Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

Cyberbullying: Is it a technology issue or a behavioral issue?

Posted by Rachael Ballard Filed under: Bullying, Crisis Response, Internet Safety, Social Media, Student Well-Being

Cybersecurity expert and advocate Reginald Corbitt recently authored an opinion piece in eSchool News to examine the root cause of cyberbullying. In his article, which you can read in its entirety here, he argues that many parents and educators alike believe curbing cyberbullying is as easy as limiting students’ access to technology. However, Corbitt references advice from Dr. Satira S. Streeter, a licensed clinical psychologist and the founder and executive director of Ascensions Psychological and Community Services, suggesting parents should not limit children’s access to technology to thwart the bullying. Instead they should try to understand why it’s occurring in the first place.

In his article, Corbitt explains “relational bullying,” also known as “relational aggression.” He describes is as a form of bullying that involves social manipulation such as “group exclusion, spreading rumors, sharing secrets, and recruiting others to dislike a person.” It is a form of bullying which can be used as a tool by bullies to both improve their social standing and control others. It is common among youth and is most common with girls. Corbitt argues we cannot stop relational bullying by taking away access to the internet – even though this is a common venue for this type of bullying. He provides three tips to address the behavior itself:

Teach Resilience: Teaching students social emotional skills will help them deal with negative or unwanted behavior like bullying. Also, equipping students with the knowledge of what to do when they witness bullying will help, as well.

Create Better Resources: Corbitt says scholars “need to be involved in the creation of materials or resources for the promotion of socially acceptable behavior,” and they must also spread awareness of such practices. PublicSchoolWORKS offers courses for staff on positive youth development and offer students resources for reporting bullying. PublicSchoolWORKS also encourages districts to include student behavior expectations in their code of conduct and reiterate this information schoolwide.

Allow for Community Involvement: Have open discussions with your community about what students are doing and saying on and offline. Corbitt says educating the community is just as important as educating the young students within it. Forming partnerships with family and community organizations can help raise awareness about cyberbullying thus positively affecting communities.

What do you think? Should parents and schools limit access to technology, spread awareness about relational bullying – or both? Share your thoughts in our comment section below!

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