Most K-12 students have active digital lives and access to information and resources previous generations could only dream of, leading many to refer to them as “digital natives.” But there are downsides to high-tech lives, such as cyberbullying. Learning how to recognize the signs of cyberbullying is critical for educators and caregivers in order to help students take on the new, complex issues they face in the 21st century.
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 victim, 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 59% of U.S. teens report having been bullied or harassed online.
A unique feature of cyberbullying is that victims 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, the cyberbullying follows victims home and persists in every area of their lives.
Part of the reason that cyberbullying is so commonplace is because it is easy for people who bully others to remain anonymous while still attacking the victim about nearly anything, including topics that may be private or difficult to discuss, like gender identity, sexual orientation, and religion. Experts have identified several common types 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 victim. 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 that 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 cyberbullying victims, which is why it’s important to speak to students who might be struggling with the issue. The victims of cyberbullying often feel 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. SEL curriculum provides powerful tools for educators, school staff, parents, and caregivers to engage with students and help 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.
Suite360’s Cyberbullying Tools
Suite360 combines robust software with a scaffolded SEL curriculum across grades K-12 that connects educators, students, and caregivers synergistically to maximize effectiveness and drive consistently better outcomes. For example, lessons that students learn in Suite360: Student will coincide with professional development and SEL reinforcement training in Suite360: Staff, which will also align with programs in Suite360: Parent. The result? A concerted effort between the many adults in a student’s life to promote healthy decision-making and enhance social-emotional development, which leads to students that are happier and better equipped to handle life’s challenges.
Additionally, Suite360 offers lessons and resources targeting individuals who engage in cyberbullying with Suite360: Intervention. By utilizing empathetic practices derived from evidence-based lessons, Suite360: Intervention gives those who have cyberbullied needed guidance to understand the reasons that they bully others. With a focus on restorative lessons, instead of punishments or out-of-class disciplining, Suite360: Intervention not only helps reduce recidivism, it also gives students that are having difficulties the tools they need to continue their own social-emotional journey without harming others.
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. SEL curriculum offers a solution that can benefit schools and students alike, with social-emotional education and character development that is critical in helping both victims and those who bully others. To learn more about Suite360 and how it can make implementing SEL curriculum easier and more effective at your school, find out more with Why Suite360’s Social-Emotional Learning Is More Important Than Ever.