Bullying prevention

digitalctizenshipIncreasingly, there’s a blurring between online and offline bullying.

Today it’s about bullying in the Digital Age.

We need to quit trying to separate cyber- from in-person bullying. We’re also discouraging use of the term “bullycide” as it makes a causal link between suicide and bullying, one that has not been substantiated by research (see cover story for more).

There is a fast-growing awareness among administrators that schools cannot disregard bullying conducted off campus. Facebook? It’s old news. Now there’s Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. And with these comes the need for learning responsible digital citizenship, something that has to be incorporated into schools—and in k-12. This is an issue of responsible versus accessible use.

Schools that recognize this are now grappling with how to infuse digital citizenship into the curriculum. I’m convinced we need to bring it into all classes.

That brings up another emerging trend. School districts and their governing bodies are moving away from “cell phone” bans. Yet there are still districts that don’t quite get it, and ban the use of phones. These policies are not working, and school staff can spend much of their time disciplining for prohibited phone use during school hours. As author Marc Prensky said in his opening keynote at ISTE 2012, “…they (the digital natives) have won.” Prensky coined the term “digital native” in 2001 as those born into an instinctive “new culture.”

Digital natives are emerging as the world’s dominant demographic, while “digital immigrants” are fast becoming those of time past. School districts that understand this often allow students to check messages and listen to music while in the halls between classes— policies that can help keep disruptive hallway behaviors in check. Moreover, these districts realize that many students, especially in the upper grades, have a smart phone.

And teachers with forethought and creativity are leveraging this resource in their classroom to engage their students. As Prensky notes, “What an investment parents have made. Why would we not use it?” Let’s consider where we can use our students to engage in social norming by asking them, “Do we want our tweets tearing each other down, or lifting each other up?

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