Should Schools be Responsible for Tackling Cyberbullying?

Many things once encapsulated to inside the walls of a school have spread to the always-connected life of students. Unfortunately, one of these big changes was the previous ability to escape bullying. Various forms of digital communication, whether it’s email, social networks or text messaging, have created an environment where bullying can occur anywhere students have access to the Internet.

Before the internet, bullying could be dealt with where, and when, it occurred. Teachers and administrators could deal with bullying and discipline during the school day while parents would take over in the evenings and on weekends. Now that cyberbullying has become a real concern and, oftentimes, is inescapable for a student, who is in charge of dealing with it when it occurs?

Some will say that it’s the school districts’ responsibility to keep an eye on students’ online activity for threats of cyberbullying and self-harm, thus looking after the safety and well-being of their students around the clock. School districts are also realizing that they need a way to detect potential threatening issues early, but realize that it’s difficult to monitor and review the content of thousands of digital communication without outside help.

Companies, such as Geo Listening and Social Net Watcher, have started taking these matters into their own hands. Their model has been a topic of controversy with some parents and students referring to it as “spying.” Geo Listening monitors student use of social media on websites like Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr and provides school districts with daily activity summaries. Aside from the immediate concern for privacy outside of school, many educators and parents are worried about the future potential harm from the data collected on students.

As more companies sprout up without any history working with K-12 schools and districts, more student data will be collected, but it needs to be handled in a safe and responsible way. Sometimes, this concern is overlooked when the conversation about responsibility for cyberbullying takes place. Start by looking to a company that explicitly states that student data is not, and never will be, sold to a third party or used for any other purpose other than to protect your students.  

Gaggle Safety Management alerts school districts to concerning content 24/7, throughout the year, but leaves it up to each school district as to how it handles each situation once notified. This can still leave districts in between a rock and a hard place when a notification involves some type of cyberbullying that occurred outside of school. Who do you think should be responsible for tackling cyberbullying both inside and outside of school?

[Photo Credit: Amy Fleming]