberbullying

Types of Cyberbullying

Unfortunately, 24/7 access to the Internet provides a forum for abuse that can carry on during all hours of the day and night. While bullying in person is dangerous, it is confined to when the two people are together. It's hard to avoid cyberbullying, since it goes on anytime, anywhere.

Social media provides a forum for bullying that can go on at any time.
social media

One way that cyberbullying happens through technology is through posting pictures. Sometimes, teenagers send 'sexts', messages with explicit sexual language or sexual pictures of themselves. Even in applications where the pictures quickly disappear, a screenshot is all it takes to put this damaging information on social media for anyone to see.

Bullies might also combine cyberbullying with physical bullying. During physical harassment, such as a fight between the bully and the victim, the event might be filmed. Again, with social media, the bullying is available for the entire world to see, which increases the feelings of shame and fear in the victim.

Bullies can also publicly display their emotional harassment of a victim. Instead of teasing at school in front of a limited audience, technology puts the bullying on display for the whole world. This can wear away at a person's self esteem and eventually cause severe depression and anxiety.

Causes

It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the bully is just a bad person. As educators, however, we know that all children are able to learn and have inherently good traits in them. The truth is that bullies are often traumatized themselves. The need to exert power over another person stems from unmet emotional or physical needs, often at home. Bullies may be sexually or physically abused, have mental health issues, or suffer from addiction. It's important to remember the humanity of bullies and find the underlying causes of the behavior when deciding on a course of action.

Prevention

Fortunately, there are some ways to help prevent cyberbullying in your school. The first way is to create a positive school culture. Students should feel valued, accepted, and safe at school. Positive behavior and academic interventions celebrate student success and help students recognize their personal and cognitive growth. When students see that their contributions and work are valued, they are more likely to feel like they belong to a community and want to be active members in it.

Staff can help promote this type of culture by creating awareness about cyberbullying. Students should understand the harmful nature of cyberbullying, as well as reasons that bullies act the way they do. Staff can implement an anonymous tip system where students can safely let staff know that bullying is happening. Students who are being bullied through technology should know to document the bullying, but not to engage. Having a clear school protocol about bullying can help stop bullying before it gets out of control.

Raising awareness about cyberbullying can build a positive school culture.
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