In the age of social media, how can schools deal with cyberbullying? That is exactly what over 340 students and teachers from all over Cebu discussed in a youth conference on cyberbullying titled Shift-CTRL-Del: Cyber Teens Responsible Leaders, held from October 17 to 18 at the Bayfront Hotel in Cebu City.
Online bullying affects students the most but their mentors and school officials also feel the weight of this global dilemma. In a parallel session facilitated by social media expert and conference speaker Sonnie Santos, the teacher delegates voiced their concerns and shared their experiences in dealing with cyberbullying.
One of the biggest problems faced by the educators is that they are “not well-versed” in social media, where online bullying takes place.
“We are too busy with other stuff and mas naunang na-embrace ng mga bata ang social media,” agreed Santos.
Unfortunately, not knowing the current social media landscape can also put the teachers at risk. Aside from having difficulty coping with the fast-changing technology, teachers can also fall victim to cyberbaiting, a type of online abuse where one is taunted to the point of retaliation. The taunting, revealed by some of the educators, are not only done by students but also the parents or fellow teachers.
For the protection of adults, school officials can also use the Cybercrime Law especially if there are libelous statements in the post, Santos said.
“What we can do is [use] an education and capacity-building approach para hindi band-aid solution, so we need the school administration. Hindi sila overlooking lang. They should be proactive,” suggested Santos.
For Conference President Dr. Bernadette Madrid, the support of the school is crucial in the protection of both students and teachers. “It really needs a comprehensive school approach,” she said.
Dr. Madrid suggested having concrete school programs on cyberbullying and cybercrimes and incorporating the law into the school policies to make sure that the bully can still be sanctioned. The PTA (parent-teacher association) in each school should also be involved, and should require parents to sign a code of behavior stating a strict ban on bullying of teachers, she added.
Network building and capacity training
Most of the teachers who attended the session also said that most public schools don’t have guidance counselors and that homeroom teachers often step into the dual role of a teacher-counselor. However, they are worried that they are not capable in counseling, especially when a student comes forward with claims of being cyberbullied.
“They are not registered, they were not given the opportunity to go to Manila and get a masters degree,” one of teacher participants shared.
A way to empower the educators is to create a network where they can share best practices with other teachers and counselors, Santos said.
Joan F. Mondala of Pajo National High School shared one of their best practices during the session. She organized a series of lectures that students were required to attend. Topics include cyber wellness, anger management, virtues and vices, and more. Mondola said that since they started implementing the program, they have noticed a considerable change in the behavior of students.
“Before, a lot of students are sent to the guidance office everyday. Now it is very rare to see them!” she said.
Technology’s risks and potentials
As Santos mentioned in his lecture, technology is a double-edged sword. It can be used for evil like cyberbullying, and it can also be used for good like spreading awareness. Digital advocates are now using social media as a tool to educate the schools about this issue.
The Department of Education, together with the Children Protection Network, will be launching a resource website where students, parents, and teachers can learn about cyberbullying and how to get help. It will be launched this year on December 1 and 2 during the Ako Para Sa Bata 2015 international conference in Marco Polo Plaza Cebu.
The website will have a cyberbullying section. It will also have a safe school section for teachers, a safe school section for parents, and a safe school section for students, explained Dr. Madrid. “It will be a resource page where you can get services, and if you have questions, you can post them online,” she added.
Aside from the website, the network will also open an app development contest to college students. They will be asked to create a prevention app to be uploaded to the website that schools can download for free. The app should instruct the school how to be social media literate, like how to block trolls or haters.
“They’re also working with Stairway Foundation for an Anti-Cyberbullying module with Dep Ed. They’re all in the works,” Dr. Madrid said.
Check out photos from the event on Facebook and live social media coverage on Twitter!
Watch the summary video for event highlights!
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