4 Ways to Combat Cyberbullying on Your Campus

Posted by Katie Brown on 20 October 2016 |

Evolving technology has enabled us to be more connected than ever before. At our fingertips, we can learn about breaking news, receive updates from family and friends or communicate with co-workers and colleagues.

We have access to the internet all day, every day. For many, the ease of communication is a great benefit—enabling anyone to quickly and efficiently share information through social media.

However, some in the cyber community use these forums for abuse and hate by engaging in cyberbullying.

What is Cyberbullying?

According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, cyberbullying is defined as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones and other electronic devices.”

In order for the action to be considered cyberbullying, it must be:

  • Deliberate, as opposed to accidental
  • Part of a behavioral pattern, as opposed to an isolated action
  • Harmful or perceived as harmful to the victim
  • Executed electronically

In addition to understanding the characteristics of the action itself, it’s important to know that there are multiple types of cyberbullying, including hacking, cyberstalking, harassment and exclusion. Examples can include:

  • Sending harassing text messages or emails
  • Posting explicit or unwanted images or messages on social media
  • Impersonating another person or creating a fake account with intent to use for harm
  • Hacking into another person’s online account and accessing personal information
  • Exposing confidential details or information online

Cyberbullying Statistics

While often considered an issue on campuses for K-12 students, bullying happens on college campuses as well, says Brian Van Brunt, President of the National Behavioral Intervention Team Association and author of the book Ending Campus Violence: New Approaches to Prevention.

“I think it’s that perception that (college is) a blank slate,” Van Brunt says. “Once high school’s over it’ll be a whole new experience, but the problems don’t go away. These things don’t just disappear … I would argue they get worse because you’re adding stress … Why would that get easier not harder?”

There are a handful of powerful statistics that support this belief.

  • 22 percent of college students have reported experiencing cyberbullying and 15 percent reported traditional bullying
  • 38 percent of students say their higher education school does not take bullying seriously
  • 70 percent of those people aged 13-22 have been a victim of cyberbullying
  • For college students who were victims of cyberbullying, the methods included social networks (25 percent), texting (21 percent), email (16 percent) and instant messaging (13 percent)
  • 81 percent of young people believe bullying is easier to get away with online than in person.
  • Females are 50 percent more likely than males to experience or commit cyberbullying

Combatting Cyberbullying on Campus

As campuses learn how to address cyberbullying, many universities have begun taking action to prevent further attacks. For example, Clemson University is in the process of creating an app that will use a “help screen” to identify offensive language and images on social media.

Additionally, students at the University of Iowa are performing a play that shows the effects of online bullying. Also, a family at Texas A&M, who lost their son to cyberbullying, is seeking legislative action to impose fines and jail time for bullies.

What can your campus do to implement anti-cyberbullying strategies?

1. Educate Students on Preventing Cyberbullying

Help your students know how to identify and prevent cyberbullying. Provide online bullying prevention training that teaches them valuable strategies, such as how to protect social media and online accounts from others, what to do as a victim or bystander, and ways to report an incident.

2. Develop a Campus Policy

Whether an anti-cyberbullying policy needs to be created or improved upon, this strategy sets a commitment for the entire community—from students to staff and faculty to campus administrators. A well-rounded policy not only defines what cyberbullying is, but it also outlines consequences for these actions. Ultimately, prevention should involve everyone in the community.

3. Provide Victim Support

Unfortunately, many victims of cyberbullying don’t speak up, often because they are embarrassed, hurt or afraid. However, because attacks are typically ongoing actions and not individual incidents, without intervention on behalf of the victim or campus administration, cyberbullying may continue. Even if the bully is anonymous, encourage students speak to someone, whether it’s a friend, campus administrator or counselor, or law enforcement.

4. Encourage Bystander Intervention

Bystanders play a huge role in preventing cyberbullying. By encouraging the student population and other members of the campus community to interject, they can prevent many of the negative effects of bullying, such as violence, harm or suicide.

According to Van Brunt, “We need people on the ground to really step up and help change this culture. We actually need the community to take responsibility and hold each other accountable.”

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