The suicide of 14-year-old Hannah Smith was the fourth in line of fatal self-destructive behavior triggered by cyber-bullying. It is expected that social workers in schools could provide the most crises intervention services. They should be better equipped than counselors, nurses, teachers, or psychologists. However, in survey of school social workers, many of them admitted that they were not trained to handle cyber-bullying among students. They did identify it as a problem that was increasing in severity with time but they didn’t think they were equipped with the right kind of tools to fight bullying on the internet.
In a survey of nearly 400 social workers working at different elementary, middle and high schools, respondents claimed that they didn’t know how to deal with bullying on the internet. They were aware that cyber-bullying could potentially cause psychological problems among teens leading to extreme consequences like suicide. 45% of these social workers didn’t know how to prevent bullying on the internet and neither knew how to deal with bullying of this kind. They thought they were not trained to fight this kind of bullying. Even worse, just 20% of them thought their school had an effective policy to fight cyber-bullying.
Train the school social workers
Before anti-bullying programs can intervene, school staffers are required to report the bullying. But this approach rarely works when cyber-bullying is involved. Personal devices make it hard for school authorities to detect cyber-bullying. Experts predict that school administration will not be able to fight cyber-bullying if they are not trained properly. They should be taught ways to educate students and teens and their colleagues about cyber-bullying. They should also be taught new ways to intervene.
Preventing and reducing cyber-bullying is a complex task. Professional care and support is essential when dealing with cases of cyber-bullying. School social workers have already identified these areas and admit that they need further training in them. One of the best ways to deal with cyber-bullying is to redefine how and when social workers provide care and support. Teens function very differently when they are in the digital space. They become caught up in the intensity of instant messaging, commenting and tweeting.
What the school administration can do?
Schools all over the nation are changing the way they deal with bullying and cyber-bullying. School staff is encouraged to talk to students to educate them about cyber-bullying and listen and intervene if they have a problem. Things like holding on-service trainings or bringing in experts to talk about the issue can lead to an increase in information and knowledge on how to handle instances of cyber bullying.