A recent survey stated 59% of U.S. teens have been bullied or harassed online and 90% of teens believe online harassment is a problem that is not being properly addressed by teachers, social media companies and politicians.
We believe students need teachers, social media companies and politicians to part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Imagine if more school communities like the Maine-Endwell School District in New York who hosted a student-led DigCitSummit? Students, parents, teachers, administrators, local business and thought leaders and politicians could work together to actively change the narrative around technology and social media use. The Positively Social documentary was created to show at the Maine-Endwell DigCitSummit as a way to extend the conversation beyond the fear-based approach around tech and students.
Instead of focusing on ‘don’t do this,’ the Maine-Endwell school community is committed to students solving real problems in local, global and digital communities. Their positive approach reminds us that we need more opportunities for students to take the lead just like Natalie Hampton, the student app creator of Sit With Us which was inspired by her own bullying experience in middle school.
The inclusive focus on building a school community for everyone is exactly what our school communities need. To be recognized, included and celebrated is exactly what seventh and eighth grade students in Louisiana do every single day as they run a student company, the Upstander Brand to help students be Upstanders in their own communities. Another example is the League of Wingman, a student-led program for elementary, middle and high schools to inspire leadership, kindness, compassion and inclusion by changing climate and culture and creating a strong, resilient community. These examples highlight students at the center of this positive movement towards change.
Edtech software providers, like NetSupport, are also adding to the solution by incorporating internet safety features to address instances of bullying or harassment in their products. Having software in place, such as NetSupport DNA, helps identify bullying behind the screens through internet safety alerts and keyword monitoring which can be vital tools in proactively identifying students conducting inappropriate online activities or searching for information on worrying topics. Inappropriate keywords are displayed in a Word Cloud for easy viewing, allowing educators to see key issues at a glance to intervene and provide support. Taking it a step further with the “Report a Concern” tool, empowering students with the ability to safely and anonymously self-report any concerns to a trusted teacher or staff member ensuring student’s safety. Working together, educators, students, and edtech providers can help bridge the gap within schools encouraging positive digital citizenship skills to help maintain a safe learning environment.
Although these alarming statistics, sensational headlines and trends on Twitter and other social media feeds tell a story of gloom and doom which continues to feeds the fear and continues to add to the scare tactics. But teachers, edtech companies, parents and students are working towards building school communities where we work together to build positive school climate, mentor instead of just monitor and help students humanize the person sitting next to them, around the world and across the screen.
Created by Belinha De Abreu, Ph.D. for the Digital Citizenship Institute