Support Services – October 2023

Posted by SUSD Communications on 10/1/2023

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. This is a great time for communities to raise awareness about bullying and the role we all play in making a difference. Research indicates that increasing awareness and building a safe and supportive home environment contributes to positive academic, social, emotional and behavioral outcomes.  

PREVENTION AND INTERVENTION STRATEGIES 

Parents and Caregivers. Parents and caregivers should pay attention to their child’s use of technology, keeping an eye out for signs of cyberbullying involvement. Some behaviors that may warrant attention include changes in emotion after online use, attempts to hide online activities from adults, or a tendency to be insensitive or callous toward peers. There are several preventive measures parents can take against cyberbullying: 

  • Talk with children early and often about online safety and how to be respectful and responsible in online settings. 
  • Set clear expectations related to technology use. 
  • Model safe and responsible online behavior. 
  • Monitor technology and social media use. 

A particular challenge related to cyberbullying is its low report rate ‒ children often hide cyberbullying from their parents for fear of having their devices taken away, among other reasons. Parents should aim to be proactive in supervising their children’s technology use. Parents and other adults who discover a child is involved in cyberbullying should: 

  • Provide nonjudgmental support. 
  • Document incidents of cyberbullying (e.g., save screenshots of harmful posts and text messages). 
  • Report cyberbullying incidents to the child’s school. 
  • Contact law enforcement in cases of illegal activity or physical threats. 

For Educators and Practitioners. Educators can engage in school-wide and individual-level cyberbullying intervention and prevention in the following ways (Fredrick et al., 2023):

  • Implement school-based cyberbullying prevention programs, especially programs with interactive components (e.g., class discussions, role playing, or other social learning activities) and programs led by curriculum content experts (e.g., trained psychologists). 
  • Use social-emotional learning (SEL) programming to promote healthy school climates and decrease bullying. 
  • Understand that zero-tolerance policies are not effective responses to bullying; no one response is helpful across all situations. 
  • Consider context and power dynamics between students when addressing cases of cyberbullying.
  •  Use restorative practices rather than punitive practices to remediate any bullying situation. 
  • Teach students digital citizenship skills (i.e., skills for engaging in safe and responsible online behavior).
  • Monitor activity on school-issued technology and identify warning signs of cyberbullying involvement. 

Family-School Collaboration. Given how cyberbullying tends to persist across settings, collaboration plays a key role in prevention and intervention; communication between families and educators is crucial. 

  • Schools can provide digital literacy education for families. Many organizations (e.g., Common Sense Media, Cyberbullying Research Center) have guides for parents with information about popular apps and online behavior. 
  • Parents should aim to keep an open line of communication with their children’s teachers regarding bullying issues.

SUMMARY 

Research shows that digital media use among teens and tweens is on the rise; between 2019 and 2021, media use in this age group rose by 17% (Rideout et al., 2022). Increased exposure to technology and digital media creates more opportunities for cyberbullying to occur. The good news ‒ caregivers, educators, and practitioners can take steps to counter cyberbullying. When adults are proactive and informed, they can help keep students safe online. 

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