Cyberbullying in an elementary school is a growing problem. According to the results of a survey conducted by I-Safe America, a non-profit organization dedicated to Internet safety, over 40 percent of children in grades 4-8 have been bullied online.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying occurs when a student is targeted by another person using the Internet, instant messaging system, or a cell phone. The targeting is used to harass, threaten, embarrass or torment the person.
When adults are involved in this type of behavior, it is called cyberstalking, not cyberbullying. (Cyberbullying takes place between two minors.)
Cyberbullying in elementary school is a serious matter and typically involves a repeated pattern of behavior. It is not a one-time occurrence. It is possible for a victim of cyberbullying to bully other students, and cyberbullies do get victimized in this way as well.
Children have committed suicide because of the harassment, and it has led to students acting out violently against each other, sometimes with fatal results.
Forms of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying can take the following forms:
- Spreading false rumors
- Cruel remarks
- Threats of violence
- Excluding, isolating or ignoring another person (on a systematic basis)
- Tricking someone into revealing personal information and then spreading it around by e-mail or instant messenger
- Putting up a Web page for the purpose of making fun of a person
- Using the Internet to set up a poll to choose who is least popular, fattest, ugliest, etc.
Why Kids Use Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying in an elementary school exists for the same reason that more traditional forms of this behavior do: some children need to exert power over other people who they perceive to be weaker or inferior in some way. Anyone with access to a computer can use technology to take a swipe at someone they don't like. The fact that they can use a screen name gives them a certain degree of anonymity. Using the perceived shield of a screen name, they feel free to say things they would never say if they had to see the person face to face.
Cyberbullying: Elementary School is No Place for It
Schools may not be able to eliminate cyberbullying entirely, but they can help to deal with the problem when it occurs. According to statistics compiled by the National Crime Prevention Council, approximately 160,000 children are absent from school each day because they are concerned about being bullied. When students don't go to school regularly, they fall behind in their studies and their grades may be affected.
Elementary schools have an obligation to provide a safe learning environment for all students, and they may be the object of legal action if they fail to do so.
The Law and Bullying in Schools
Legislators have started to deal with the problem of bullying in elementary schools. Laws are on the books dealing with bullying in schools in more than 25 states, and laws specifically dealing with cyberbullying in elementary schools are in place in 12 states.
What Parents Can Do About Cyberbullying in Elementary Schools
- Talk to your children about the issue
Children need to know that they can approach a parent and talk about what is going on at school.
- Explain that cyberbullying is a type of abuse
No one would argue that students should be allowed to physically assault each other at school, and cyberbullying is just as harmful. Some people would argue that cyberbullying is more harmful than other types of bullying because the victim doesn't have the option of just walking away from the bully. Once the messages have made their way into cyberspace, the object of them can't get away from them.
- Report all incidents to the school
Elementary schools have an obligation to their students to deal with bullying issues, and all incidents should be reported. Ask for help in dealing with the problem. Victims need to know that these incidents will be taken seriously.
You can get more information about cyberbullying from these Web sites: