Cyberbullying is Bullying

“You being bully!”

An article on the “Kids Health” blog defines cyberbullying succinctly: “Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person.” How do we address cyberbullying in schools today? Is it effective?

Before the discussion continues, we need to agree that cyberbullying is actually encompassed in the larger issue of bullying. The specific use of technology adds a facet to the larger issue, but the two go hand in glove.  As a matter of fact, bullying prevention programs often address cyberbullying as part of their curriculum. This begs the question “How is bullying being addressed in schools today?”

Schools all over the United States have adopted some form of an anti-bullying program. A recent study at University of Texas at Arlington, found that schools with anti-bullying programs were actually more likely to have bullying problems.

In another study, the U.S. Department of Education found that only 8% of anti-bullying programs used in American schools are actually research-based. One program, Olweus, was profiled by the U.S. Department of Education as an evidence-based proven program. It is a highly structured program that engages all players (administrators, parents, students, and community members). All players are coached in role-playing scenarios. They help proactively answer the what-to-do for all conceivable questions and situations.

After reading this study, I was left with the question of why I hadn’t heard about the Olweus program. It could be that the three districts I have worked in never had adopted a definitive anti-bullying program. To validate this, I checked all three district sites. The first district I worked in did adopt a program the year after I left. The other two clearly don’t address bullying anywhere on their public sites.

In Nancy Willard’s keynote presentation at the 2013 Bullying Symposium, she reported that during the three years Pennsylvania employed the Olweus program, they achieved no improvements regarding bullying. I am skeptical of this result. I wondered if Pennsylvania used the curriculum as it was intended, including all required communications and trainings. In my years as an educator, I found that schools and districts adopt many programs and then complained when they didn’t work in spite of their failure to fully implement.

Willard’s keynote was filled with excellent ideas to adopt in my classroom to create a community of students who can define bullying behavior and articulate what is acceptable and not. These strategies would easily work in a school-wide or district-wide setting. Further research on Willard’s suggested practices were found in articles and interviews with her.

Willard suggested beginning with a survey in order to collect data on student expectations regarding bullying. This could be altered to specifically address cyberbullying. The survey results would then inform the action needed for each school. The results should provide student quotes which can help norm a school. She strongly recommends including students in order to support positive peer intervention. She also uses this data to help students create positive social norms. More details can be read at Cyber Savvy.

I appreciated that Willard has a background in law. I believe that schools need to align with the vocabulary and expectations that are set regarding bullying by the courts. It would be wise to teach students and staff what is legally acceptable and not acceptable. I think this would bring some “real life” to the talk, and not come off as “just talk.” Although she admits that her suggested strategies are not yet “evidence-based,” there is plenty of evidence to suggest it will work.

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Works Cited:

Almansi, C. (2011, Feb. 14). Cyberbullying: An interview with nancy willard. Retrieved from http://etcjournal.com/2011/02/14/cyberbullying-an-interview-with-nancy-willard-2/.

Antoniades, A. (2013, Dec. 17). Reality check: Do bullying prevention programs work? Takepart, Retrieved from http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/12/17/against-bullying-assessing-school-programs.

Crosse, S., Williams, B., Hagan, C., Harmon, M., Ristow, L., DiGaetano, R., … Derzon, J. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service. (2011). Prevalence and implementation fidelity of research-based prevention programs in public schools: Final report. Retrieved from website: http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/opepd/ppss/reports.html.

New, M. (2012, Jan.). Cyberbullying. Retrieved from http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/talk/cyberbullying.html.

Nsbsd: Parent resources. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nsbsd.org/domain/51.

Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.

WFYIProductions. (Producer). (2013, Mar. 09). Bullying Symposium 2013 Keynote Speaker Nancy Willard [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZlZwX4gqxU

Willard, N. (2013). Cyber savvy. Retrieved from http://jasonohler.com/digitalCitizenship/CybersavvyProgram.pdf

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