Boost Awareness of Cyber Bullying in Our School
More than ever, kids are using the internet to send mean and threatening emails to other kids, ignore others when they try to send messages, post incriminating blogs, and pose as someone else in chat rooms. Although cyber bullying is relatively new compared to traditional bullying (name-calling, exclusion, prank phone calls, etc.), it is a very serious matter. If administrators are ever going to stop cyber bullying, they first need to increase awareness of it in their schools. Follow these steps to boost awareness of cyber bullying in your school:
Include a section on cyber bullying in the student handbook.
Make the consequences of cyber bullying very clear so students know what will happen if they act inappropriately. Be sure to add a section that outlines the school's right to discipline a student for cyber bullying outside of school if the actions compromise the safety of the victim or have a negative effect on the victim at school.
Host a "cyber bullying awareness week" at school.
Invite guest speakers who are experts on cyber bullying, have students work in groups to create banners about cyber bullying prevention, ask older students who have experienced cyber bullying to speak at an assembly, and plan a different activity for each day of the week.
Tip: For more great ideas about different activities, visit bullyingawarenessweek.org. This website is full of helpful information about bullying that can be adapted to cyber bullying.
Incorporate a discussion about cyber bullying into new-student orientation.
Make students aware that you know about cyber bullying and it will not be tolerated in your school. Be sure to reference the "cyber bullying section" in the student handbook as well.
Make copies of internet safety rules and guidelines and distribute to students.
To make sure each student receives a copy of these documents, attach them to his or her class schedule at the beginning of the school year.
Create an internet safety contract for all students.
Include statements like, "I will not send any mean or insulting messages to anyone online," "I will immediately tell an adult if I receive any inappropriate messages or any information that makes me feel uncomfortable," "I will never give my password to anyone (except my parents)." Ask parents and students to sign and date a copy of the contract, and keep a copy in the student's file at school.
Host at least one cyber bullying seminar for parents every year.
It's important for parents to know and understand cyber bullying. Many of them may not have a clear understanding of what it really means. Bring in community counselors and experts on bullying. In addition, contact your state's attorney general office - some states are now offering free seminars for parents AND students.
Ask teachers to give their students extra credit if his or her parent attends the seminar. Be sure to have a sign-in sheet with a space for the parent name, student name and teacher/class name.
Send our school counselors to at least one cyber bullying training session each year.
It's important to realize that bullying and cyber bullying are quite different, and counselors need to learn how to handle cyber bullying issues effectively.
Download a copy of my state's anti-bullying (and anti-cyber bullying, if available) laws.
Keep several copies available for teachers, counselors, and support staff.
Set up a confidential "tip-line" for reporting cyber bullying.
It can be a drop-box in the main office, a special text code sent to an administrator at school, or an actual phone-in crisis line at school.
Create a "catch-the-kindness" incentive program to reward students for being kind.
This type of system works for kids of all ages, and it encourages them to go out of their way to be kind to others. You can have "catch-the-kindness" forms available in the office, and if someone (a student, teacher, parent, administrator) sees a student do something nice for another person at school, he or she can fill out a form telling the person's name and what he or she did. For younger kids, the reward can be eating lunch with their favorite teacher or extra minutes at recess; for older kids, a homework pass or a certificate to a local movie theater works well.
Fun idea: Make a bulletin board outside the school's office, and each month (or quarter), put a picture of the "catch-the-kindness" students with a brief explanation of how they were kind to another person.
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