Evolving technology has enabled us to be more connected than ever before. At our fingertips, we can learn about breaking news, receive updates from family and friends or communicate with co-workers and colleagues.
We have access to the internet all day, every day. For many, the ease of communication is a great benefit - enabling anyone to quickly and efficiently share information through social media.
However, some in the cyber community use these forums for abuse and hate by engaging in cyberbullying.
According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, cyberbullying is defined as "willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones and other electronic devices."
In order for the action to be considered cyberbullying, it must be:
In addition to understanding the characteristics of the action itself, it's important to know that there are multiple types of cyberbullying, including hacking, cyberstalking, harassment and exclusion. Examples can include:
While often considered an issue on campuses for K-12 students, bullying happens on college campuses as well, says Brian Van Brunt, President of the National Behavioral Intervention Team Association and author of the book Ending Campus Violence: New Approaches to Prevention.
"I think it's that perception that (college is) a blank slate," Van Brunt says. "Once high school's over it'll be a whole new experience, but the problems don't go away. These things don't just disappear - I would argue they get worse because you're adding stress - Why would that get easier not harder?"
There are a handful of powerful statistics that support this belief.
As campuses learn how to address cyberbullying, many universities have begun taking action to prevent further attacks. For example, Clemson University is in the process of creating an app that will use a "help screen" to identify offensive language and images on social media.
Additionally, students at the University of Iowa are performing a play that shows the effects of online bullying. Also, a family at Texas A&M, who lost their son to cyberbullying, is seeking legislative action to impose fines and jail time for bullies.
What can your campus do to implement anti-cyberbullying strategies?
Help your students know how to identify and prevent cyberbullying. Provide online bullying prevention training that teaches them valuable strategies, such as how to protect social media and online accounts from others, what to do as a victim or bystander, and ways to report an incident.
Whether an anti-cyberbullying policy needs to be created or improved upon, this strategy sets a commitment for the entire community - from students to staff and faculty to campus administrators. A well-rounded policy not only defines what cyberbullying is, but it also outlines consequences for these actions. Ultimately, prevention should involve everyone in the community.
Unfortunately, many victims of cyberbullying don't speak up, often because they are embarrassed, hurt or afraid. However, because attacks are typically ongoing actions and not individual incidents, without intervention on behalf of the victim or campus administration, cyberbullying may continue. Even if the bully is anonymous, encourage students speak to someone, whether it's a friend, campus administrator or counselor, or law enforcement.
Bystanders play a huge role in preventing cyberbullying. By encouraging the student population and other members of the campus community to interject, they can prevent many of the negative effects of bullying, such as violence, harm or suicide.
According to Van Brunt, "We need people on the ground to really step up and help change this culture. We actually need the community to take responsibility and hold each other accountable."