Teachers, parents must play role to stem cyberbullying

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020 00:00 |
Cyber security tips for those working from home.

Kendi Nderitu  

It is perhaps one of the great paradoxes of our time—the opportunities that technology presents come with complexities that can be difficult to navigate. Nowhere is this more evident than in today’s classrooms.

While technology is helping transform the learning experience in profound ways, it can also leave students exposed to significant risks online if the right measures are not in place.  

In Kenya, clear guidelines exist under the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act, 2018 that covers various offences, including unauthorised interference or interception of computer systems programmes or data, false publication of data, cyber harassment, cybersquatting, cyber-terrorism, identity theft and such.

But while these measures are in place on paper, reality presents an alternate situation, one where children are left with little to no protection and supervision. 

While parents have a role to play in supervising access to the internet, educators can also make a key difference.

The more teachers are equipped to deal with cyberbullying, the better the chance we have of combatting the online threat. In fact, there are several powerful ways adults can intervene.

Helping to prevent cyberbullying begins with listening to children. Sit with children while they explore online.

It’s a good idea to regularly ask teens to show you around the websites they visit, where they hang out, who with, and how they talk to each other.

This is particularly important in a school setting, where online activities should be closely monitored to encourage appropriate online behaviour. 

You should ensure children feel safe around you to an extent they can report cyberbullying to you.

To counter cyberbullying, adults need to promise unconditional support. Part of this involves reassuring children that you won’t curtail phone, gaming, or computer privileges because of others’ behaviour.

In the context of a classroom specifically, this would also involve providing students with an anonymous platform from which they can report cyberbullying cases. 

One of the most effective ways to prevent online bullying is social and emotional learning—the process through which we learn to build strong relationships and develop healthy boundaries and self-perceptions. Key to this is promoting empathy and kindness.

Actively teach thoughtfulness. This can help students understand how small, thoughtful actions can make a huge difference in others’ lives.

By having students learn how to accommodate the needs of others when creating worlds in Minecraft, teachers can find opportunities to develop deeper emotional literacy and introduce strategies to resolve challenges or understand perspectives.

Like teachers, parents have a critical role in identifying and stopping cyberbullying.

As a parent, you might be surprised how difficult it can be for a child to admit, even to you, that they are being bullied.

To help them get past this, create an environment that allows them to feel safe to tell you the full story. 

Encourage your child not to retaliate and to rather ignore or block the bully. Save the online discussions as evidence just in case it escalates to threats of violence and the police need to be involved.

Approach their teacher or school counsellor and find out what steps can be taken.

Reassure your child that they always have your support and shouldn’t feel ashamed. 

At the end of the day, combatting online risks begins with promoting digital civility and helping one another to be responsible digital citizens. —The writer Country Manager, Microsoft Kenya

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