The Swedish Dan Olweus is considered the founder of research concerning bullying at school. His main investigation concerns ‘how does bullying occur, and how can we prevent it from happening in the first place?’
A problem with cyber bullying is that the actual bullying does not stop when the school bell rings, but it just continues when the actors get home.
Research shows that bullying mostly happens in primary schools and in the first four years of secondary school, and shows a peak in between 10 and 14 year- olds. Looking at these figures, you notice that the peak is right in the middle of secondary school, and especially in the years that we will teach. Attaching importance to cyber bullying is a very important component of being a committed and concerned teacher.
But how can we prevent our pupils from cyber bullying, if we only teach them approximately two hours a week? It might not be easy to get a good view on how your pupils behave towards each other, but saying it is impossible to deal with bullying, is declining to see the bigger picture. Children can be really harsh towards each other, and as a teacher you should be able to talk to your pupils about daily struggles such as bullying.
But does the iPad in classroom use make cyber bullying at school easier? It does. It is very easy for students who all have an iPad in front of them to send iMessages to each other about a silly comment one of their fellow students has made.
Our own example: “Thomas is not very popular in class. He often makes mistakes, and the other pupils make fun of him when he does. The teacher asks Thomas his opinion about gaming, a not very popular habit in this class. He tells the teacher that from the moment he gets home, he turns on his computer and he plays World Of Warcraft until 1 p.m. every night, also in the weekends. The pupils, who go partying each weekend, send each other iMessages during Thomas’ explanation about how he does not have a social life, and how he should get one because gaming every night is a sad occupation.”
Even this is cyber bullying. It might even get worse, and students could send Thomas iMessages during class, or at home, about ‘how lame he is’. As a teacher, if you spot certain activities it might be useful to introduce gaming in your lessons, and to show the other pupils that there is nothing wrong with gaming. Because bullying is a group process about standards and values that live in that group. And if you tackle their standards and values in the group, you might decrease the possibility of bullying.
It would be a shame if you only deal with cyber bullying if the action already has occurred. Organise lessons about how to deal with the Internet, social media, games… A mediawise and smartwise environment is a good and powerful environment.