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The Prevalant Issue of Cyber-bullying in Schools

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Cyber bullying has turned out to be an issue of concern since the advent of internet and technology. Cyber bullying can be defined as ?the electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person,? (Merriam-Webster). This kind of bullying will return through numerous mediums as well as however not restricted to text messages, emails, videos, and social networking sites. Studies indicate that cyber bullying is on the rise as 95% of the students are connected to the internet and 85% are users of social media according to the Pew Research Center in Washington D.C. Cyber bullying is perpetrated by both male and female students. In Ridgewood NJ, Cyberbullying has been major problem at Ridgewood School for almost a decade now from 2009 where News 4 New York reported that a 16 year old student who was outed by a teacher for being gay, who was then bullied online, became so depressed he finished his freshmen year at home till recent 2017 where a lawsuit was filed against some male students who bullied and harassed female students to collect sexually explicit photos of themselves and share it with the others with full knowledge about the policies of the Ridgewood High school (James). Cyberbullying still persists in Ridgewood School, hence, it is necessary for parents and the teachers of Ridgewood School to address this issue head-on so as to prevent it in the near future.

Since, Cyberbullying affects students at both emotional and physical levels it is understandable how it might affect parents and teachers as it might increase their stress levels and feel powerless as they physically cannot do anything to stop it. Mrs. Richards, a Ridgewood High School English teacher, said that ?the awareness of what everyone else is doing can lead to increased pressure and impact a kid?s self-confidence.? While this might be true, cyberbullying has affected students to take away their own life. An 18-year-old boy Tyler Clementi a promising violinist from Ridgewood, N.J., leaped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after, police say, he learned that his roommate had secretly streamed video of him in a romantic encounter with another man (Pilkington). Hence, steps must be taken to prevent this, so my proposal is for parents to monitor their children?s online activities at home to prevent them from bullying and getting bullied.

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Students usually don?t tell their parents about when they are bullied online and try to handle it on their own. The 2013 Indicators of School Crime and Safety Report revealed that only 26% of cyberbullying victims reported the bullying to an adult (Perera). Kids usually end up suiciding, running away or start missing school. Anthony Orsini, the principal of Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood sent a letter to parents to remove their children from all social networking sites and to keep a close watch on their text messaging habits (Vidyarthi). But this is not necessary as parents can prevent cyberbullying by monitoring their kids? activities to know what their child has been up to and if he is doing something wrong or if someone is doing something wrong to them. Another way is to be friends with your child on social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to know what your child has been posting and to make sure that no one is bullying them as well. This would be a great way to reduce the problem as your child now knows that you are keeping an eye on their online activities, the number of offenders and victims would most likely decrease. This would be feasible as money is not a problem and it requires as little as 10 minutes every day out of the parent?s everyday schedule. This would be about less than 60 hours in a year which seems to be a lot be in fact very less.

Cyber bullying should be taught in school, so that the students understand what the effects would be and are aware of the consequences. Teachers and parents should keep track with the new technology and try to understand how students communicate and how cyberbullying happens. Include the internet and social media into lesson plans to teach students how to be respectful to others online. Workshops, professional speakers and therapists would be an effective approach to the problem by the Ridgewood school. What this means is creating an outreach program in school and at home which educates young mind on online life, social media and cyberbullying. Workshops can be done by the computer science after school in the lab to teach them the do?s and don?ts. This would take a lot of time and manpower, but it would prevent the mental and emotional issues a student might face. Teachers should start encouraging parents to communicate more with their child regarding their net use even though the kid doesn?t want to. That is the first and primary step into solving this issue. This method would be feasible for the school as any workshop or seminar would be an hour or so as it is imperative that the information on cyberbullying is embedded in these young minds. If it is not done in the right way and rushed, there is a risk of the information not clicking and simply going through one ear and out of the other. In the last there would be no point in teaching the students in the first place. The money to bring in professional speakers from time to time would be a lot, hence it can be seen as a constraint but its value might overthrow the cost.

School staffs could investigate acceptable user policies for technology and posts on social media. Given the information overload on the web, manual monitoring for cyberbullying has become unfeasible. Automatic detection of signals of cyberbullying would enhance the process in catching the offender red handed. The researchers from Ghent University in Belgium found a machine learning method based on a linear SVM classifier. They first develop a complex classifier to detect signals of cyberbullying, which helps them to find the different types of online threat in social media. Second, this is easily portable to other languages. Experiments on this test revealed promising results (64%) for the detection of cyberbullying-related posts (Van Hee). This can be applied in the school systems and also at home by the school administration. Although, this might be a good solution there is a draw back as it is hard to implement this in each and every computer. Hence, a CD with that program can be created and distributed around. This should also be considered when one is trying to reduce cyberbullying as it could make a positive impact in the students? life.

Eliminating cyberbullying will take a combined effort and won?t be eliminated overnight. As technology has become a great part of our lives as well as students? it is important to consider the dangers of cyberbullying and take steps to prevent it. So, schools and parents, be aware of what kids are doing on the internet and their phones, and act if they are doing something that they shouldn?t be as working together we create a safer and rewarding online environment for all.

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