In the last eight years, there has been positive progress made with the anti-bullying and anti-cyberbullying efforts by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, and the White House, among others. With First Lady Melania Trump proclaiming that cyberbullying is a major social issue that she would like to make a priority and take on during her husband’s presidency, it brings to question what that means for the future of bullying and cyberbullying prevention.
At 50 Shades of Silence, we hope for continued and increase support and contributions from the current administration in the fight against bullying.
With 50% of online users being negatively impacted by cyber abuse, 50 Shades of Silence has been working to give victims a voice. We have focused on fighting all forms of cyber harassment and abuse in the face of the few laws that exist to protect victims.
Our efforts began with the launch of the 50 Shades of Silence website, which includes many resources for victims, including support and links to legal information as well as guides for victims on how to have non-consensual pornography removed from websites and social media networks.
These efforts also include the documentary titled 50 Shades of Silence where our founder Darieth Chisolm details her own experience with cyber harassment and explores the scope of the problem with cyber abuse.
Schools within each district across every state are typically left to their own devices, using a trial and error method when looking for solutions to prevent cyberbullying. In many cases, administrators don’t know what they should do and not do to make a positive impact on preventing cyberbullying.
Schools tend to differ widely in their anti-bullying and cyberbullying policies they have in place, even within the same county. They also differ in how they train faculty and staff as well as students and parents, filtering and blocking, accountability, knowledge of legal and social consequences, reporting systems, search and seizure issues among many other aspects of handling cyberbullying in schools.
An example of this wide variation is how the school district handles student cell phones and student technology use. Some schools allow student cell phones and technology use, while other schools ban cell phone use entirely or they land somewhere in between with their policies.
School administrators are in need of clear and practical guidance from our federal government regarding what is expected of them to reduce online and offline harassment to help them promote peer tolerance, respect, and kindness within their schools.
When we look at school-based programming related to cyberbullying, it is clear that many schools lack direction. Although many communities are underfunded and under-equipped, it is no excuse that we can’t provide every school with informed guidance at a federal level. Our federal government should also provide our schools with a respectable amount of resources to provide personnel, technology, training, and research within the school to help them identify best practices and to teach them what works and what doesn’t when it comes to preventing cyberbullying.
Schools want to stop all forms of bullying and are currently trying a variety of things such as random documentaries, assembly speakers, YouTube videos, as well as curricula they have discovered from unsolicited emails or tweets and random programs that only work on quick emotional reaction, rather than making long-lasting change that carries on beyond the school year.
This approach of throwing out random ideas to see what sticks is inefficient and could be doing more damage than good, causing students to tune out the voices that have the power to positively change their lives and stop cyberbullying.
According to research, promising approaches for every school include:
• Self-awareness and Self-management
Each of these approaches are all interconnected and highly relevant in working toward preventing cyberbullying. It is important to note that none of these approaches are dependent on the technology itself.
When it comes down to it social media, phones, and other devices are not the central problem to the issue of cyberbullying. They are merely the tools that can be used to harm or to help. The programs mentioned above can help to address many of the problem behaviors effectively and can have a positive impact on online behaviors as well.
To ensure the fight against cyberbullying makes a difference, there are many people who must be involved in addressing this issue. We must look to parents to step up and realize their role in teaching and modeling the competencies that the youth need to help prevent cyberbullying.
Technology companies have been playing their part though blocking, in-app reporting and other safety mechanisms. Mental health specialists are working to learn and understand what they should do to assist with this issue through professional development opportunities.
Although the federal government can work with these groups, the most effective way of impacting the lives of students is for the government to focus their attention and energy on our public education system to ensure that we can make a broad and lasting impact on our youth to ensure the benefits of the various programs and the efforts to end cyberbullying stick.