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“OMG You Suck!” – Preventing Cyberbullying in the Classroom

by Neil Finney

Cyberbullying is one of the biggest obstacles that you may encounter when students use cell phones to text each other. Texting can be used to communicate something electronically that causes another person hurt and pain. Cyberbullying causes the bullied student feelings of alienation from their peers – even worry about their own personal safety. When this happens to the students in your class, it won’t be your lessons they’re focusing on anymore.

The abililty to post online information by typing texting keys – instead of saying something hurtful in person to another student – allows some students a feeling of separation from the victim in the communication exchange. To address this, there must be a cause-and-effect established by you, the teacher, between bully and victim. It is only when we address these issues in a safe, supportive manner that the underlying root causes will float to the surface to be resolved.

So how can you prevent cyberbullying from taking over in your classroom?

 1.     Know the warning signs that cyberbullying is happening – Pay attention to students that appear withdrawn or isolated. Listen to the student conversations in the classroom. If a student is being targeted in your room – someone is experiencing it; inflicting it; and others are likely aware of it.

2.     Teach digital citizenship skills – explicitly discuss online behaviours (e.g. digital etiquette and security) and appropriate communication choices will bring cyberbullying to the forefront in your classroom and support students in their need to make sensible and safe online decisions.

3.     Appeal to student empathy. Lead a lesson that focuses on examples of cyberbullying and how the victim feels. Teach them about the power relationship that exists between bully and victim. This is a perfect topic for a role-playing activity, drama “hot seat,” or social story – depending on the grade/division you teach.  Show them media articles about how other intermediate students have faced cyberbullying – especially the tragic ones that end in the loss of life. Be real with your students – they need it to be genuine in order for it to be lasting

By building a trusting environment in which students can participate, you will establish a positive learning space in which that they can grow and flourish.

How have you successfully dealt with a cyberbullying situation between students in the classroom? Have you ever been the subject of cyberbullying as the teacher (through, facebook or other online vehicles)? How did you address and resolve it?


During Neilʼs 9 years of teaching experience, he has taught in London, England; Ontario; public and private schools; elementary and secondary; junior; intermediate; core french; developmental skills; and now junior gifted (grades 4,5,6). He is a Reading Specialist that has been incorporating technology in his practice consistently throughout his career. Neil has recently published his first book entitled “Ignite. Incite. Inspire.” – Examining 21st Century Issues in Education, which is a collection of teaching articles and posts written from January to December 2011.

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