Cyberbullying—bullying behavior committed through social media, apps, and other online activities—is increasingly common. According to several research studies, over half of teens say they have been victims of cyberbullying. Illinois PTA has provided information for families on cyberbullying and how to identify the warning signs of cyberbullying. Because of its online nature, it’s easy to think of cyberbullying as a technology, but a recent article on LinkedIn by Reginald S. Corbitt says that cyberbullying is a social issue, not a technological one.
Mr. Corbitt, the founder of SafeCyber, an organization that aims to educate communities about online safety, notes that cyberbullying is not separate from bullying. It is simply bullying in another form, and as such is about relationship power and control. Such bullying is also known as Relational Bullying. Relational Bullying is more common among girls, and uses social manipulation such as group exclusion, spreading rumors, sharing secrets, and recruiting others to dislike a person. It can be used by bullies to improve their social standing and to control others.
Mr. Corbitt suggests two keys to addressing cyberbullying. The first is teaching social and emotional resilience in our schools and communities. Illinois PTA has discussed how to build social and emotional learning and problem solving skills in children, and Illinois was the first state in the nation to have social and emotional learning standards for all grades from Pre-K through high school. These skills provide students the tools they need to address, prevent, and intervene in bullying and cyberbullying situations.
The second key is creating partnerships between schools, families, and community organizations like PTA that allow for open discussions of bullying both online and offline and provide opportunities to education everyone involved in a child’s life on the topic. As Mr. Corbitt notes, one middle school principal in Maryland states that he and his administration spend 85% of their time dealing with conflicts between students that began on social media or in text messages. National PTA’s Connect for Respect is a ready-to-use program to facilitate discussions among families and among students on bullying issues.
Finally, Mr. Corbitt notes that because cyberbullying is about behavior and not technology, it is important that efforts to address the problem focus on the enhancement of positive relationships and the development of behavioral skills. He also notes that it is also important for adults to set an example with their behavior, as our children will do what you do quicker than they will do what you say.