BY ARIANA WILLIAMS
5 Things That Can Be Done
Cyber bullying is a problem for absolutely everyone. Although most tragic stories of cyber bullying that make headlines involve high school students, even adults are guilty of hiding behind the internet to prey on the insecurities of others. Unfortunately, the anonymous nature of the internet makes it easy for people to feel as though they have the freedom to target people who don’t deserve such ridicule.
College students are not an exception – they need and deserve protection – and it all starts with the way a campus handles social dynamics.
- Encourage Students to Think Before They Post
Some cyber bullying doesn’t begin with malicious intent. It is occasionally thoughtlessness that leads someone (or a group of people) to feel bullied. Sharing insensitive jokes can easily escalate to a situation where someone feels oppressed, targeted, or ridiculed. A process like sensitivity training may encourage students to think before they click the “share” button. They need to be aware of the ramifications of what they may believe to be funny in the moment. If an inappropriate sense of humor leads to their college classmates feeling uncomfortable, their actions aren’t work a temporary laugh.
- Make it Easy to Report Online Harassment
The increasing prevalence of cyber bullying is concerning. Statistics on cyberbullying seem to indicate that the issue is becoming more widespread. In order to stop the negative impact that cyber bullying may have on college students, a reporting system may be necessary. If there are appointed exemplary students or staff members that students feel comfortable discussing the issue with, this layer of accountability may make students think twice before victimizing a peer. Consequences must be clearly established and enacted when students are found to be cyberbullying other students.
- Build Activities Around Empathy
Certain groups of people are more likely to receive negative criticism or bullying. These are often the same groups of people who are more likely to face discrimination in society. By encouraging support or unity groups on campus, those who may otherwise feel like outsiders may find that they flourish. Having friends of a similar station can help students cope with unwarranted comments or malicious messages from people they feel may be targeting them. Promote positive activities that bring people together and keep mindsets optimistic. Teach the victims of cyber bullying that instead of listening to naysayers and haters, they should invest both time and energy into improving themselves, following their passions and reaching their dreams.
- Emphasize the Importance of Social Media Privacy
Social media privacy is extraordinarily important in college. In this case, the issue is twofold. Keeping social media private and only accepting friend requests from highly familiar people will limit the opportunity for cyberbullying, as anonymity is less likely to be a factor. Keeping social media private will also prevent issues with future employers or internship opportunities – HR professionals won’t be able to see the student’s private life.
Colleges should go the extra mile to explain internet safety to students and discuss the merits of keeping their private lives private, despite the temptation to share every moment with the entire internet.
- Manage Student Stress Levels
Addressing the motivations behind cyber bullying may help to prevent it. While motivations may be hard to determine, stress is undoubtedly a contributing factor to negative behavior. College is a stressful time for nearly every student. Expectations are high, students are coming into formal adulthood, and they’re feeling the pressure of building the future they’ve always wanted. Some people lash out when they’re stressed – they don’t know what to do with their surplus of unfavorable emotions. Prevent other students from becoming the target of those emotions by encouraging everyone to de-stress.
Some colleges use unorthodox approaches to bring happiness to campus during times of high academic pressure. It isn’t unheard of for colleges to bring in puppies for students to play with or host campus-wide festivities that encourage students to blow off steam. Make sure there are plenty of outlets to melt the natural tension.
Cyber bullying is nearly impossible to eradicate, but it can be managed through measured steps. Keep an open dialogue about cyber bullying on campus, and make sure every student knows where to go for support and resources.
Ariana Williams is a pedagogy graduate and an avid writer who often let’s her passions for writing and teaching coalesce and merge. Whenever not writing, Ariana enjoys spending time with her family. Feel free to visit her Twitter and say “hi”.