Shutdown Cyberbullying: Holding Students Accountable In Class & Online

September 19th, 2013 | by Michelle Manno


The concept and practice of bullying has been around for generations. However, current generations have utilized technology and electronic communication to cast a wider web of harassment and humiliation over their peers. Once deemed a “cultural phenomenon,” Cyberbullying – defined as the “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices” – has become an increasingly dangerous problem in our society.

Hiding behind the anonymity of the internet, Cyberbullies take advantage of social media platforms, email, and text messaging as ways to continuously harm, harass, and humiliate others. While both bullying and cyberbullying involve an aggressor and a victim, it is cyberbullying’s medium of the internet that makes this type of harassment all the more dangerous. The internet is public and is accessible to virtually everyone. While in-school bullies are the victim’s peers and classmates, the identities of online aggressors are not always known. It is that anonymity that makes cyberbullying most dangerous.

In Person versus Online

Ortega et al discuss the important distinctions between the two in their article The Emotional Impact of Victims of Traditional Bullying and Cyberbullying. They highlight the notion that while cyberbullying and its traditional counterpart consist of the same relationship dynamic (aggressor and victim), it is the instantaneity of the internet and electronic communication that differentiates the two. The lack of face-to-face contact and anonymity of the aggressor allows communication to be “extended in time and space.” This extension of communication allows bullying to happen 24 hours a day 7 days a week, unlike a traditional bullying scenario where students can “walk away” from the issue or go home at the end of the day.

Peace Starts in the Classroom

It is our job as educators to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our students, both academically and emotionally. With campaigns such as A Thin Line, Mean Stinks, and STOMP Out Bullying gaining national attention, it is increasingly important to raise awareness in your own classroom. Be a positive role model. Teach your students to be accountable for their actions/ Incorporate activities that focus on character building and anti-bullying strategies into your lesson plans and overall curriculum. The internet, while a source of contention in America’s discussion on bullying, also provides teachers, parents, and students with a myriad of resources regarding how to eradicate cyberbullying both in class and online.

In the News

Most recently in the news is the story of young Rebecca Sedwick, a 12 year old girl from Florida who committed suicide after being tormented and bullied online by her peers. “[She was] absolutely terrorized by social media,” stated Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd in a press conference earlier this week. Rebecca has become one of the youngest in an increasingly long list of children and young adults who were driven to suicide after being victims of cyberbullying. Rebecca was targeted through a collection of new texting. photo-sharing, and communication apps that are available on smartphones and tablets. According to the New York Times, Rebecca’s suicide calls to attention the “proliferation and popularity” of these applications, as well as parents’ abilities to keep tabs on their children’s online relationships and communication.

Promote Internet Safety

Everyone is connected to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Everyone has a smart phone. It seems like teaching your students about safe internet usage is antiquated, but it’s just the opposite. WIth a rise in social media platforms and smartphone apps, a national discussion regarding internet safety is more important than ever. Resources like BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr. offer resources for teachers and parents on how to open up a thoughtful and engaging discussion with students.

Resources for Educators

Projects such as Peace One Day and Common Sense Media provide schools with lesson plans, activities, and resources that focus on how to promote peace, unity, and a sense of community in the classroom.

  • Peace One Day: Anti-Bullying Lesson Plans – Their lesson plans center around “Peace Day” which is on September 21, 2013. The organization’s goal is to create a nationally-recognized day that acknowledges the need for a unified sense of peace within classrooms (and around the world.) Modeled to fit within the Common Core Standards, the purpose of the Anti-Bully Lesson Plan is to develop a student-led project that “raises awareness of bullying and how to reduce it, enabling students to put peace and nonviolence into practice.” The packet provides teacher with lesson objectives, guidelines, and assessment strategies

  • Common Sense Media:Cyberbullying Toolkit – Common Sense Media provides teachers with the resources and skills needed to eradicate cyberbullying in the classroom. Cyberbullying happens to students of all ages; The toolkit offers lesson plans appropriate for each grade level. After registering for an account, teachers are provided full access to the Cyberbullying resources, along with access to the rest of the website.

One Comment

  1. Name says:

    I’ve never heard of “Peace Day” but I’d like to incorporate it into my curriculum next
    year. I’ve used lessons from the common sense media site and my students have
    been very responsive to them. Cyberbullying is a major issue. Prevention is key, however it’s much easier said than done.

Leave a Reply