Violence Prevention

Cyberbullying and Student Safety

Cyberbullying

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

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Domestic Violence Ends Where Good Parenting Begins

One of my Facebook friends and loyal readers, Ginnie Ann Daniels, inspired me to pen this present piece about how good parenting can eliminate domestic violence. Ginnie taught her children at an early age about how not to abuse others and those values have persisted throughout their lives. Children are very impressionable. What you do and say to a child can stay with him or her a lifetime. We all know that the horrible things that you say to your child can be very damaging, but we need to know that the positive things that we say to children can last them a lifetime. If we educate our female and male children that it is an abominable thing to engage in abusing others, then we can make significant progress toward ending domestic violence. You have to educate your children about not engaging in any type of violence if we are to end domestic violence. We have to teach children that violence is not simply physical, but it can be mental and emotional. You don’t have to lay your hands on a person to abuse him or her. It is important for us to communicate this to children. When they have an early understanding about abuse and the harm that it does, then the anti-violence values we place in them will be much more likely to persist throughout their adulthood.

I contend that good parenting must include education about how to be a civil person. When you abuse someone, you are not being civil. Parents have a responsibility to teach their children about how to be civil members of society.

Don’t think that just because you have girls that this excludes you from teaching them about not abusing others. Females engage in abusing males too. Don’t get it twisted! It is much less talked about and underreported. Teach your girls about how to respect other females and males.

I strongly oppose parents who rear their boys to become thugs. When you rear your boys to become thugs or to develop overly aggressive behavior, you are making them ripe candidates to be abusive to women. The overly aggressive and thuggish behavior that they develop as little children will most likely continue on into their adult lives. You have a great opportunity to train them as little boys to develop healthier behavior that is going to promote civility.

Schools need to play a stronger role in helping children to learn about and understand the different forms of violence. Our children need to have a more sophisticated understanding about what abuse and violence is. I would like to see schools that use “character education” place more emphasis on educating students about different forms of violence and abuse. I think that even History courses serve as valuable opportunities to teach students about how to avoid abuse and violence and to educate them about the consequences of abuse and violence. For instance, when discussing issues about war, this gives teachers an opportunity to tell students about how abuse and violence played an instrumental role in the causes and consequences of the war(s) being discussed.

Although I want schools to increase their efforts to educate students about abuse and violence, I want parents to place an even greater emphasis on education about abuse and violence. Don’t always look for schools to be the answer to the social, cognitive, and emotional development needs of your children.

I am not saying that you should not teach your children about self-defense, but what I am saying is that you should teach them to avoid unnecessary abuse and violence.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison