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How to Recognize Signs of Cyberbullying in Students

Most K-12 students have active digital lives and access to more information and resources than ever before. Many refer to these students as “digital natives.” However, there are downsides to high-tech lives, such as cyberbullying. Recognizing the signs of cyberbullying is critical for educators and caregivers, helping students take on the complex issues they face.

Defining Cyberbullying – What Is It?

Cyberbullying, also known as online bullying, is a form of bullying that takes place through electronic means—that is, through social media, text messages, online forums, and other digital spaces. Because cyberbullying happens digitally, it can occur at any time or place for the recipient, putting them at risk every time they use their phone or computer. And since nearly all young students use the internet and social media, they’re all vulnerable to cyberbullying. This form of bullying is so pervasive, in fact, a recent study by the Pew Research Center found that nearly half of U.S. teens report experiencing cyberbullying. 

A unique feature of cyberbullying is that those experiencing it can’t escape it. It wasn’t that long ago that bullying was limited to school or the playground. Someone being bullied could go home and escape it for a time. Cyberbullying doesn’t have those same limitations. Instead, cyberbullying follows them home and persists in every area of their lives. 

Part of the reason that cyberbullying is so commonplace is that it’s easy for people who bully to remain anonymous. They can attack someone privately, behind a keyboard or screen, with no witnesses. Bullying behavior often centers on topics that may be private or sensitive, like gender identity, sexual orientation, and religion. Experts have identified several common types and examples of cyberbullying, including: 

  • Harassment—the repeated sending of vulgar, offensive, inappropriate, or unwanted messages, images, or videos
  • Cyberstalking—repeatedly sending highly intimidating threats, both emotional and physical
  • Outing and trickery—posting sensitive, private, confidential, embarrassing, or personally identifiable information about the victim publicly 

In many ways, cyberbullying shares characteristics with other types of bullying and creates similar negative experiences for the person experiencing it. Cyberbullying can make someone feel humiliated, isolated, and depressed in the same ways traditional bullying does. 

Identifying Students Who Have Experienced Cyberbullying

Recognizing the signs of cyberbullying in students is key to providing the help and support they need. Some signs you might notice in students who experience cyberbullying include: 

  • Becoming upset or having a noticeable mood change after using their phone or computer
  • Avoiding social activities that they used to participate in, like clubs, extracurriculars, or school itself
  • Self-isolation, sadness, depression, and other changes in personality
  • Declining physical health or frequent illness 
    Hesitation to use phones and computers, or being secretive about their use 

Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all description for teen cyberbullying, which is why it’s important to speak to students who might be struggling with the issue. The person experiencing cyberbullying often feels as if they are at fault for their harassment and may feel shame or embarrassment, so it is critical that adults looking to help start from a place of compassion and understanding. 

Using SEL Curriculum to Empower Students Who Have Experienced Cyberbullying

Despite the pervasiveness of cyberbullying, there are solutions. Based on ongoing research and a growing body of evidence, one of the most successful approaches to a range of issues that plague students is social-emotional learning (SEL), with programs like Suite360 for Students. Suite360’s comprehensive SEL curriculum is a powerful tool for educators and families. The curriculum allows them to engage with students, helping them recognize and overcome a range of social issues, like cyberbullying. By giving students resources that can help them with both the social and emotional aspects of cyberbullying, SEL curriculum empowers students to navigate situations that they might otherwise not be prepared for. 

In addition, programs like Navigate360’s Behavior Intervention help directly address the behavior of students who are cyberbullying others. With targeted lessons focused on their behavior and the reason behind it, students are given a chance to reflect on their behavior and learn to make better decisions moving forward.   

Suite360’s Cyberbullying Tools

Suite360 combines robust software with a scaffolded SEL curriculum across grades PK-12 that connects educators, students, and families synergistically to maximize effectiveness and drive consistently better outcomes. For example, lessons that students learn in Suite360 for Students will coincide with professional development and SEL reinforcement training in Suite360 for Staff, which will also align with programs in Suite360 for Families. The result? A concerted effort between the many adults in a student’s life to promote healthy decision-making and enhance social-emotional development and mental health, resulting in students who are happier and better equipped to handle life’s challenges. 

Complex Solutions for Complex Issues

Recognizing and overcoming cyberbullying can be a difficult task that requires effort from the many adults in a student’s life, as well as the student themselves. Suite360’s SEL and Behavior Intervention curriculum offer a solution that can benefit schools and students alike, with social-emotional education and character development that is critical in helping both parties involved in cyberbullying. To learn more about Suite360 and how it can make implementing SEL curriculum easier and more effective at your school, find out more about Why Suite360’s Social-Emotional Learning Is More Important Than Ever.

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