Technology has created a way for children to harass and bully each other in damaging and inescapable ways. In order to effectively deal with the problem of cyberbullying, I believe that ALL of the following people need to work collectively. If one group is not on board, then cyberbullying will continue to be pervasive in the culture of teenagers.
· TEACHERS: Teachers need to learn what cyberbullying is and address it as needed if the topic is brought up in class. Teachers need to listen to students who come to them to report instances of cyberbullying. Teachers need to know what rules and laws are in place regarding cyberbullying as well as what kinds of resources are available to help students who are victims of cyberbullying. Teachers need to be willing to document cases of reported or observed cyberbullying and never, ever assume such behavior is typical of children and teenagers and students just need to learn to deal with it.
· SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS: School administrators, like principals, assistant principals, and deans, face the same responsibilities that teachers do when confronted with cases of cyberbullying. In addition, school administrators need to establish clear and enforceable consequences for cyberbullying. They also need to be willing to contact law enforcement when needed to send a strong and clear message that cyberbullying is simply not tolerated.
· VICTIMS: Victims of cyberbullying should never be expected to just deal with the problem on their own. Rather, they should be taken seriously and see that their harassment is being taken seriously and it is being dealt with. They should receive counseling as necessary in order to learn strategies for dealing with cyberbullies.
· BYSTANDERS: Those students who see cyberbullying taking place need to be assertive in assisting victims by standing up for them and reporting cyberbullying when it is observed. Too often bystanders are unwilling to stand up for those they see being victimized because they are afraid of incurring the same disdain inflicted upon them by cyberbullies. Bystanders need to understand what cyberbullying is and be educated about what they can do to help squelch cyberbullying.
· PARENTS: Parents need to be involved in what their own children do online and with their cell phones. This should include having an account on a social networking site like Facebook or MySpace, and "friending" their own children. It is also advisable to check histories on cell phones and computers. In addition, parents should have access to and passwords for email addresses, instant messaging accounts, and social networking sites. When parents see something their child has done that is inappropriate, it should be demanded of the child to remove the offending material and/or the parents should take it down themselves. Being passive about what children do online can lead to disastrous consequences. Just ask the parents of Ryan Halligan, Megan Meier, and Phoebe Prince. It is irresponsible to let our children run unattended on the Internet.
If all of these stakeholders take on a role in combating cyberbullying, then we will have the benefit of seeing it diminish and hopefully establish a culture of tolerance and respect among children and teens. It is when the majority of one group does not come on board with addressing cyberbullying that everyone else's efforts fall flat. Cyberbullying can become socially unacceptable if everyone is willing to take a stand and take part of the responsibility for combating this social ill that is plaguing our children and teens.