The advancements in technology have been tremendously beneficial. These wonderful improvements in technology present new challenges for school administrators, however. Twitter, Facebook, blogs and etc. are constantly frequented and used by numerous K-12 students. School administrators must handle problems that occur on Facebook and Twitter, which largely occur while students aren’t at school. Many students across the nation are engaging in cyberbullying, primarily through Facebook and Twitter. Administrators already have a difficult job of preventing and responding to disciplinary problems that transpire on their campuses; now, they have to think critically about how to address cyberbullying that takes place off-campus.
Social media employed wisely and purposely proves to be valuable. Unfortunately, too many students use Facebook and Twitter as vehicles for intimidation, hate and aggression.
Cyberbullying is a phenomenon that cannot be simply addressed by administrators—it requires a collective effort. Parents must do a better job of monitoring their children’s online activities. It’s not a matter of functioning as “Big Brother” toward your children; it’s a matter of committed parenting. If you deeply love your children, you will be concerned about how they behave in all spaces, including online. When parents discover their children are involved in cyberbullying, they need to contact administrators immediately, and they need to take all necessary steps to end cyberbullying.
Students who are interested in maintaining safe schools need to report cyberbullying when they witness it. Let administrators know when you see activities on Facebook and Twitter that constitute bullying. If you’re being bullied online, let your parents and school administrators know. Don’t wait until the bullying gets out of control to inform your parents and school administrators. You should let them know that you’re being bullied when it first begins.
Your life could depend on you mustering the courage to disclose with your parents and school administrators that you’re being bullied.
If you’re not being bullied online, don’t encourage others to bully people. Laughing at others who are being bullied is a form of participating and encouraging bullying. Bullies like attention and when you laugh at what they do, they feed off of your laughter and increase in their intensity.
While it’s important for school administrators to be proactive about cyberbullying, they must understand that they cannot react (or overreact) to everything that’s reported. It’s not wise to address every ephemeral argument between students on Facebook and Twitter.
More research should be devoted to helping school administrators to fight cyberbullying. A national think tank composed of administrators, teachers, students, legislators, law enforcement officials, counselors, psychologists, and etc. should be convened to discuss cyberbullying and to establish best practices for combating it. Scholars need to engage in more research that helps school administrators better respond to cyberbullying. In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shootings, we must learn valuable lessons about how we have to do a better job of preventing tragedies from happening at our schools. We will never end all tragedies from occurring, but this does not mean that we shouldn’t do all we can to prevent the ones we’re able to thwart. If we see the potential of bullying taking place online that could lead to something drastic, we all have a responsibility to do what we can to stop it.
Although the current national discourse about school safety is predominantly focusing on guns, let’s be sure to place a high priority on cyberbullying, especially cyberbullying on Facebook and Twitter.
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison