As I sat down on my lazy boy, a news story flashed across my television set. A child has hung themselves after being tormented by a cyberbully. This form of abuse is dangerous and has to stop. Cyberbullying and bullying pose one of the biggest threats to adolescence in our modern times. Middle school students have reported rates of about 25% for cyber-bullying (Willard, 2006). Interventions must be implemented to reduce these numbers. Students, teachers and parents are all vital stakeholders that must be included in any program. Some of the most effective programs have reduced bullying by 50% in schools (Limber, 2004). A safer school provides for a better learning environment and an enjoyable experience.
As with most interventions it is easier and most effective to try to stop the problem before it begins. The fact is cyberbullying is occurring at younger and younger ages. It does not discriminate on any basis. Cyberbullying is an equal opportunist and there is no significant gender differences in its practice (Balakrishnan, 2015). For these reasons, an intervention should target girls and boys at the ages 12-13 or younger. These are the ages that most children enter middle school. Also, this is the age when crowds start to develop. Young adolescents may feel vulnerable leaving the safety of the familiar elementary school environment and transitioning to middle school.
The goals of this type of intervention is to minimize or eliminate cyber bullying in and out of school. Also, to prevent the new bad behavior from developing. In addition, it should improve student to student relationships. This is important because the more you get to know someone, the less likely you are to victimize them. Many schools accomplish this by using an all levels approach such as the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP). This includes a school-wide level, class room level and an individual level (Limber, 2004). This assures that the school has the means to properly assess the severity of bullying in their school. The students are getting constant information on bullying in the classroom. Also, teachers can meet with students to investigate individual cases. When all three levels are working together it will produce a better school climate.
To maximize the benefits of a bullying intervention, the local community should be involved. In my hometown of Piscataway, New Jersey a partnership between the high school and the local television station produced an anti-bullying video. This activity increased student engagement and participation from the community at large. A benefit was that the message that bullying is not acceptable spread faster and more efficiently. Everyone in the town was watching the commercial just to see their children on television. This allowed the message to have a wide audience. Also, adolescent peers are very influential on each other (Biddle, Bank & Marlin, 1980).
In closing, implementing a comprehensive cyberbullying/bullying intervention would accomplish the goal of reducing or eliminating cyber-bullying in schools. Students, parents and faculty must be involved. The program should include a school-wide level, class room level and an individual level. In addition, the local community should be an active participant. This would make our schools safer and provide for a better learning environment.
Willard, NE (2006). Cyberbullying and cyber-threats. Eugene, OR: Center for Safety and Responsible Internet Use.
Balakrishrian, V (2015). Cyberbullying among young in Malaysia: The role of gender, age and internet frequency. Computers in Human Behavior. V(46)
Limber, S. (2004) Implementation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in American Schools: Lessons Learned from the Field. Bullying in American schools: A social- ecological perspective on prevention and intervention. , (pp. 351-363). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, xxi, 385 pp.
Biddle, B, Bank, B and Marlin, M. (1980). Parental and Peer Influence on Adolescents. Social Forces. Vol. 58, No. 4 (Jun., 1980), pp. 1057-1079