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Cyberbullying and Internet Safety

April 5, 2019

Cyberbullying and Internet Safety As educators, we have that instinct to help our children avoid situations that could lead to their harm. While we embrace the educational benefits of technology access, we also feel obligated to enforce its responsible use by our students at every age and stage of their school lives. One of the unfortunate realities of increased screen time is the potential for bad behavior. As stated in a previous post, safety is our shared responsibility with parents.

First, let's define cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place online, typically using smartphones and apps or social media sites. Examples of cyberbullying include sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It is designed to cause them extreme embarrassment or humiliation. In some cases, this behavior can become unlawful and can lead to physical confrontations and violence.

The Jackson Public Schools Internet Safety Policy outlines our expectations for students to ensure their personal safety and help them avoid behavior that could be construed as cyberbullying. These expectations include never sharing personally identifiable information about themselves or others; never agreeing to meet an online acquaintance in person; and always informing an adult, like a teacher or parent, about something that raises concern about their safety or the safety of others.

In addition to that, parents and students should be aware that cyberbullying, or making threats online, is considered a crime in Mississippi. In January, three school districts in our area were targeted by what would be classified as a terroristic threat. A terroristic threat, whether made over the phone or social media, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years incarceration and is considered a felony. Students should not engage in this kind of behavior even as a prank.

So, what can we do to deter the incidence of cyberbullying and make our children safer when they are online? Adults and older students can be 'upstanders,' or good role models for younger students to follow. The suggested online behaviors outlined below are a good starting place for promoting digital citizenship.

What students can do

  • Keep personal information private. Don't share your name, address, phone number, and the name of your school. Don't share pictures with strangers.
  • Ask your parents before you open emails or download attachments from strangers.
  • Tell a parent, teacher, or other trusted adult if something makes you feel uncomfortable, like if someone sends you a mean message or you see them send one to someone else.
  • Protect your PINs or passwords and lock your devices. Share them only with your parents.
  • Treat others like you want to be treated. Do not bully or say/post things online that could hurt someone's feelings or get you in trouble.
  • Remember these tips when you access apps as well as the Internet from any device, like smartphones and video game consoles.

Watch: 5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids – Common Sense Media

What parents can do

  • Set clear expectations for your child about digital behavior and online reputation.
  • Educate yourself and your child about the harmful effects of cyberbullying, posting hateful speech or comments, sexting, and sharing naked photos of themselves or others. Help your child understand there could be legal consequences.
  • Be clear about what content they can view and share.
  • Specify to your child the apps and sites you approve of and the ones that you forbid.
  • Establish rules about the amount of time that your child can spend online or on their devices. Experts recommend no more than two hours a day for all screens.
  • Be a media mentor. Model respectful digital behavior and self-discipline with your own device use.

Watch: Cyberbullying – Common Sense Media

What educators can do

  • If you think a child is being cyberbullied, speak to them privately to ask about it. Also, speak to their parents and consider being a facilitator between the child, parent, and the school if necessary.
  • Increase your own digital awareness.
  • Develop activities that encourage self-reflection, helping children to identify and express their thoughts and feelings and develop empathy and respect for others.
  • Role model, reinforce, and reward positive behavior towards others.
  • Encourage peer involvement in prevention strategies.

Learn More: Digital Citizenship – Common Sense Media

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