As another school year is coming to a close, our schools asking for your attention and help with a very serious and expanding issue. In recent weeks, there has been an increase in cyberbullying, harassment, and intimidation among students, through the use of social media. This negative, and in some cases illegal, behavior is extremely troublesome and dangerous and cannot be tolerated by parents or schools. Not only does this behavior distract from the work of administrators and teachers, it also distracts students from the purpose for which they are at school – to learn.
Tennessee State law (TCA 49-6-4503) and local board policy (6.304) prohibits bullying, cyberbullying, harassment, and intimidation when it is directed specifically at a student(s) and could create a hostile school environment. Every alleged incident that is reported to school administration will be properly investigated. Please note that schools have the authority to discipline students for cyberbullying, even if the action or social media post takes place off school property or outside of a school-sponsored event.
Be advised that minors posting threats of violence, slanderous statements, and profanity could be reported to local law enforcement and the Department of Children Services (DCS), when deemed necessary. When minors have unsupervised access to social media, it may lead to posts that threaten violence or the safety of others, incite a disruption to the educational process, or may be inappropriate and offensive in nature. In severe cases, school employees may be required by law to report these types of behaviors as potential child neglect to the Department of Children Services.
Please make every effort to closely monitor all social media activity for your children. Some parents may not be aware that their child has created multiple FaceBook, SnapChat, YouTube, and Instagram accounts, to name just a few. For your child’s well-being, it is important for you to know what is occurring online. Schools need support from parents in controlling these serious behaviors, including but not limited to negative and insulting comments, threats, and all forms of harassment or bullying.
We realize the enormous task of monitoring your child’s social media, and we appreciate parents/guardians who are taking on this task. If you need a little help, a guide for talking to your children about their online habits and behaviors is included below for your convenience. All students deserve the right to feel safe at home and at school. All students deserve the right to simply be kids and receive an education free from these distractions. Thank you for being the positive example for your child and for your much needed help with this issue.
--Lauderdale County Schools
CYBERBULLYING: A Quick Guide for Parents
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. Examples include: Texting or posting harsh, mean, or cruel comments or rumors, pretending to be someone else online in order to post personal or false information, and posting photos or videos designed to hurt or embarrass another person.
Effects of Cyberbullying
Bullying among students can happen at home as well as at school,essentially 24 hours a day. As long as your children have access to any online devices, they are atrisk. Consequences of cyberbullying:
- Permanent posts–Electronic posts can become public and may show up years later. A negative online reputation, including for those who bully, can impact college admissions, employment, and other areas of life.
- Greater risk for anxiety, depression or self-harm –Severe, long-term, or frequent cyberbullying can leave both victims and bullies at greater risk for stress-related disorders.
- Punishment– Cyberbullying, including reposting harmful posts, may result in suspension from school. Certain types of cyberbullying may be considered crimes, especially if comments or posts promote violence or threaten to harm a person.
If Your Child is Being Bullied
If you suspect or discover that your child is being cyberbullied, there are several things you can do:
1. Make sure your child is safe. Convey unconditional support to your child and that you both desire the same end result—to stop the bullying.
2. Talk with and listen to your child. Engage your child in conversation about what is going on in a calm manner. Praise your child for doing the right thing by talking to you.
3. Collect evidence. Document and keep a detailed record of incidents for the investigative process. Make screenshots or recordings of harmful posts, messages, pictures, and videos.
4. Report to school and/or law enforcement. Inform a school official about the situation. The school district has procedures for investigating and responding to any alleged bullying or harassment. Provide evidence to the school and/or law enforcement, when necessary.
5. Refrain from contacting the opposing child or their parents. Confronting parents may make them defensive and unreceptive. Your child should not respond, since any negative action could be perceived as retaliation or even bullying.
6. Block the person and limit technology access.Set up privacy controls within each platform to block the person doing the bullying. Consider using parental controls on all devices.
7. Seek counseling. Your child may benefit from speaking with a counselor or social worker at school. If desired, schools will be able to connect you to other professional counseling.
If Your Child Bullies Others
Finding out that your child is mistreating others can be upsetting. Respond immediately to prevent further escalation:
1. Acknowledge the issue. Accept the reality that your child could be engaging in negative online behaviors that hurt others.
2. Remain calm and keep an open line of communication. Try to discuss the issue in a level-headed manner without lashing out. If the bullying has occurred as revenge for something, help your child learn to solve problems in appropriate ways without retaliating.
3. Stop the bullying immediately and thoroughly investigate. Explain the negative impact it has on others and that any form of bullying is unacceptable, no matter who started it.
4. Set up parental controls and restrict use of devices. Monitor your child’s online activities by installing software or apps on each phone or device. Restricting use of devices may be helpful until behavior improves and trust is restored.
5. Ask for help. Talking to school counselors, social workers, and other school officials can help identify situations and actions that lead a student to bully others. If your child has trouble managing anger, hurt or frustration, seek professional counseling for your child to better cope with such strong emotions.
The digital world is constantly changing and students are often the first to use new social media platforms, apps, and devices which increase their vulnerability. Here are a few ways to protect your child from harmful digital/online behavior:
Stay educated by continually learning about new technologies, apps, social media platforms, and digital slang used by students. Know your child’s user names and passwords for all social media accounts.
Establish rules about appropriate digital behavior, content, and app use. Monitor how your child spends time online. Talk about the importance of privacy and not sharing passwords and personal information online, even with friends.
Set a good example and model positive online habits to help your child understand appropriate online behavior.
This guide has been adapted from information available at stopbullying.gov and cyberbullying.org.