Like a mutating virus, cyberbullying is constantly erupting in new and unpredictable forms to foil attempts to eradicate it. Some of the latest, most publicized outbreaks of cyberbullying have occurred on new social media apps like Yik Yak and Whisper.
Yik Yak, which allows for anonymous posting by users within a 10-mile-radius area, and Whisper, a secret-sharing app, are the latest tools for malicious gossip, denigration and harassment. Their anonymous nature makes it even more difficult and frustrating to deal with cyberbullying incidents. Many schools have moved to ban use of Yik Yak and other apps and some developers have worked with school officials to keep their potentially damaging social media tools out of the hands of K-12 students.
What can you do besides throw up your hands and resign yourself to random acts of social media terrorism? It’s important to remain vigilant and maintain a proactive stance.
Below are 6 basic steps you should take to protect your school and students from some of the more familiar forms of cyberbullying and to provide a first line of defense against emerging forms of bullying. Make sure you cover these bases and remain attuned to changes in social media use.
- Update your acceptable use policy to specifically prohibit use of your school internet for bullying. Your policy should detail and define cyberbullying and describe the negative consequences of the behavior. Add a provision on disciplining students for cyberbullying conducted away from school if the bullying adversely affects the safety and well-being of other students.
- Educate students and parents. School counselors should collaborate with classroom teachers to provide classroom guidance for students on appropriate internet use. Lessons on cyberbullying should be integrated into the school’s curriculum.
- Establish a school-wide cyberbullying task force to develop and implement an anti-cyberbullying program. Include parents and community leaders on the task force as they are critical allies in reducing bullying behavior.
- Build a relationship with the local police department. Invite “cybercops” to school to speak to parents and students on proper internet use. Coordinate the message with other schools in the district so that students get consistent guidance as they move through grade levels and among schools.
- Create a school climate in which students feel comfortable going to an adult to report any form of cyberbullying.
- If you are aware of a cyberbullying incident, document all evidence and follow district policies.
“Cyberbullying: Six things administrators can do”, by Kate Simmons and Yvette Bynum, Education, 2014, Volume 134, Number 4, pp. 452-456.