The Intersection Of eLearning And Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying has been a significant risk to people of every age—but particularly for high school-aged students—since the dawn of social media. As schools shift more and more toward cyberlearning, it is natural to wonder and worry about how that will impact bullying incidents. Will cyberbullying increase because kids are spending more time online? Perhaps even more importantly, is there anything that parents and educators can do to minimize the risk? In this article, we provide a sweeping and in-depth look at the state of cyberbullying in 2023. Read on to learn more about how the movement toward cyberlearning has impacted this issue.
Will Cyberbullying Increase For eLearning Students? The Short Answer
Only in a perfunctory way. In a setting where children are interacting with each other almost exclusively online, it is almost inevitable that there will be a higher volume of cyberbullying—just as there will also naturally be a non-existent volume of physical bullying. So, does eLearning make students more susceptible to cyberbullying? Yes. But that answer doesn’t adequately extrapolate toward the larger issue. It doesn’t get to the heart of what cyberbullying is, and how it is a problem in modern classrooms. To get to the bottom of that we will need to dig deeper.
To be clear, there are no formal reports detailing an increase in cyberbullying during the spring of 2020 when global school lockdowns were at their peak. However, there are significant data sets detailing the issue at large. These numbers indicate that almost everyone experiences cyberbullying in some form—either as a spectator, victim, or perpetrator.
While just slightly less than half of school-aged children report being on the receiving end of cyberbullying-related comments, nearly one hundred percent of students say they have witnessed them on social media in the past. What’s more, the vast majority of witnesses tend to think that the comments are not a big deal. Around 90% of them describe the comments that they have seen as being all in good fun. Unfortunately, victims of cyberbullying experience the situation much differently. People who have been the subject of malicious online comments are almost twice as likely to experience thoughts of suicide.
Face-To-Face Vs. Online Encounters
Why the enormous gulf between the two experiences? For one thing, even relatively minor comments from an outsider’s perspective can feel very serious when they are published online. School-aged children describe online bullying very differently than the way they do face-to-face encounters. When a bully makes a mean comment in the hallway, the interaction plays out in real time. The words are heard only by the people in the general area and they disappear along with the rest of the exchange as time progresses.
Online encounters are very different. When someone says unkind words on social media, the comments could be viewed by hundreds of people. They stay online forever, and they reach the victim, not in the neutral territory of a school hallway, but at home, where they were previously thought to be safe from tormentors. It’s a very different experience and one that can have a significant impact on the mental and emotional health of the victim.
On the flip side, many cyberbullies genuinely don’t mean harm—certainly not to the extent that their remarks are received. And yet in the cold anonymity of cyberspace, it’s easy to say things and never realize what kind of impact the comments have. For educators, parents, and students who are concerned by the situation, it’s hard to imagine a workable solution. Kids, after all, are glued to their devices, while adults have little control over how they are used. What can be done to stop cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying Awareness Makes A Huge Difference
Most kids don’t want to abuse someone to the point that they are having thoughts of suicide. This simple fact can make a powerful difference when it comes to fighting back against cyberbullying. Many schools have seen significant incident reduction simply by prioritizing awareness campaigns within the school.
Obviously, the way that this is done can make a big difference. There’s a spectrum, with zero tolerance posters in the hallway falling on one end, and small, targeted focus groups coming in at the other. While schools don’t need to make cyberbullying prevention their sole focus, they can do a lot of good by making regular efforts to reduce it. It’s easy to hold an assembly or put together classroom conversations when there has already been an incident. However, that obviously doesn’t do very much good for students who are already suffering.
Instead, schools should consider making internet safety a regular part of their curriculum. Small, regular reminders of proper online conduct have been shown to have a bigger impact than less frequent but longer training.
Safety In The eLearning Era
While it may be natural to worry more about cyberbullying in the remote education era, the fundamentals really don’t change, regardless of how or where kids are being educated. Online bullying is a pervasive issue that can only be curtailed through awareness, education, and careful monitoring.
Every educational stakeholder has their own role to play in keeping cyberspace safe. Students can do their best to publish only respectful content online and report inappropriate content whenever they come across it. Educators, as mentioned earlier, can regularly explain their expectations for online conduct, and enforce said expectations whenever necessary. Finally, all parents should apply a hands-on approach to dealing with their children’s cyber lives. This can involve careful oversight and even the implementation of parental controls. Most devices come with parental settings that allow you to influence how and when your child uses their device.
Of course, nothing can replace good old-fashioned communication. Speak regularly with your child about cyberbullying, and more generally, about their school experiences. Often, kids are looking for a way to discuss their feelings and will be all too happy to do it when given the opportunity. While cyberbullying may feel insurmountable, it’s an issue that can be handled effectively when everyone does their part.