Today’s youth have access to and are accessible by many millions of people worldwide. Teens are often not aware that their words and or photos, which may have been intended for a small audience, sometimes find their way to a larger one, often with both the unexpected and undesirable consequences. Cyberbullying or technology misuse is often the number one, non-academic issue that schools have to deal with on a daily basis. It’s the issue of technology, primarily conducted out of schools hours are now becoming a time consuming and confronting issue for Principals and teachers. Schools have a duty of care to their students and this now includes an acknowledgement of online issues and the role that they must play in both the prevention and investigation of such misuses. Staff must be educated in order to assist those in their care.
Previously schools did not become involved in things that occurred ‘out of hours.’ It was not their business or concern, however with cyberbullying, harassment and sexting, where the parties involved are often from within the same school or neighbouring schools, the problem is firmly thrust into the hands of the school accompanied by the often unrealistic expectations from parents, that they ‘solve’ the problem.
When bullying occurs online, regardless of where it actually took palace, and the fallout is obvious to school staff, it does become a school issue. Likewise, many secondary schools have to deal with the issue of naked pictures of students being spread throughout the school community. Schools must embrace technology for the wonderful tool that it is, not dwell on the problem that it might become. Be proactive in all areas, educate your whole community, students parents and staff and make sure that your policy documents are relevant, circulated to all members of the school community and are regularly updated. Students must be encouraged to come forward and report problems and breaches of policy must be dealt with sensitively and efficiently.