Cyberbullying can be hard for parents and educators to spot and even harder on students’ mental health and academic success. Social distancing measures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have forced students to both learn and socialize in online environments, opening them up to the dangers of cyberbullying. In a time when digital communication tools are students’ main platform for learning and staying connected with one another, it’s important that these digital spaces are kept positive and safe.
While you’re teaching students remotely, you can still watch for signs of cyberbullying and support students who are being harassed online. Here are three steps you can take to help prevent cyberbullying in distance learning environments:
- Monitor How Students Communicate and Watch for Signs
In online community spaces such as video calls or discussion boards, notice how students interact with one another. Does it seem like there’s excessive or unwanted attention being drawn to one student? Consider privately contacting that student to check in and make sure they aren’t being harassed.
Parents can also be helpful to watch for at-home signs of cyberbullying, such as social media withdrawal or atypical emotional sensitivity. Provide parents with helpful materials to learn and catch these signs, and ensure your support in the event that any parent suspects their child is being bullied.
- Provide a Safe Space for Students Who Are Being Bullied
It’s important students understand that they don’t have to tolerate bullying and can talk to a trusted adult about what they’re dealing with. Make sure to educate your students about cyberbullying so they know what kind of online behaviors aren’t acceptable and can speak up for themselves or peers who get harassed online.
Suggest safe contacts for students to report online harassment to, including yourself, students’ parents, the school counselor, a trusted friend, or an administrator. Make sure students are aware that cyberbullying is never their fault and that you will do everything you can to protect them if they’re being bullied online. Also, encourage students to speak up for their peers who might be experiencing cyberbullying, and assure them anonymity if you can.
- Have a Clear Cyberbullying Policy
Particularly in the digital space, students can feel like they’re invincible—one of the biggest factors of cyberbullying. By creating a clear and assertive cyberbullying policy, you set a standard for online behavior and show students that negative behaviors online receive negative real-life consequences.
This type of policy acts as the ultimate authority in cyberbullying situations, gives students safe channels to report harassment, enables teachers and administrators to act consistently and fairly toward accused bullies, and defines specific and clear consequences for students who participate in cyberbullying.
Even with all of these measures in place, it’s still possible that students might get cyberbullied in private. As parents and educators, our hope is that students will always feel like they can share their struggles with us—including when they’re being bullied—but teens especially can feel embarrassed, ashamed, or afraid to incriminate their peers.
Gaggle Safety Management acts as a safeguard for students who choose not to speak up about cyberbullying, protecting them from harmful content and notifying school or district contacts of mentions of bullying in students’ school-associated accounts. In addition, Gaggle’s SpeakUp for Safety tipline offers students a safe environment to report concerns without feeling as though they will get themselves or their peers in trouble. With these safety measures in place, you can protect students from online harassment that is detrimental to both their mental health and academic success.