Brian Powderly. Provided

By Brian Powderly PhD

Ohio Digital Learning School

One of the foundational elements of Ohio Digital Learning School is our firm belief that kindness is a key part of creating a safe learning environment. Which is why it鈥檚 so important to me and to everyone on our team to do our part to speak up and help spread the word about the growing problem of cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying, the harassment, intimidation, humiliation, or threatening of others online, is on the rise. How prevalent is it? According to one recent report, approximately one out of every six teenagers has experienced cyberbullying. In most cases, that bullying extends beyond the digital realm: about 90% of teens who report being cyberbullied have also been victims of in-person bullying.

The impact of all bullying can be damaging. But because cyberbullying often goes unseen and unreported, it can be particularly harmful. Online bullying contributes to poor school attendance and performance, affects a student鈥檚 participation in sports and other extracurricular activities, and can have a devastating impact on mental health and wellness.

It is incumbent upon parents and educators alike to take meaningful steps to mitigate cyberbullying in a thoughtful, collaborative manner. By working together, we can create safe environments鈥攁t home, at school, and online鈥攚here cyberbullying is not tolerated and students feel safe.

Here鈥檚 how:

Understand the landscape

When it comes to cyberbullying, parents and educators have a responsibility to be informed and engaged. That starts with educating themselves about popular social media platforms, websites, and apps鈥攅specially those that their kids are using regularly. Understanding these sites is an important prerequisite for establishing safe and responsible usage guidelines for young people, identifying reasons for concerns before they emerge as real problems, and positioning themselves as empathetic and understanding sources of guidance and reassurance if and when cyberbullying takes place.

Communicate clearly and consistently

Cyberbullying conversations should start before bullying behavior has occurred. Parents and trusted educators like teachers and counselors should engage in proactive communication with students about their online engagement and the potential hazards they may encounter. Ideally, those conversations are transparent and constructive, building a foundation of open and honest communication that will encourage students to share with a trusted adult if they encounter cyberbullying in the future.

Provide resources and establish clear procedures

Schools and parents can also encourage conversations about responsible digital citizenship and the importance of treating others with decency, kindness, and respect in online interactions. Programs like our own Be Kind 365 campaign can reinforce that message. These kinds of programs should be integrated into the school curriculum and the culture of the community鈥 not only reinforcing the value of online empathy and respect but also providing specific steps for reporting and support that students can turn to when cyberbullying occurs. 

Take mental health seriously

Finally, schools and communities should make sure that they have mental health and emotional support programs available for students who have experienced cyberbullying. Parents should familiarize themselves with these resources and learn to identify signs of cyberbullying and emotional distress in their children. Ensuring that kids get the professional support they need is the best way to minimize both the short- and long-term impact of cyberbullying on their mental health and emotional well-being.

By working collaboratively, parents and educators can provide guidance and support for young people. They can serve as positive role models for treating others respectfully and trusted resources for students who have experienced bullying. Together, we can help make the virtual environments our kids spend so much time in safer and more welcoming spaces, minimizing both the prevalence and impact of cyberbullying.

Dr. Brian Powderly is the Head of School at Ohio Digital Learning School 鈥 tuition-free online public charter school serving students ages 16-21 in grades 9 through 12.

Editor鈥檚 Note: The views expressed in this commentary piece do not necessarily the express the opinions of The 天堂影院.

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