Each act of cyberbullying hurts students, disrupts classrooms, and affects your school's culture and community. So how should you handle it? What should you do or say? And what can you do today that will help your students recognize, respond to, and avoid online bullying?
No matter how proactive you are, the reality is that students may still very well witness or experience cyberbullying. Acknowledging this and understanding how to deal with the aftermath is just as important as knowing how you can prevent it.
Changing the culture of how we both prevent and respond to cyberbullying can lead to powerful effects in the larger community. Rather than simply focusing on the consequences after the fact, we must guide students to understand that they have a choice in all their online relationships. They can say something positive or say something mean. They can create great community support around activities or interests, or they can misuse the public nature of online communities to tear others down.
To best help students make the right decisions, it's important that schools and communities understand all facets of cyberbullying and digital drama. Try the strategies and resources below to address and prevent cyberbullying in and out of your classroom.
1. Respond accordingly.
All reports of cyberbullying -- no matter the perceived severity -- should be investigated. To determine the appropriate response, first find out what policies your school has in place to address cyberbullying incidents. For additional guidance on how to respond, refer to this helpful flowchart for schools: Responding to Cyberbullying.
2. Prevent future incidents.
Stop cyberbullying before it happens by tackling the subject head-on. Focus on helping students create positive online communities; learn to identify, respond to, and limit the negative impact of cyberbullying; and recognize their own role in escalating or de-escalating online cruelty. Try these lessons from Common Sense Education to get started:
- For grades K–5: Screen Out the Mean, The Power of Words, Super Digital Citizen, What's Cyberbullying?
- For grades 6–8: Digital Drama Unplugged, Upstanders and Allies, Responding to Online Hate Speech
- For grades 9–12: Turn Down the Dial on Cyberbullying, Taking Perspectives on Cyberbullying, Becoming a Web Celeb
3. Empower students to be "upstanders."
"Upstanders" are those who aren't directly involved in a cyberbullying incident but who step in to help anyway. They empathize with the targets of cyberbullying and do something about it. As teachers, it's important to aid students in thinking about the important role they can play when it comes to cyberbullying and digital drama. Assist your students in becoming upstanders with these resources:
- Grades K–5: Help young students learn how to be safe, responsible, and respectful online and offline with the Pause & Think video and free classroom poster.
- Grades 6–12: Let students explore how to recognize and respond to cyberbullying with this free downloadable tip sheet for middle and high school students (also available in Spanish).
4. Get parents involved.
We know that for parents and caregivers, cyberbullying and digital drama can be both confusing and worrying. Help families start thinking about these topics by exploring Common Sense Education's printable Family Tips on cyberbullying. You can also share articles, videos, and Q&As in a classroom newsletter, on your school's website or social feed, or at your next parent event.
A version of this article originally appeared on Teaching Channel.