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 cyberbulling in your classroom with one of these four essential lessons:
Screen Out the Mean (Grades K–2)
What can you do when someone is mean to you online?
Students learn that kids sometimes act like bullies when they're online. They explore what cyberbullying means and what they can do when they encounter it. Students first read a scenario about mean online behavior. They then discuss what cyberbullying is, how it can make people feel, and how to respond. Then they use their knowledge to create a simple tip sheet on cyberbullying. Students recognize that it's essential to tell a trusted adult if something online makes them feel angry, sad, or scared.
What's Cyberbullying? (Grades 3–5)
What is cyberbullying, and what can you do to stop it?
Students recognize similarities and differences among in-person bullying, cyberbullying, and being mean through whole-class discussion and a partner pair-share activity. They empathize with the targets of cyberbullying as they read and discuss a specific cyberbullying scenario. Then they identify strategies for dealing with cyberbullying and ways they can be an upstander for those being bullied.
Cyberbullying: Be Upstanding (Grades 6–8)
How do you judge the intentions and impact of people's words and actions online?
Students learn about the difference between being a passive bystander versus a brave upstander in cyberbullying situations. Students reflect on what it means to be brave and to stand up for others. They fill out the "Why Care?" student handout, create a diagram of the players involved, and generate ideas about how bystanders can become upstanders. They then identify concrete solutions for dealing with cyberbullying situations.
Taking Perspectives on Cyberbullying (Grades 9–12)
How does online cruelty affect the people involved?
Students learn about the dynamics of online cruelty and how it affects all the people involved. Students begin by exploring a scenario from the TV show Friday Night Lights, in which a teen girl creates a hate website about another girl. Students take the perspective of different characters and brainstorm alternative decisions each character could have made. Finally, students discuss what actions they can take when they encounter online cruelty in their own lives, including how to be an upstander.
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