FAU's expert: School's reaction helps fight cyberbullying
A website and three books later, they just released a new research project linking school climate with online behavior to improve the way cyberbullying and sexting are handled. Their findings are in “School Climate 2.0: Preventing Cyberbullying and Sexting One Classroom at a Time.”
What made you even take note of the subject that long ago?
We saw a column in People magazine and an editorial in a child psychiatry journal. Since then we really have tried to reach out to parents, educators and youth. We’ve done hundreds of interviews… and our research gets thousands of hits. We created fact sheets and we have top 10 lists for parents, educators and kids on our website at http://cyberbullying.us. We work with schools and train youth service organizations. One of five kids has been victimized.
In what way?
With mean comments or embarrassing pictures or threats online.
Are these mostly Facebook and YouTube?
It’s Facebook and YouTube and cellphone text messages.
You mentioned that most kids don’t tell.
Maybe adults in the past have been dismissive or they freaked out.
So what do the kids do?
They suffer silently. They talk to their friends. But we want them to talk to an adult.
How many schools or districts have a policy?
The vast majority have a policy on bullying and have updated it to include a policy on cyberbullying.
Does that mean more kids are going to adults?
Now it’s on everybody’s radar and agenda because of some of these tragedies.
How have things changed since you started studying this issue?
When we first started, it was only occurring among whites. But now it’s regardless of class or race. It’s the increased access to technology.
What do you think was your most surprising finding?
Sometimes youth will make a bad decision and they don’t think of long-term consequences, so I think we have to be gracious, rather than judging them and being punitive. That doesn’t help anyone.
Does that mean you’re not zero-tolerance?
A lot of these cases have a lot of nuances and should be treated on a case-by-case basis. And many times the kid just messed up, and we should give him or her another chance. Over all, we have to set clear expectations and help them repeatedly to use technology well.
The top 10 on your website is a great tool for kids and parents.
We tell kids how protect their password, to keep their photos PG-rated, to never open anything unidentified, to pause before they post, Google themselves and not to be a cyberbully. They should treat others how they want to be treated online.
Where are your books available?
Amazon.com and Barnes Noble. The older ones are: “Bullying Beyond the School Yard,” which was the educator book of the year in 2009; and “Cyber-bullying Prevention and Response: Expert Perspective,” which is also for parents and educators. We now have a body of research and knowledge and best practices.