Cyberbullying - the challenge of our times

3/29/17 4:48 PM

Cyberbullying has been a hot topic in the media since the start of the year. A recent Australian survey of 1,000 parents of teenagers aged 11-18 conducted for Telstra, a national telco, found that two in five (40 percent) of parents ranked cyberbullying and bullying among their biggest worries as their children returned to school. The research found that 36 percent of Australian teenagers had personally experienced cyberbullying, with one in five, or 20 percent, stating the bullying occurred within the last month.In February the New York Times highlighted the 351% rise in incidences of cyberbullying across the City’s schools in the last two years since the Department of Education started collating the data. They quote a teacher stating that these figures only scratch the surface.

The responses to the two headlines is as interesting as the headlines themselves. Telstra is donating AU$400,000 to Project ROCKIT, a proven program that empowers children to deal with cyberbullying:

‘Designed by young people for young people, PROJECT ROCKIT Online is an immersive digital experience that engages secondary school students in years 7 to 9 in learning and understanding on the issues of bullying, cyber safety and leadership.’ – Project ROCKIT website.

In New York, the Department of Education also pointed to the increased numbers of guidance resources and preventative strategies being put in place to combat the issue.

These approaches are in tune with the recommendations of Reginald Corbitt, founder of SafeCyber and a leading digital citizenship advocate in the USA, views he repeated in a recent blog post:

Teaching social and emotional resilience in schools and communities will have a greater effect than policy regulation or legislation in dealing with cyberbullying.

He continues:

Children should be taught a range of social and emotional skills early in school so that it will assist them in dealing with these issues. Skills like pro-social values, emotional skills, social skills and high-order thinking skills would better equip them should they be the victim of this unwanted behaviour.

In another post in January ’17 he acknowledges that the ‘old’ preventative and punitive measures are no longer sufficient:

Because the internet is now integral to learning and social interactions, focusing on technology alone, grounding children from using it at home, expelling children from school because of its misuse, and tougher laws are not the answers.

Perhaps 2017 will see a marked shift in the decisions of educational policy makers and procurement officers - away from old school ‘big brother’ approaches to the funding of programmes empowering children with the necessary tools to navigate today’s online world.

Central to this debate is how to manage cyberbullying on social media platforms. Some advocate complete bans on social media in educational establishments. Some favour monitoring all interactions on social media. Others believe that students should be able to use social media without being monitored, but within an environment where there are channels to seek help and there is an emphasis on educating students as to what is and is not appropriate use of these platforms.

If you're interested in learning about the arguments for how best to deal with cyberbullying and social media then read our white paper “Cyberbullying and Social Media – the shifting approach.”


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