It’s no surprise that K-12 school districts have their hands full when it comes to bullying. After all, physical and verbal harassment have tested student safety for generations.
But today, new forms of online bullying pose an even greater threat to mental health and wellness. And as difficult as it may be to admit it, many schools have not yet fully grasped the extent of the problem. Without any ability to detect and report cyberbullying, school officials are left in the dark. Worse still, students suffer the consequences.
Whether you are a parent, school employee or school board member, bullying and cyberbullying prevention is an important cause that deserves our full attention. To help you understand the problem, let’s explore the state of online bullying and what your school district can do to improve the reporting process.
Cyberbullying in today’s school districts
There was once a day and an age when bullying happened exclusively in the physical world, often on school grounds. Sometimes this happened on the bus, on the public school playground, or even inside the classroom. But at the very least, a young person was free from bullying once he entered the safety of his own home.
Now a bully can harass their victim from anywhere on the internet. This kind of online toxic behavior is known as Harassment on the internet and comes in many shapes and sizes, including verbal harassment, sexual harassment, and bullying. It is a growing threat to the safety of students who at least 59% American teenagers have experienced.
According to the Pew Research Center, the most common types of electronic harassment a person may face include:
- Spread false rumors
- Receiving unwanted explicit images
- Repeated harassment
- Threats of physical violence
What’s worse is that these actions have important consequencesespecially on student mental well-being. In fact, children who are bullied are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, eating disorders, and thoughts of harming or killing themselves. Children who bully others are more likely to suffer from substance abuse, physical abuse and drop out of school.
Why have so many children been bullied online? For starters, the rise of social media has paved the way for students to connect outside of the classroom. But make no mistake, cyberbullying is not exclusive to social media.
Believe it or not, a student can also bully their victim using cloud services such as Google Workspace and Microsoft 365. Now that over 90% of schools use these domains, cloud applications are an increasingly common tool for online bullying.
For example, students may spread rumors about their classmates in a Google Docs. Or, they might threaten a classmate Google Chat or email. Anyway, these cloud apps are the property of the school, which means that it is your responsibility to keep them safe.
toxic behavior has never been so difficult to prevent.
Most school districts lack the cyberbullying resources to monitor these digital channels. Unfortunately, social media is not within the jurisdiction of the school board. But since cloud applications are owned by the school, they can be monitored and protected using appropriate technologies.
However, the vast majority of schools do not have the means to do so. According to Edweek Research, just 20% cybersecurity budgets are allocated to tools that can monitor the cloud to detect online bullying.
That said, technology is not a panacea for bullying prevention. There remains the human services factor to consider. It is important for districts to create a school climate in which a student can feel comfortable reporting an incident to a school employee or parent. One study estimates that more than half of students who experience bullying don’t report it to an adult at school, usually for fear of the following repercussions:
- Shame and embarrassment: For a person of any age, bullying can be embarrassing. For a young person, this can make you feel helpless and weak. This creates a reluctance to report cyberbullying for fear of being perceived as too sensitive.
- Retaliation from their bully: Reporting an incident may seem pointless to a student because they think it will only lead to more bullying and harassment.
- Worries to make it worse: A student may be reluctant to disclose their experiences if they think a parent or school employee will make things worse.
- Desire to be accepted: Some children convince themselves that bullying is the price of social acceptance. Therefore, they will succumb to peer pressure for fear of damaging their social status.
Thus, bullying prevention cannot be a reactive exercise. If you want to encourage students to report cyberbullying, you need to proactively seek out and prevent toxic behavior. Additionally, you should also promote a positive school climate, encourage intervention, and openly discuss mental health.
Prevent bullying and report incidents with a cloud monitoring solution
The problem with a “see something, say something” approach to bullying prevention is that it’s often too difficult to see anything. In turn, nothing is reported.
As mentioned earlier, most school districts do not have a proper line of sight to the day-to-day happenings of their students. Although it may only be a small part of their online interactions, the cloud is an essential starting point.
By keeping a an eye on your cloud environment, you can detect toxic behavior and root out the source of cyberbullying more effectively. In a nutshell, this is what a cloud monitoring solution is all about – monitoring your cloud apps for any indication that mental health or school safety might be at risk.
Cloud Monitoring gives your school district an edge by automating the detection process. Using keyword and regular expression digitization and/or artificial intelligence, the platform automatically recognizes certain words, phrases and images that could signal an incident of cyberbullying, and others types of student safety risks. The system then quickly alerts the designated school employee responsible for the platform and allows you to initiate response plans if necessary.
For example, if the solution identifies an email communication that contains evidence or threats of school violence, child pornography, sexual harassment, or blackmail, you can report it to law enforcement. For more minor incidents, you can alert a school official accordingly.
Here are some examples of keywords or phrases you might watch:
- Relating to incitement to self-harm or suicide
- Discriminatory language towards LGBTQIA+ students
- Derogatory language based on race or religion
- Phrases related to “slut shaming”
- Threats of physical or sexual violence
cloud monitoring solution to detect toxic behavior, it is important to do this without violating student privacy. Most importantly, it’s critical that your choice of solution can make it easier to track and report toxic behavior without profiling or monitoring students.
ManagedMethods, for example, is a cloud security and security monitoring platform that is committed to protecting privacy of student data. The platform leverages deep 1:1 API integrations with Microsoft 365 and Google workspace — leading school cloud providers — so your student data never leaves your domain. Sensitive student, staff, or school district data is never collected or stored, and personalized student profiles are never created. For these reasons, ManagedMethods is FERPA, COPPA and CSPC certified.
Simply put, the platform allows your technology and/or campus security team to identify student safety signals and mitigate their risks as quickly as possible. Whether it’s self-harm, suicide, cyberbullying or violence. With ManagedMethods, you receive the most comprehensive risk details, including who created the file, where it was shared, and who has access to it.
When it comes to school safety and student mental health, nothing is more important. With the good cloud monitoring tool on your end, your school district can streamline risk management, encourage reporting, and promote a safer school environment.
*** This is a syndicated blog from the Security Bloggers Network of Managed methods written by Alexa Sander. Read the original post at: https://managedmethods.com/blog/cyberbullying-reporting/