The principal is responsible for establishing and enforcing policies to contend with cases of cyber-bullying and sexting in the school. Classroom teachers have an even greater responsibility, since they are dealing more directly with learners who may be affected by these practices.
What can teachers do?
Recognize the reality of cyber-bullying and sexting in your classroom.
If it is important that the principal must recognize the prevalence of these vices in the school, it is even more important that you must accept the fact that they are more than likely being practised by some learners in your classroom. Ignoring this reality is the same as closing your eyes to the possibility that some learners are using drugs – you may wish that this is not happening, but it does!
Understand clearly how cyber-bullying and sexting work.
How do learners use technology for these practices? What are the various forms they take? This implies that you must have a solid understanding of the technologies your learners are using. Do they have cell phones? For what do they use them? Do they have access to computers? Are they using social networks? Do you understand how these tools – which you may be using for teaching – can be abused?
Let them know what you know.
It is important that your learners know that you are aware of cyber-bullying and sexting. You must be one step ahead of them so that you’re not caught by surprise. Have open discussions with them in class about the matter. You can deal with the topic during Life Orientation sessions, but it could also naturally come up during other lessons. The innocent learners in your class – the potential victims of cyber-bullying and sexting – must be prepared: they need guidance on how to handle these abuses and must know that you are there for them if they need your help. Similarly, the culprits (or future ones) must be deterred – they need to understand the consequences of their actions.
The one thing you must not do is to blame technology for cyber-bullying and sexting. Banning technology will not solve the problem, and is akin to banning books because of the likelihood that they may contain pornographic material.
The safe use of technology is an important twenty-first century skill you must impart to your learners. Teachers who accept this responsibility are indeed a blessing to their learners.
For more technology tips for teachers click here.