The best way to stop to cyberbullying is putting kids in a healthy environment where any kind of bullying is absolutely unacceptable.
“A school where children don’t feel safe, is a school where children struggle to learn.” -Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education
I talk a little about this in my blog post “How to Stop Teenage Bullying“. All of us have two zones: Acceptable & Unacceptable. Most of the things people do or say to us in our day-to-day experiences fall well within the zone of Acceptable.
They’re so Acceptable in fact, that we don’t even realize that we have these two zones. When someone yells at us, hurts us, or makes us feel bad about ourselves, this is absolutely Unacceptable, and we know that immediately.
“Prevention Point: The academic, affective, and social environment of a school tend to more strongly affect student performance and satisfaction than the physical environment and rule enforcement.” –Schoolclimate 2.0
What they found was that the quality of the school’s environment, or it’s climate, influences the amount of bullying, cyberbullying, sexting, or other destructive behaviors in that school.
When an environment where students trust teachers, are involved with the running of the school, feel their voices matter, and above all else, feel SAFE, those school see a decline in all forms of bullying.
They create a zone where cyberbullying is unacceptable and rare because kids have a safe place to express themselves and experience, watch, and create healthy relationships with fellow students and teachers.
We all strive to fit in. We all want our peers, friends, family, teachers to think well of us. We’re much more likely to refrain from being mean, bullying (in person or online) if everyone else is committed to that same principle. To keeping clean. To being a good person. Deep down, we’re all afraid of being shunned or ostracized by the group.
If a teen who hangs out with a particular clique at school starts taking large amounts of drugs, partying, and acting reckless, and those activities are in the Unacceptable Zone for that clique, that teen will be expelled from it.
If an adult who goes to a Christian church decides to convert to Buddhism, and tries to retain their Christian friends from church, they might find it tough to transition… Because the Acceptable and Not-Acceptable zones we form are reflections of our internal values and moral compass.
If you create a school environment where bullying, any kind, as a rule, CAN’T exist, you will see a decline in bullying.
Discipline, punishments, complicated rules for students, all of these things can only go so far. Prevention is the only sure way to stop these kinds of behaviors.
Prevention isn’t just what we do after something has occurred; it’s how we curtail the behavior from starting to begin with.
Prevention would include how to stop any more teens becoming bullies, and treatment for those teens that have serious problems dealing with their anger.
(If your school has a problem with bullies of any kind, I highly recommend Schoolclimate 2.0 and the Cyberbullying Research Institute as a starting point. In my research on cyberbullying, both have been invaluable.)
If you feel your school isn’t providing a positive learning environment, get involved! Most of us don’t have the time, energy, or money to put our teens through a private school, where better attention is paid to it’s climate. We also don’t have the time or energy to homeschool our kids, where we can create a positive learning environment through our own actions.
Public school is all that most of us have! And the people running the school are accountable to you, the parents! Be empowered, this is where your child will spend 12 years of their life. Take ownership of the situation, and get involved.
Even though schools are run with our tax dollars, there are times when the people who are in charge of those schools seem to forget or ignore that. Don’t expect them to be always looking out for your child’s best interest, that’s your job!
By being proactive and discussing bullying of all types, together we can eliminate bullying altogether, through awareness, how we treat one another, and creating safe places for our children.