What does cyberbullying look like?
Children can cyberbully each other in a number of ways including:
- abusive texts and emails
- hurtful messages, images or videos
- imitating others online
- excluding others online
- nasty online gossip and chat
Cyberbullying can happen to anyone, however often the children involved in cyberbullying are also involved in other kinds of bullying. One in 10 young people have experienced cyberbullying (Cross, 2009).
Cyberbullying is the use of technology to bully a person or group. Bullying is repeated behaviour by an individual or group with the intent to harm another person or group.
Cyberbullying can involve social, psychological and even, in extreme cases, physical harm. It can cause shame, guilt, fear, withdrawal, loneliness and depression.
Because children and young people are often online it can be hard for them to escape cyberbullying. Nasty messages, videos and gossip can spread fast online and are hard to delete. Sometimes the attackers can be anonymous and hard to stop. This can make it harder for adults to see and manage.
How teachers can help
Research shows students often don’t tell adults about cyberbullying. They fear we will disconnect them from supportive friends and family and may overreact and make the situation worse. There are some signs you might be able to pick up at school that indicate a child may be the target of cyberbullying or struggling for other reasons. Look for:
- changes in personality, e.g. more withdrawn, anxious, sad or angry, tears
- appearing more lonely or distressed
- unexpected changes in friendship groups
- less interaction with students at school
- possible peer rejection
- decline in school work
- excessive sleepiness or lack of focus
- higher levels of absenteeism
- increased negative self-perception
- a decline in physical health
- suicidal thoughts—this should be reported to the administration and the parents/carers immediately for appropriate action.
Responding to cyberbullying
If you notice a child in your class or the school yard showing any of the above signs, or other worrying and out of character behaviours, tell them you are worried and want to help. If they won’t open up to you recruit others to talk to them (another teacher, guidance officer or school counsellor). Keep a close eye on their interactions and ask other relevant staff to do the same, particularly at recess and lunchtime. If they seem disconnected from others encourage them to join lunchtime groups and recruit kind and supportive students to look out for them. If other students appear to be targeting them or excluding them enact appropriate consequences as per the school’s bullying policy.
Any significant concerns should be discussed with the student and their parents or carers. Students should be provided with options for psychological support including school counselling or anonymous counselling through the Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.
Safe schools address cyberbullying before it happens
Safe schools have robust policies in place to address bullying and cyberbullying and develop an open, supporting and connected school culture.
If your school does not have anti-bullying procedures look through policies currently in place across the states and territories to develop one.
The National Safe Schools Framework helps Australian schools to develop effective student safety and wellbeing policies. The Safe Schools Hub provides strategies to help schools meet the recommendations of the National Safe Schools Framework.
Strategies your school can put in place now
- Ensure every student, particularly those at risk, has a staff member they feel connected to, activities they feel a part of and that they feel valued as a member of the school community.
- Encourage all students to be active bystanders by safely speaking up and telling teachers and other adults if they see or hear of bullying.
- Book a Cybersmart Hero activity for upper primary students. The activity provides a live, online cyberbullying scenario which helps students to develop strategies to become effective bystanders.
- Book an Outreach Professional Development workshop for teachers and Internet Safety Awareness Presentations for students and parents. These are free to all schools.
- Implement a cybersafety curriculum using the Cybersmart lesson plans.
- View Tagged, an award winning locally made short film about cyberbullying and the impact on friendships. It comes with lesson plans and character reflections.
- Refer any student with social, academic or mental health difficulties to students support services.
Support for students in need
Kids Helpline is free, anonymous and available 24/7 on 1800 55 1800 or via their website.
www.eheadspace.org.au is for 12-25 year olds in need of support or worried about their mental health.
Bullying. No Way!
Bullying No Way! promotes working together to create environments where every student and school community member is safe, supported, respected, valued—and free from bullying. The site provides a wide range of games, classroom resources, downloads and facts. Visit: www.bullyingnoway.gov.au
Provides information for educators, parents, carers and young people to strengthen their awareness and understanding of digital citizenship. It encourages technology users to become responsible digital citizens. Visit: www.digizen.org
Aims to strengthen the mental health and wellbeing of children and achieve greater support for children experiencing mental health difficulties, and their families. Kids Matter provides resources, program guides and school stories for early childhood, primary and the transition to school. Visit: www.kidsmatter.edu.au/
A national mental health initiative for secondary schools, this site provides resources and a professional development program that supports Australian secondary schools in promoting and protecting the mental health and social and emotional wellbeing of school communities. Visit: www.mindmatters.edu.au
National Centre Against Bullying—Alannah and Madeline Foundation
News, research, information and resources to combat bullying. Also links to the new e-Smart program which provides a framework to help Australian schools manage cybersafety and deal with bullying. Visit: www.ncab.org.au
Provides free access to self-paced online training modules and lesson ideas on youth mental health and wellbeing. Visit: www.teachers.reachoutpro.com.au