February 7, 2017 by HCDE-Texas
Today is Safer Internet Day, part of a global drive to raise awareness about internet safety issues and to promote safe, responsible use of the internet, especially for young people. As educators, we play a vital role in equipping youth with the skills to manage their internet use confidently, creatively and responsibly. Many teachers and parents are already aware that the internet can present unique safety challenges – chief among them the threat of cyberbullying.
According to the i-SAFE foundation, more than half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyberbullying. This remarkably common safety threat can take many forms, from spreading rumors through social media to circulating unflattering or suggestive pictures via text. While it can be tempting to turn a blind eye to these practices and stick with a “kids will be kids” approach, the reality is that cyberbullying can be highly detrimental to a student’s psychological wellbeing. In the worst case scenario, it can be deadly.
Talk to your students about cyberbullying and share these tips on how they can be better citizens of the internet and avoid falling victim to online harassment.
- Don’t respond. If someone bullies you, remember that your reaction is usually exactly what the bully wants. It gives him or her power over you. Who wants to empower a bully?
- Don’t retaliate. Getting back at the bully turns you into one and reinforces the bully’s behavior. Help avoid a whole cycle of aggression.
- Talk to a trusted adult. You deserve backup. It’s always good to involve a parent but – if you can’t – a school counselor usually knows how to help. Sometimes both are needed. If you’re really nervous about saying something, see if there’s a way to report the incident anonymously at school.
- Be civil. Even if you don’t like someone, it’s a good idea to be decent and not sink to the other person’s level. Also, research shows that gossiping about and trash talking others increases your risk of being bullied. Treat people the way you want to be treated.
- Be a friend, not a bystander. Watching or forwarding mean messages empowers bullies and hurts victims even more. If you can, tell bullies to stop or let them know harassment makes people look stupid and mean. If you can’t stop the bully, at least try to help the victim and report the behavior.
On Wednesday, April 19, HCDE’s Center for Safe and Secure Schools will host a Cyberbullying workshop. Melissa Rangel, bilingual case manager for the Texas Center for the Missing, will focus on enhancing communication between parents and children about online safety. Learn more and register online today.
–Ecomet Burley, director, Center for Safe and Secure Schools, Harris County Department of Education