It’s no shock that K-12 school districts have their hands full when it comes to bullying. After all, physical and verbal harassment have challenged student safety for generations.
But today, newer forms of online bullying are posing an even graver threat to mental health and wellbeing. And as tough as it is to admit, many schools have yet to fully grasp the magnitude of the problem. Without any ability to detect and report cyberbullying, school officials are left in the dark. Even worse, students are suffering the consequences.
Whether you’re a parent, school employee, or member of the school board, bullying and cyberbullying prevention is an important cause that deserves undivided attention. To help you wrap your mind around the issue, let’s explore the state of online bullying and what your school district can do to improve the reporting process.
Cyberbullying in today’s school districts
There was once a day and age when bullying happened exclusively in the physical world, often on school property. Sometimes it happened on the bus, on the public school playground, or even inside the classroom. But at the very least, a young person was free from bullying once they entered the safety of their own home.
Now, a bully can harass their victim from anywhere over the internet. This type of toxic online behavior is known as cyberbullying and comes in many shapes and sizes, including verbal harassment, sexual harassment, and intimidation. It’s a rising threat to student safety that at least 59% of U.S. teens have experienced.
According to Pew Research Center, the most common types of electronic harassment that a person might encounter include:
- Spreading false rumors
- Receiving unwanted explicit images
- Repeated pestering
- Threats of physical violence
What’s worse is that these actions have significant consequences, especially on student mental wellbeing. In fact, kids who are bullied are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, sleeping disorders, eating disorders, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Kids who bully others are likelier to experience substance abuse, physical violence, and drop out of school.
Why have so many kids experienced online bullying? For starters, the rise of social media paved the way for students to connect outside of the classroom. But don’t be fooled — cyberbullying isn’t exclusive to social media.
Believe it or not, a student can also bully their victim using cloud services like Google Workspace and Microsoft 365. Now that over 90% of schools are using these domains, cloud applications are an increasingly common tool for online bullying.
For example, students may spread rumors about their classmates in a Google Doc. Or, they might threaten a fellow student over Google Chat or email. In any case, these cloud applications are school property — meaning it’s your responsibility to keep them safe.
Why spotting a school bully is harder than ever before
With so much bullying and harassment now taking place over social media and the cloud, toxic behavior has never been so difficult to prevent.
Most school districts lack the cyberbullying resources needed to monitor these digital channels. Unfortunately, social media falls outside the purview of the school board. But because cloud applications are school property, they can be monitored and protected using the proper technologies.
However, the vast majority of schools lack the means to do so. According to Edweek Research, just 20% of cybersecurity budgets are being allocated to tools that can monitor the cloud for online bullying.
That said, technology isn’t a cure-all for bullying prevention. There’s still the human services factor that needs to be taken into account. It’s important for districts to create a school climate where a student can feel comfortable reporting an incident to a school employee or parent. One study estimates that more than half of students who are bullied don’t report it to an adult at school, typically out of fear for the following repercussions:
- Shame and embarrassment: For a person of any age, bullying can be embarrassing. For a young person, it can make you feel powerless and weak. This creates a reluctance to report cyberbullying for fear of being perceived as too sensitive.
- Retaliation from their bully: Reporting an incident may seem pointless to a student because they believe it’ll only lead to further intimidation and harassment.
- Worries of making it worse: A student may be hesitant to disclose their experiences if they think a parent or school employee will only make matters worse.
- Desire to be accepted: Some kids convince themselves that bullying is the cost of social acceptance. Consequently, they’ll succumb to peer pressure in fear of hurting their social standing.
Thus, bullying prevention cannot be a reactive exercise. If you want to encourage students to report cyberbullying, you need to proactively seek out and prevent toxic behavior. Additionally, you also need to promote a positive school climate, encourage intervention and openly discuss mental health.
Prevent bullying and report incidents with a cloud monitoring solution
The problem with a “see something, say something” approach to bullying prevention is that oftentimes it’s too difficult to see anything at all. In turn, nothing gets reported.
As previously mentioned, most school districts lack a proper line of sight into the daily happenings of their students. Although perhaps only a small sliver of their online interactions, the cloud is a key place to start.
By keeping an eye on your cloud environment, you can detect toxic behavior and root out the source of cyberbullying more effectively. In a nutshell, that’s what a cloud monitoring solution is all about — watching your cloud applications for any indication that mental health or school safety may be in jeopardy.
Cloud monitoring puts your school district at an advantage by automating the detection process. Using keyword and regular expression scanning and/or artificial intelligence, the platform automatically recognizes certain words, phrases, and images that could signal a cyberbullying incident—and other types of student safety risks. The system then rapidly alerts the designed school employee responsible for the platform and allows you to initiate response plans as necessary.
For example, if the solution identifies an email communication that contains evidence or threats of school violence, child pornography, sexual harassment or blackmail, you can report it to law enforcement. For more minor incidents, you can alert a school official accordingly.
Here are some examples of keywords or phrases you might monitor:
- Related to encouraging self-harm or suicide
- Discriminatory language directed toward LGBTQIA+ students
- Derogatory language based on race or religion
- Phrases related to “slut shaming”
- Threats of physical or sexual violence
How ManagedMethods aids in creating safer schools
When using a cloud monitoring solution to detect toxic behavior, it’s important to do so without violating students’ privacy. Even more importantly, it’s critical that your choice of solution can aid in the tracking and reporting of toxic behavior without profiling and surveilling students.
ManagedMethods, for example, is a cloud security and safety monitoring platform that is committed to protecting student data privacy. The platform leverages deep 1:1 API integrations with Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace — the leading school cloud providers — so that your student data never exits your domain. Sensitive data on students, staff or the school district is never collected or stored, and personalized student profiles are never created. For these reasons, ManagedMethods is FERPA, COPPA and CSPC certified.
Simply put, the platform empowers your technology and/or campus safety team to identify student safety signals and mitigate their risks as quickly as possible. Whether it be self-harm, suicide, cyberbullying or violence. With ManagedMethods, you receive the most comprehensive details about the risk, including who created the file, where it was shared, and who has access.
When it comes to school safety and student mental health, there’s nothing more important. With the right cloud monitoring tool on your side, your school district can streamline risk management, encourage reporting, and promote a safer school environment.