Inside the School Discusses Cyberbullying Awareness and Prevention

Madison, WI, July 02, 2010 --( The statistics vary, but between 6.9 million and 8.7 million teens and as many as 13 million kids between six and eighteen-years-old have been bullied online. According to Mike Donlin the Senior Programs Consultant for the Seattle Public Schools. This online bullying, or cyberbullying, can be an extremely serious issue that won't go away by itself.

"Bullying is not just kids stuff. As time goes on [...] bullying becomes harassment, sexual, racial, ethnic, religious or whatever, [bullying] becomes intimidations and threats," Donlin said during an online cyberbullying prevention seminar for Inside the School.

In his cyberbullying awareness seminar Donlin said that students, educators and parents all need to be prepared to handle the cyberbullying prevention issue. Today's students are digital natives, a generation that has never known a world without these technologies. Students are constantly on the Internet and communicating digitally. The online nature of their social lives can make teens vulnerable to attacks.

In his cyberbullying seminar Donlin cited incidents that led to children taking their own lives. He discussed the Megan Meier story in which people made-up a MySpace account for a boy that was smitten with Meier. Through this fake account the cyberbullies sent hurtful messages to the girl that were very real and pushed her to suicide. Meier’s not the only victim, Donlin said.

Ryan Patrick Halligan took his life in 2003 and Jessica Logan in 2008.

Donlin said these tragedies have brought the cyberbullying prevention issue to the nation’s attention. Cyberbullying prevention and awareness has been covered in the mainstream media and legislators are grappling with the problem.

"It raised the awareness of what can happen when young people get sideways with each other online," Donlin said. "The tragedy did raise the awareness of cyberbullying, or brought this to the fore."

With the real life consequences of cyberbullying it is important for educator's to prevent it. One way is to know the laws and school policies on cyberbullying awareness.

"We have to educate minors about appropriate online behavior," Donlin said. "This includes interacting on social networking websites, in chat rooms, and again, cyberbullying awareness and response."

Beyond knowing the policies Donlin recommends being proactive and knowing the signs of someone that is a target of cyberbullying. He said these signs can include, but are not limited to, a drop in grades, discussion of revenge or suicide, inappropriate messages, avoiding their friends, disruptive sleep patterns, constantly checking their email and emotional distress such as anger or fear.

Once you hear or see a sign of cyberbullying the first and most important thing to do is to talk to students.

"You talk about homework, and girlfriends, and boyfriends, and baseball games, and football games, add in conversations around online experiences and life," Donlin said.

He said to remind students that whatever's posted online is public and it is not private.

"Remember that once it's posted it [isn't] going away. It's permanent; it's not temporary," Donlin said.

Donlin said you can be prepared by monitoring the use of computers at school closely, know the staff that can handle Internet involvement such as the technical department and gather evidence.

Being prepared and knowing what to do is important because there is no sign of cyberbullying stopping. He said most kids do fine with digital communications and aren't causing problems. But there are students taking part in cyberbullying because they believe that the bullying is not real.

"It's not really me, it's this online person. I'm not like that in real life. Because it's online, it's not real. It's all in fun," Donlin said.

Inside The School
Joe Blewett
(608) 227-8117