It is certainly desirable to see schools adopt cyber safety guidelines and address threats such as cyber bullying in a responsible manner. When it comes to cyber bullying, schools are often linked to the incidents because the victim and the bully are likely to be students of the same academic community. What begins as a seemingly harmless post on a school community page can spread to chat rooms and eventually even lead to physical altercations.
How can your school be made into a safe zone for kids so that cyber bullying is checked and healthy students thrive? Here are a few questions you can ask to evaluate your school’s current program for robustness and effectiveness:
- Does the school have a formal policy against cyber bullying? It could be part of what the school stands for in terms of cyber safety initiatives.
- If the answer to the above question is ‘Yes,' is this communicated to all the primary stakeholders – namely students, parents and teachers? Does it have a place in the school handbook or website? Has it been discussed during the Parent-Teacher meets?
- Does your school have a clear process for handling incidents of cyber bullying? Does the student know who they can reach out to and what they need to do, should they be facing a challenge themselves? Are teachers made aware of this process so that they can guide students in the right direction?
Schools should conduct counseling sessions for handling incidents of cyber bullying with parents and collectively decide upon the best practices to be implemented both at home and school to protect child from online threats.
- Schools should adopt a proactive approach to handle incidents, such as maintaining an up-to-date behavioral management document and ICT acceptable usage guidelines.
- Is fair play ensured for all investigations of cyber bullying and is the disciplinary process transparent to parents and students?
- Banning technology can only give limited control, which might reduce the occurrence of incidents on campus. However, the problem is not solved if the behavior is not addressed and confronted. Does your school have counselors who can work with children to address their behavioral issues and bring lasting changes?
- If an incident does occur, is the school prepared to handle it sensitively and with appropriate consideration? Is there a defined protocol to handle cyber bullying incidents?
- Pictures and photographs are a big part of the way kids bully each other when they’re teenagers and the results can extend into their adulthood. Does the school have a media policy? Are media devices permitted and are children advised on responsible use? Schools should have media policies to govern students' online behavior and parents should be made aware of these policies. Students should be educated on do's and don’ts of online behavior.
- Parents are the major influencers in a child’s life. Does the school consider it important to discuss with parents the consequences of cyber bullying and the disciplinary action the child is likely to face if he or she indulges in the same?
- Does the school conduct awareness workshops with parents and students, student campaigns and do what is necessary to help children become aware of their rights and responsibilities? If so, how often is it reviewed for effectiveness? Schools should conduct awareness workshops on a regular basis (annually) for students, parents and educators. These workshops and campaigns should explore the current online problems and the solutions implemented to address such problems.
These are just some of the aspects to evaluate how well your school is prepared to address the challenge of cyber-bullying and how you can influence these areas in a positive manner.