Help students of all ages build positive, supportive online communities.

teen looking at her phone

Cyberbullying is a concern for parents, students, and teachers alike. Once kids go online, the chances that they'll encounter mean behavior are quite high. In Common Sense's 2018 study Social Media, Social Life, more than 1 in 10 teen social media users (13 percent) reported having "ever" been cyberbullied, and nearly two-thirds (64 percent) "often" or "sometimes" reported coming across racist, sexist, homophobic, or religious-based hate content in social media.

Lessons on this topic teach students about the effects of digital drama, cyberbullying, and hate speech on both themselves and their larger communities. Students explore how individual actions -- negative and positive, intentional and unintentional -- can affect their peers and others. They're encouraged to take the active role of upstander and build positive, supportive online communities, and they will learn how to cultivate empathy, compassion, and courage to combat negative interactions online.

Even though young kids aren't online yet, early lessons on cyberbullying can easily connect to the social and emotional skill-building that happens during early elementary school. By focusing on empathy and compassion, conversations about cyberbullying can give young kids a foundation for future positive online experiences. For older kids, teachers can help students reflect on their own behavior and build strategies for how to respond when they witness cyberbullying. 

Introduce cyberbullying in your classroom with one of these four essential lessons, each of which can be modified for use in slightly older or younger grades:

Putting a STOP to Online Meanness (Grade 2)

What should you do if someone is mean to you online?

The internet is filled with all kinds of interesting people, but sometimes, some of them can be mean to each other. With this role play, help your students understand why it's often easier to be mean online than in person, and how to deal with online meanness when they see it.

Is It Cyberbullying? (Grade 5)

What is cyberbullying and what can you do to stop it?

Let's face it: Some online spaces can be full of negative, rude, or downright mean behavior. But what counts as cyberbullying? Help your students learn what is -- and what isn't -- cyberbullying, and give them the tools they'll need to combat the problem.

Upstanders and Allies: Taking Action Against Cyberbullying (Grade 7)

How can you respond when cyberbullying occurs?

When cyberbullying happens, everyone involved brings their own perspective to the situation. Help students learn about the importance of empathy, how to consider others' feelings, and how to be an upstander when cyberbullying occurs.

Online Disinhibition and Cyberbullying (Grade 11)

How does online disinhibition sometimes lead to cyberbullying?

Texting and chatting online can sometimes feel just like talking to someone in person, but it's actually pretty different. It's all because of something called the "online disinhibition effect," which makes us more likely to share or communicate differently from how we would in person. Help your students learn to consider this concept before they post, and stop digital drama and cyberbullying before they start.


Erin Wilkey O.

Erin’s work has focused on supporting students, teachers, and families for over a decade. As content director for family and community engagement at Common Sense, she provides parents and caregivers with practical tips and strategies for managing media and tech at home, and supports teachers in strengthening partnerships with families. Prior to her work with Common Sense, Erin taught public high school students and adult English learners in Kansas City. Her time as a National Writing Project teacher consultant nurtured her passion for student digital creation and media literacy. She has bachelor's degrees in English and secondary education and a master's degree in instructional design and technology. Erin loves to knit, read, hike, and bake. But who has time for hobbies with two young kids? In her free time these days, you'll find her hanging out at playgrounds, the zoo, and the beach with her family.