Digital bullying must be stopped and schools must lead the effort.
The Guardian said it best this week: “bullying has a new digital face – it’s about time our schools recognized it.”
Schools have always been hotbeds of bullying. Over 2.1 million school children are bullies and they have 2.7 million victims, according to ThinkProgess.org.
What is new now, as The Guardian’s opinion piece astutely recognized, is the prevalence of digital bullying. Children still bully one another the traditional way in person but now the tormenting behavior does not stop with the last class bell at 4pm. It continues 24/7 through mobile, online, and social media channels.
Hannah Smith’s recent suicide alerted the UK and its newspapers to this growing phenomenon. Smith was bullied on Ask.fm, a social media site based in Estonia where anonymous tormenters attacked her behind an online mask.
“How many teenagers will kill themselves because of online abuse before this is done,” said Dave Smith, Hannah’s father. “These sick people are just able to go online behind a mask of anonymity while they abuse vulnerable teenagers.”
Schools must lead prevention efforts. For many teens, school is where bullying begins and it is the ‘root’ of the bullying activity; the place where bullies choose their victims. Cyberbullying mediums, particularly smartphones, are conduits to continue that bullying throughout the day and night so it must be stopped at the source.
There are two primary tools school administrators can use to make headway combating digital bullying: communication with students and technological enforcement of rules.
First, schools must effectively communicate an anti-bullying message. Children are particularly impressionable in their early and pre-teen years so schools should actively preach a tolerant, no-bullying mantra to students from the earliest ages. This will help create an anti-bullying culture over time and communicate to children that there are strict rules banning the peers of others.
Second, schools must actively enforce those rules. MMGuardian Parental Control is one technology tool that can be used to provide this type of enforcement. MMGuardian allows an administrator – such as an educator – to control a set of children’s android smartphones. With MMGuardian, the administrator could monitor text messages sent between teens and set alerts for any potential bullying content, which MMGuardian will then send directly to the administrator’s phone. Educators can then work with parents, who can become the administrators when their children are off school campus, to ensure 24/7 bullying prevention is in place.