Omar’s favorite student was Rashid. He was brilliant in academics and always at the forefront in discussions and competitions. However, lately he seemed to be lost in his own world. He would avoid making eye contact with Omar and go the other way when he saw him in the school corridor. He was not attending school regularly and was mostly seen by himself. He was increasingly nervous and Omar wondered if the boy was in trouble with substance abuse or had issues at home.
However, one day, Omar came across Rashid’s picture online on a community page and noticed that Rashid had become the subject of a cruel joke, with repeated insults piling upon the child. Omar was infuriated. He had to do something about this bullying - but, what could he do?
Forbidding technology is not the right solution. As an educator, you influence a student’s value system to know right from wrong. You are a powerful force to educate, empower, encourage, and promote an environment of respect and love towards peers and outsiders. This requires that you become aware of the threats that students face with online exposure and be on the lookout for signs of cyber bullying.
Cyber bullying can take many forms and knowing how to address this will help you prevent related crimes. Be on the lookout for any change in student behavior. Some students trust and feel comfortable to share their concerns with educators rather than parents out of fear of punishment. As an educator you can build and work out of the trust they have placed in you.
What can you do? The first step is to encourage youngsters to strike a balance between their online activity and real world interaction with people. This will help them foster a healthy self-image. The second step is to ensure that your school has cyber security policies in place. Take the initiative and encourage the authorities to agree on what is accepted online behavior. The third step is to become the bridge between parents, authorities and children when cyber bullying is suspected or identified.
How to respond? If you come across an instance of cyber bullying, begin by having a one-to-one discussion with the student to finds out his/her concerns and worries. Be a good listener. When you have gained their confidence, encourage the student by assuring that everything will be alright and work with them to gather evidence of cyber bullying. Inform the school administration with the supporting evidence and arrange for a meeting with the student’s parents. Ensure that the student is counseled and assured of safety.
Be an educator, enabler, encourager and protector.