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Teachers’ essential guide to cyberbullying prevention

This quintessential guide, from Common Sense, answers questions and provides resources for dealing with cyberbullying

School, district, and/or state policies might dictate what actions you take once you’ve verified that cyberbullying has in fact occurred. Sometimes the recommended response is different depending on whether the bullying occurred on a school-issued device or not and whether it happened outside of school hours or during the school day. Be sure to involve the students’ families, school administrators, counselor, and/or school resource officer, as appropriate, to ensure the intervention is effective and follows policy.

Here are a few resources to support teachers and schools in responding to cyberbullying:

What’s my responsibility as a teacher in preventing cyberbullying?

As educators, it’s our responsibility to teach students how to use digital media in respectful and safe ways. This includes helping kids learn how to identify, respond to, and avoid cyberbullying. Given the demands on teachers to meet school, district, and state goals, it can be a challenge to figure out where these lessons fit into the school day. Fortunately, as technology becomes part of every aspect of our lives, including how we teach and learn, more schools and districts are giving teachers teachers the time and resources to prioritize these skills. Here are a few ways to approach cyberbullying prevention in the classroom:

1. Promote a positive and safe classroom culture. Whether or not you have technology in the classroom, setting norms of respectful communication sends a message to your students about what is and isn’t acceptable. Find ways to demonstrate that your classroom is a safe, emotionally caring environment. Provide resources in the classroom to help students identify, respond to, and avoid cyberbullying. This could be tips on how to respond to cyberbullying (for elementary school or middle and high school) or the phone number for the Crisis Text Line.

2. Embrace teachable “dig cit” moments. Step up when you encounter a teachable moment related to cyberbullying or respectful online communication. Encourage students to pay attention to “red flag moments”–when something happens on digital media that makes them feel uncomfortable, worried, sad, or anxious. Explain to students the three ways they can and should respond if they witness cyberbullying: support the target of the bullying (be an ally); try to stop the cyberbullying (be an upstander); and/or tell a trusted adult (report it). It may not be part of your lesson plan, and it may set you off track for a bit, but every time you reinforce anti-cyberbullying messages, you’re doing the critical work of cyberbullying prevention. And as hard as it may be to admit, ignoring these teachable moments also sends a message your students will remember.

3. Incorporate lessons on cyberbullying into your existing curriculum. Find connections to the content you’re already teaching and make time to address cyberbullying directly. From setting norms of online communication to using historical examples of propaganda and hate speech to discussing a bullying situation in a novel you’re reading, the possible connections to cyberbullying can be made with a little planning.

Related: It’s time to develop an anti-cyberbullying policy; here’s how

4. Advocate for a school- or district-wide digital citizenship program. The most effective cyberbullying prevention strategy has to involve the whole community. A fully integrated digital citizenship program gives teachers the time and resources to tackle these topics head-on, provides kids with consistent and frequent opportunities to build their skills, and supports families as they reinforce the messages at home.

What lesson plans and classroom resources are available to address cyberbullying?

The Common Sense K–12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum teaches students about the effects of cyberbullying on both themselves and their larger communities. They are encouraged to take the active role of upstander and build positive, supportive online communities, and they can learn how to cultivate empathy, compassion, and courage to combat negative interactions online. The new and updated lessons cover grades 3–8. New lessons for students in grades K–2 and 9–12 are in development and will be available for Back to School 2019.

Grades K–5:

Grades 6–8:

Grades 9–12:

How can teachers work with families to identify and prevent cyberbullying?

The first step is to communicate with your students’ families about your expectations in the classroom and explain the skills you’re helping students learn related to positive, responsible media use. When parents are informed and on board, they’re more likely to reinforce the messages at home.

Since families often look to schools for guidance on dealing with cyberbullying, you can offer them the latest advice and resources on the topic. Spark a conversation by sending home these printable Family Tips or handing them out at parent meetings. You can also share articles, videos, and Q&As in a classroom newsletter, on your class website or social feed, or at your next parent event.

 [Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Common Sense Education.]

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