Technology has evolved to the point where it is a part of every single aspect of our lives, so it will inevitably become increasingly prevalent in our schools. It is vital that we consider the implications of of this reach as we plan for the safety of our students.
Proactivity is key. The first step we need to take is direct instruction on digital citizenship and cultural sensitivity. It is important that from a very young age, we begin to teach our students how to protect themselves when communicating online and how to be respectful of those we are interacting with. It is important that we begin this education from the time children enter school and continue it into their secondary education.
When web tools are integrated into the classroom, educators must set clear, firm parameters. They must monitor student behavior closely and set up a system for reporting and detecting unacceptable behaviors. Students must be educated about how to get help when they are having a problem, and educators must be responsive and respectful of student concerns, creating a culture where it is safe to get help – and where it is unacceptable to bully.
Cyberbullying is especially impactful because it is not limited to the classroom. Bullies can follow their victims directly into their bedrooms using technology – so that even in once private spaces, children may no longer feel secure and protected. The impact of this is increased when children feel that their parents and teachers do not understand the technology and may not truly understand the problem. Because of this, educators must work tirelessly to stay in touch with current technologies, so that they may be fully prepared to help their students. Additionally, it is important that educators involve parents in this education, communicating about classroom activities, goals and expectations, and offering training and support so that parents are equipped to help their children.
Bullying in all of its forms is isolating and devastating, and Web 2.0 has created countless opportunities for anonymous, pervasive attacks, and educators must take this threat seriously.