Bullying and Harassment Chapter 3

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Bullying and Harassment Chapter 3

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Bullying and Harassment Chapter 3

Chapter 3 Bullying and Harassment


Understanding sexual harassment and cyber-bullying is the first step in addressing them in our schools. Recognizing the signs and dynamics of these behaviors can help us prevent them from occurring in our environments. Of course, they may occur, and as administrators and teachers in a school setting, we are responsible for addressing this behavior.

Prevention is always the best remedy. It is equally important to have clearly written policies against sexual harassment and bullying that are made widely available, and to have remedies available when these things do occur. This chapter will focus on the need for action on the part of the educational system and discuss preventative strategies in general.

Schools and businesses are responsible for the conduct of administrators and managers. They also are accountable for the safeguarding of their employees and students from harassment by outside entities (e.g., parents, suppliers, etc.). Managers are liable for sexual harassment between staff if they knew or should have known and took no corrective action. This could also be true for bullying and cyber-intimidation.

While administrators can sometimes feel the task is completed when a policy is written, the mere existence of a written procedure does not automatically protect employers from liability. Furthermore, liability is not limited to the abuse of power between supervisor and subordinate, or to the actions of co-workers.

Suppliers, parents, school board members, and others, such as vendors, consultants, or contract workers that have interaction with the institution, can be involved in this unlawful conduct. It is imperative that schools take action against sexual harassment and bullying as soon as they are aware that it is occurring.

Taking such actions is important not only because it protects us legally, however. We also need to consider the consequences of an environment that either promotes or accepts harassing behaviors. These environments discourage active participation and at their worse, psychologically damage the people involved.

In addition, harassment in the schools is directly tied to the organizational culture. This determines who is attracted to work at the institution, retention rates, the caliber of work and quality of education, and the level of contribution of staff. We want our administrators, teachers, students, and guests to feel safe and able to participate freely in our institutions.

An organization has the responsibility of creating an environment of mutual respect. Appreciation of and respect for others promotes an environment that is free of all forms of harassment, discrimination, and violence.

It is essential to start with a vision and mission of a “zero tolerance” environment for harassment of all kinds. Institutions need to take the time to collaboratively derive a value and mission statement regarding harassment. Zero Tolerance refers to a set of principles and strategies that define how members of a community treat each other. In other words, we don’t accept harassment and bullying in our community. Some see Zero Tolerance policies as relating to strict punishment of offending behaviors. Although offending behaviors should have consequences, the goal is to develop a culture that supports its members, even if they make mistakes and engage in offending behaviors. Any consequences that are prescribed are treated as prevention strategies. It isn’t enough to punish a behavior without considering how the consequence impacts future behavior.

As the foundation of “zero tolerance,” the vision and mission statements should contain the core principles and values of the school and/or workplace environment. These, along with personal and individual commitments to change, help to create a safe and inclusive organizational culture.

Methods for developing and promoting a sensitive (and safe!) organizational culture include:

1) A written values statement. Increasingly, private and for-profit institutions and businesses are creating a clearly articulated statement of values. This helps employees, clients, students, and customers have clearer expectations of behaviors that will be tolerated and can serve as a “point of pride” for the school, staff, students, and larger community.

Ideally, the values statement will be collaboratively derived. Ownership of an organization’s values by the members of that community leads to better adherence and mutual enforcement of the policy.

2) Unilateral implementation of values statement. The only way to actually create an organizational culture that contains and reflects the stated values is to adhere to a policy and practice of consistent implementation. One of the biggest downfalls–and challenges–experienced by most organizations (and individuals, for that matter) is the failure to consistently adhere to their stated values.

This lack of authenticity creates organizational chaos and dysfunction, leading to an environment that is a fertile ground for harassment to occur. Leadership is extremely important in this regard. Leaders and/or those with power in the organization need to act as models of the values statement.

3) Talking about it! Poor communication, lack of understanding, and a policy of silence are not conducive to creating and maintaining a sensitive organizational culture. If issues around harassment are not talked about, this “code of silence” will increase the likelihood of offensive and illegal harassment.

It is likely that someone in the organization will fail to meet the full expectations of the values statement. Rather than immediate punishment, an opportunity for self-reflection in an environment of learning and support should be provided by the organization.

Creating an environment where people can learn from their mistakes will encourage others to ask for help, as well as support us in helping others when we see something occur.

Sexual harassment law is governed by our country’s most significant federal civil rights legislation, the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits sex discrimination by employers. A 1986 Supreme Court case, Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, definTitle IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 extends this same protection to students and other academic community members at public and private educational institutions and training programs that receive federal funding. Academic institutions must adhere to sexual harassment laws since their communities are composed of both employees and students.

ed sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination.

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) implements Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by issuing interpretive regulations, by handling workplace sexual harassment cases, and by providing legal guidance. The EEOC issued regulations in 1980 that were amended in 1990, implementing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, entitled: “Guidelines on Discrimination Because of Sex.”

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 extends this same protection to students and other academic community members at public and private educational institutions and training programs that receive federal funding. Academic institutions must adhere to sexual harassment laws since their communities are composed of both employees and students.

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) implements Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by issuing interpretive regulations, by handling workplace sexual harassment cases, and by providing legal guidance. The EEOC issued regulations in 1980 that were amended in 1990, implementing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, entitled: “Guidelines on Discrimination Because of Sex.”

In the past, academic institutions were shielded from sexual harassment claims. In 1998 and 1999, the Supreme Court handed down two landmark decisions that increased the potential for schools to be monetarily liable in private actions when a student is sexually harassed by a teacher or another student: Gebser v. Lago Vista Independent School District and Davis v. Board of Education (1999).

Both cases require that a number of narrow conditions be met in order for liability to be found, most notably that the school possesses actual notice of the conduct and shows deliberate indifference to that conduct. Although these conditions constitute an onerous burden of proof, making it difficult for most plaintiffs to prevail, the door is now open for future sexual harassment suits against schools.

The responsibility of schools for sexual harassment is made clear by these laws. Where quid pro quo harassment is established, the school will be held liable. Where a hostile working environment is established, the school will be held liable for harassment by a supervisor, coworker, or outside contractor.

The regulations have made clear that the school or any other organization is liable if: the employer knew or had reason to know of the acts committed, and the employer failed to take prompt, effective action.

These two stipulations are very important to consider as schools seek to establish policies and procedures for sexual harassment prevention and redress.


Administrators and teachers in schools or those in school districts can be informed of sexual harassment in various ways. Individuals who believe they have experienced sexual harassment can report the harassment directly to a person in authority. This is obviously the clearest way for a teacher or administrator to learn about potential harassment—to hear it from the victim himself or herself.

As we learned in Chapter One, this is not always the case, and the courts have addressed a victim’s reluctance to report harassment by placing an additional burden of proof on the employer/authority figure. This is where the idea of “had reason to know” comes into play.

It could apply if, for instance, a teacher has been sexually harassing another staff member and, while no one has actually reported the alleged harassment to the principal, the principal has a sense that something is happening between the two. She has caught glimpses of sexist behavior and she notices that the alleged victim is avoiding the harasser and is beginning to have difficulties performing her duties well.

It is also clear that other staff members are noticing something going on. There is hushed sharing when the alleged victim enters the staff room. In such a situation, a court might find that the principal “had reason to know” or “should have known” that sexual harassment was potentially occurring.

The courts have found that supervisors and representatives of an organization are compelled to do something when they suspect someone in the workplace or school is experiencing sexual harassment. The response need not be extreme. Investigating in minor ways and educating staff members about sexual harassment may be adequate in this situation.

Employees of institutions also have responsibilities in this arena. While a fellow teacher in this instance would not be expected to confront the alleged harasser or victim, she or he does bear responsibility as an employee to report the suspected sexual harassment to a person in authority who can respond appropriately. What is not allowed is to ignore signs that something may be happening.

Organizations can safeguard their institution by taking preventive measures. The courts have also judged that organizations that take sexual harassment seriously can protect themselves from lawsuits. And, of course, doing the following makes for a safe and productive working and learning environment.

In some cases, the court has found that there is no liability for harassment about which the employer did not know or have reason to know, if the organization: had a policy against harassment; had a proper and effective complaint procedure; communicated disapproval of harassment to employees; and facilitated corrective, curative, or preventive action to ensure that sexual harassment does not recur.

Regardless of the form the sexual harassment takes, the institution is obligated to respond immediately. Schools must intervene right away to put a halt to the harassment and take corrective action through disciplinary measures, as well as to repair the harm caused to the victim(s). Schools should also take steps to increase awareness of staff, parents, and students in order to prevent harassment from recurring.

Supervisors need to take an active role in the prevention of harassment. As Rubin (1995) puts it, “A policy against sexual harassment is only as good as the supervisors who enforce it. For that reason, supervisors should be taught how to build and maintain a professional work environment.”

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The creation of such an environment is facilitated by making a commitment to understand the policy and procedures manual, the definition(s) of harassment, personal feelings, beliefs, and attitudes about sexual harassment (self-awareness); to observe actions of others, watch for subtle forms of harassment, and pay close attention to how staff, administrators, and students interact; to model the type of behavior expected from all; to resolve any reports or incidents of sexual harassment brought to your attention; to report incidents to superior or designated individual(s); and to train staff and students in prevention, awareness, and policy and procedures on an ongoing basis, including initiating conversations and formal and informal discussions about sexual harassment.

All people have a role and responsibility in reducing and preventing sexual harassment. Preventive actions reduce the number of sexual harassment complaints and are considerably less time-consuming than responding to a formal grievance.

One of the best ways to prevent sexual harassment is to have a clear and highly visible sex discrimination policy that includes language specifically addressing zero tolerance for sexual harassment. Staff, parents, and students must all be made aware of the policy, and it must be enforced unilaterally.

Under Title IX, each school should have a designated coordinator to handle official sexual harassment complaints and other Title IX violations. This person could be the spearhead for developing a sexual harassment policy. To be effective, the Title IX coordinator needs training, time, and resources to handle sexual harassment complaints and other gender equity issues. The coordinator’s name and contact information must be posted and easily accessible to students. The Title IX coordinator must provide appropriate help to students who contact her or him. Schools must have a clear policy regarding sexual harassment and published procedures that are automatically enacted when sexual harassment is reported. This policy should make clear the school’s commitment to report to authorities the sexual harassment that appears to violate a student’s civil rights under Title IX or that otherwise may reflect criminal behavior.

An effective sexual harassment policy stresses the illegality of sexual harassment and delineates a clear and appropriate complaint process while ensuring the confidentiality for the victim. Additionally, such a policy encourages witnesses or victims to report the behavior immediately and mentions that retaliation against persons reporting harassment is illegal and will not be tolerated (Feminist Majority Foundation, n.d.).

Upon completion, the school’s policy needs to be provided to all staff and a copy placed in a convenient, high traffic location, such as the teacher’s lounge or principal’s office. It is also a good idea for ongoing training and seminars to be provided for all staff to promote comprehensive understanding and implementation of said policy. In fact, some government contracts require these trainings, as do various policy and procedure manuals.

Upon completion, the school’s policy needs to be provided to all staff and a copy placed in a convenient, high traffic location, such as the teacher’s lounge or principal’s office. It is also a good idea for ongoing training and seminars to be provided for all staff to promote comprehensive understanding and implementation of said policy. In fact, some government contracts require these trainings, as do various policy and procedure manuals.

The UMCP Sexual Harassment Training Manual suggests that “sexual harassment issues and training programs should be incorporated into new employee orientation training programs, staff development programs, staff retreats, and training programs” (p. 10).

Training should cover such matters as how to spot sexual harassment, how to investigate and properly document complaints, what to do when harassment is observed but no complaint is filed, appropriate discipline and grievance procedures, and how to keep the work environment as professional and non-hostile as possible. These seminars should be developed and implemented throughout the school district. The awareness training must be comprehensive and ongoing.

Parental involvement to the greatest extent possible is crucial for the success of policy implementation and adherence. This needs to be a community-wide effort where educators, students, parents, and community resources cooperate and collaborate to effect change and an environment of “zero tolerance” for harassment and discrimination.

This policy should be accompanied by a clearly outlined procedure for resolving complaints of sexual harassment. It is recommended that, whenever possible, students and parents be involved in creating, developing, and implementing both the sexual harassment policy and the procedures for filing and resolving grievances.

Involving all of the stakeholders ensures the most comprehensive and equitable policy and procedures for issues concerning sexual harassment. It will also help to ensure that all of the parties–school, students, and parents–are aware of, and invested in preventing and correcting, sexual harassment. Furthermore, it will increase the inclusivity of the policy and take into account issues of diversity.

Ideally, this will result in greater understanding of appropriate behaviors, increased knowledge of boundaries, and a significant decrease in the incidence and reports of sexual harassment. Complaint procedures should be distributed to each student, parent, teacher, and administrator. Procedures should specify those to whom a complaint should be directed.

“Each employer must provide an effective means to redress complaints even if an employee does not request that any action be taken. Your complaint should be protected from disclosure by confidentiality provisions” (Phillips & Mair, 1997, p. 34). Intervention techniques by management and the consequences for harassing behaviors must be consistently enforced by the administration against the harassing parties.

Since the law states that employers are liable, the investigator must immediately report any complaint to the school administrator. As an individual filing a complaint, even with confidentiality statements and laws prohibiting retaliation, you should be aware that you might encounter some form of retaliation.

The most common ways in which you may suffer reprisal are having your work or ability to perform your job sabotaged, a refusal to cooperate or engage in discussion of work-related matters, and finally, termination. In order to minimize the likelihood of this type of retaliation, it is recommended that there be a support system in place for the victims of harassers. The school environment and workplace must be responsive to the needs of students and staff who are being victimized.

Providing students and staff with supportive messages can impact the environment and can help students and staff people know what to do if they experience sexual harassment. Many schools find it useful to publish brochures and share the information provided in the following scenes about what a person should do if sexually harassed.

What can I do if I am being sexually harassed? Some who are being sexually harassed are too embarrassed to voice a complaint, are intimidated by their harasser, or think that little can be done to end the harassment. Many think that it is not a serious problem and that it will stop if they just ignore it. These are all understandable reactions to difficult situations. Sexual harassment, however, is a serious issue.

Chapter 3 – Prevention & Intervention

Exercise 25 – Sexual Harassment Policy

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If you think you are being sexually harassed, you need to tell someone who can help you stop it. Here are some things you and/or your parents can do:
• Don’t blame yourself. The person who is harassing you is the one doing something wrong and you haven’t done anything to cause the harassment, even if you flirted with this person or liked him/her.

  • Say “No” clearly. Tell the person who is harassing you that his/her behavior offends you. They may not realize how hurtful their behavior is and may need a clear message from you to stop. If the harassment does not end, promptly write a letter asking the harasser to stop. Keep a copy of the letter.
  • Write down what happened. When someone harasses you or makes you feel uncomfortable, write it down in a notebook that is just for this purpose. Write down what happened, the date it happened, where it happened, and who else may have seen or heard the harassment. Also write down what you did in response, and how the harassment made you feel. Save any notes or pictures the harasser sent you. It is a good idea to keep the record somewhere besides school, such as your home or another safe place.

Report the harassment. It is very important that you tell someone who can stop the harassment. If you do not feel comfortable telling that person yourself, get your parents, a teacher, guidance counselor or friend to go with you. If you and/or your parents tell an authority verbally, also do it in writing and keep a copy for yourself. If the first authority doesn’t respond, go to the next highest person in charge to complain. The law says the organization has to stop sexual harassment, but the organization is only required to stop the harassment if someone in authority knows what is happening to you.

In addition to having and enforcing a written sexual harassment policy, schools will also want to develop and implement written policies around Internet/email use and harassment, as well as a non-fraternization policy.

In the Information Age, heralded by widespread use of electronic technology and relatively unrestricted access to the Internet, there are unique sexual harassment issues. The Internet and the increased use of email have generated a dramatic proliferation in the incidence of sexual harassment.

Pornographic photographs, live video, websites, and inappropriate jokes can be downloaded from the Internet. People who would be extremely reluctant to include certain language in a conversation or written memo seem to have relatively fewer qualms about including that same content in an email correspondence.

For example, it is not unusual for something like this to occur: a male co-worker superimposes a female co-worker’s head upon the body of a voluptuous female and emails the picture throughout the company.

As more and more companies and schools are utilizing technology tracking who is logging on to which site on the Internet, it is recommended that a separate Internet and email policy be developed prohibiting the use of this technology for anything other than business-related purposes.

It is suggested that schools implement a holistic approach that includes efforts from students, school staff, school administrators, parents, law enforcement, and community members if cyber-bullying intervention and prevention efforts are to be successful (Pelfrey & Weber, 2015).

In terms of cyberbullying, several recommendations for school personnel can also be shared with parents and guardians: Take any report or rumor of cyberbullying seriously. Do not assume that ignoring the behavior will result in it ending. Collecting evidence is key. Ask students or tell parents to print out or make screenshots of the cyber-bullying behaviors. Keep a record of any and all incidents, including dates, times, and locations.
School staff can suggest that parents:
• Refrain from contacting the bullies’ parents, who may become confrontational or defensive.

• Contact the service provider. Cyber-bullying violates the Terms of Service of all legitimate service providers (websites, apps, internet or cell companies). Regardless of whether a child can identify who is harassing him or her, a report about online abuse can be filed with the company.

• Contact the police when physical threats are involved. If the local department is not helpful, reach out to county or state law enforcement officials; they may have more resources and expertise related to technology-related offenses.

• If the bullying is based on race, sex or disability, contact the Office for Civil Rights.

• Seek counseling for your child, if necessary.

• Set up privacy controls for every social media account to block the bully from contacting the child.

Prevention is always the best. The following tips, adapted from Onguard Online, offer ways to help children socialize online safely and to prevent cyber-bullying from happening or to stop it quickly. Help your kids understand what information should be private. Tell them why it’s important to keep some things – about themselves, family members, and friends – to themselves. Information such as their full name, Social Security number, street address, phone number, and family financial information — for example, bank or credit card account numbers — is private and should stay that way. Tell them not to choose a screen name that gives away too much personal information.

Explain that kids should post only information that you — and they — are comfortable with others seeing. Even if privacy settings are turned on, some — or even all — of your child’s profile may be seen by a broader audience than you’re comfortable with. Encourage your child to think about the language used in a blog, and to think before posting pictures and videos. Employers, college admissions officers, team coaches, and teachers may view your child’s postings. Even a kid’s screen name could make a difference. Encourage teens to think about the impression that screen names could make.

  • Remind your kids that once they post information online, they can’t take it back. Even if they delete the information from a site, older versions may exist on other people’s computers and be circulated online.
  • Know how your kids are getting online. More and more, kids are accessing the Internet through their cell phones. Find out about what limits you can place on your child’s cell phone. Some cellular companies have plans that limit downloads, Internet access, and texting; other plans allow kids to use those features only at certain times of day.
  • Talk to your kids about bullying. Online bullying can take many forms, from spreading rumors online and posting or forwarding private messages without the sender’s OK, to sending threatening messages. Tell your kids that the words they type and the images they post can have real-world consequences. They can make the target of the bullying feel bad, make the sender look bad – and, sometimes, can bring on punishment from the authorities. Encourage your kids to talk to you if they feel targeted by a bully.
  • Tell your kids to trust their gut if they have suspicions. If they feel threatened by someone or uncomfortable because of something online, encourage them to tell you. You can then help them report concerns to the police and to the social networking site. Most sites have links where users can immediately report abusive, suspicious, or inappropriate online behavior.
  • Read sites’ privacy policies. Spend some time with a site’s privacy policy, FAQs, and parent sections to understand its features and privacy controls. The site should spell out your rights as a parent to review and delete your child’s profile if your child is younger than 13


A third policy should be developed in reference to non-fraternization in the work place. As discussed earlier, romantic relationships between co-workers or supervisors and staff put the school at increased risk for litigation. The so-called “No Dating Policy” is another method for preventing sexual harassment.

Allowing employees to have relationships with each other could expose the school to liability if the relationship does not work out. Even in an apparently consensual relationship, there are substantial risks involved, particularly where a power differential exists.

This also lends itself to possible conflict of interest and nepotism issues, as mentioned earlier. Because of this, many organizations have developed “Consensual Relationship” policies. In these policies, consensual relationships are typically defined as romantic, intimate, or sexual relationships in which one of the parties has institutional responsibility for or authority over the other, or is involved in evaluation of the other party.

In higher education settings, the other party could be a student. These policies typically require that the employee inform his/her supervisor and that the supervisor attempt to eliminate or mitigate the actual or perceived conflict of interest. If the conflict of interest cannot be mitigated, the consensual relationship is prohibited (Oregon State University, 2008).

Again, it’s important to remember that charges of sexual harassment, bias, favoritism, or sex discrimination may be raised down the road even if both persons had initially consented. With the growing frequency and variety of sexual harassment claims, with the demonstrated cost these claims have in both human and financial terms, all employers, staff, students, and parents must make a commitment to work together to stop school and workplace harassment. Sexual harassment is but one form of harassment that can no longer be tolerated.

A safe and sensitive workplace environment is one that is authentically committed to a diverse workforce. This type of organization is also open to creating and affirming a genuinely supportive and accountable work place that is moving forward and consciously incorporating a variety of perspectives in its daily operations.

The values held by this type of organization are for a harassment-free existence for women and all employees, an end to inequality and the institutionalization thereof, and the recognition that power imbalances are dehumanizing.

The healthy school setting is for business and teamwork. It is a place to learn, to make friends, and to have fun. You can do all of these, and do them better, without allowing gender or sexual orientation of others to influence your actions towards them and interactions with them.

“Harassment isn’t just a legal problem, it’s a ‘people’ problem–it’s caused by people, it hurts people, and it can be stopped by people…by people who open their eyes and work to end insensitive and discriminatory behavior” (Life Skills Education, Pamphlet #6001, p. 13).

The complainant, a female instructor, felt that she (and other females in the school) were sexually harassed by the presence of a camera in the women’s restroom. The complainant alleged that she happened to look up and was shocked to see a TV camera staring back at her. She reported the incident to one of the male supervisors on duty, who informed her the camera was not hooked up. The complainant then proceeded to inform several other women of the camera. A female teacher took the camera down and gave it to the school administrator. The administrator said it was just a joke and would not happen again. The complainant was informed that another individual had earlier informed the administrator that it was a bad joke. The complainant then asked the school board to intervene.

What inappropriate behaviors resulted in the complainant’s coming forward?
What impact did this situation have on the individual and the school?
What could have been done to resolve this case earlier?
Supervisors should take what action?

In 2006, the Health and Human Services Administration (HRSA) initiated the National Bullying Prevention Campaign and identified 10 strategies for prevention and intervention (HRSA, 2006). Many of these recommendations were derived from Olweus’ (2001) and Olweus et al.’s (2007) well-researched approach to bullying prevention.

A focus on the social environment of the school is imperative. In order to reduce bullying, it is important to change the social climate of the school and the social norms with regard to bullying. This requires the efforts of everyone in the school environment—teachers, administrators, counselors, school nurses, school librarians, other non-teaching staff (such as bus drivers, custodians, and cafeteria workers), parents, and students.

Bullying needs to become “un-cool.” Unfortunately, bullying is often seen as or mistaken for childish “teasing” or “play.” Adults need to be alert to the possibility that bullying may be happening or beginning to happen and learn to confront and teach about hurtful behaviors rather than ignoring them.

Hornby (2016) reviewed the research on bullying prevention and concluded that merely providing bullying workshops and programs did not influence the rate of bullying in a school. He suggests using an ecological approach to prevention. Individual teachers, schools, and communities must come together to create systemic change.

Assessment of bullying at your school will aid in prevention. Adults are not always very good at estimating the nature and prevalence of bullying at their school. As a result, it can be quite useful to administer an anonymous questionnaire to students about bullying and/or to conduct an environmental survey. There are several bullying questionnaires for use in schools that are available through the National Bullying Campaign (2006). These surveys can be helpful in identifying subgroups that tend to be targeted, as well as in identifying where bullying might be occurring on the school campus.

An environmental survey entails reviewing how the school environment encourages bullying—from the existence of bullying-type graffiti that is not quickly removed, to the bullying-type behaviors exhibited by teachers. A prevalence of small and subtle messages in the environment can lead to acceptance of bullying behavior as a norm.

It is important to obtain staff and parent buy-in and support for bullying prevention. Bullying prevention should not be the sole responsibility of any single individual at a school. As with many issues that we wish to address in a school setting, there is a tendency to designate an “expert” to take care of it. Consulting with a bullying and violence behavior specialist or giving a new assignment to the vice-principal may be helpful in starting an anti-bullying campaign, but its success will be dependent on the participation of all the adults in the setting.

Many schools have found it helpful to form a group to coordinate the school’s bullying prevention activities. Bullying prevention efforts seem to work best if they are coordinated by a representative group from the school. This coordinating team might include an administrator, a teacher from each grade, a member of the non-teaching staff, a school counselor or other school-based mental health professional, and a parent.

Depending on the setting, student representatives might also be a welcome addition to the team. The team should meet regularly to: review findings from the school’s survey; plan specific bullying prevention activities; motivate staff, students, and parents; and ensure that the efforts continue over time.

Provide training for school staff in bullying prevention. All administrators, faculty, and staff at school should be trained in bullying prevention and intervention. In-service training can help staff members to better understand the nature of bullying and its effects, how to respond if they observe bullying, and how to work with others at the school to help prevent bullying. As bullying is so clearly impacted by the campus environment, ongoing training and support around this issue are important.

School rules and policies related to bullying should be established and followed. Developing simple, clear rules about bullying can help to ensure that students are aware of adults’ expectations that they not bully others and that they help students who are bullied. School rules and policies should be posted and discussed with students and parents.

Appropriate positive and negative consequences should be developed. Empowering the bystander is especially helpful. Helping students understand the difference between “tattling on” and “assisting” a fellow student is paramount.

Increase adult supervision in “hot spots” for bullying. Bullying tends to thrive in locations where adults are not present or are not watchful. Adults should look for creative ways to increase adult presence in locations that students identify as “hot spots”—including those in cyberspace.

Bullying should be stopped consistently and appropriately. Observed or suspected bullying should never be ignored by adults. All school staff should learn effective strategies to intervene on-the-spot to stop bullying. Staff members should also be designated to hold sensitive follow-up meetings with students who are bullied and (separately) with students who bully.

Staff members should involve parents whenever possible. Even if the interrupted scene ends up not being a bullying situation, the adults should see any intervention as an opportunity to educate students about bullying. If nothing else, these discussions help reinforce the importance of the issue.

Administrators and teachers do well to devote class time to bullying prevention. Students can benefit if teachers set aside a regular period of time (e.g., 20-30 minutes each week or every other week) to discuss improving peer relations and bullying. These meetings can help teachers to keep their fingers on the pulse of students’ concerns, allow time for discussions about bullying and the harms that it can cause, and provide tools for students to address bullying problems. Anti-bullying messages also can be incorporated throughout the school curriculum.

Continue these efforts. There should be no “end date” for bullying prevention activities. Bullying prevention should be woven into the fabric of the school environment. These prevention strategies should be tied to the Organizational Values Statement described earlier in this chapter.

Cyber-bullying and intimidation add further dimensions and complications to the implementation of good prevention and intervention programs. Because most cyber-bullying happens out of school, it can sometimes be easy to turn one’s head away from what is happening outside one’s purview. However, cyber-bullying impacts the success of the school and should be addressed.

Sometimes, administrators and teachers are hesitant to respond to cyber-intimidation and bullying that is happening outside of the school building, understanding that doing so might be seen as violating First Amendment rights. However, responding is important to protect a productive learning environment.

Kowalski et al. (2008) suggest the following as important ways to extend bullying programs that have already begun or those that will be initiated with more general bullying reduction programs. These ideas have been supported by other researchers (e.g., Shakenborg, Van Aker, and Gable, 2011; Wölfer, Schultze-Krumbholz, Zagorscak, et al., 2014).

  1. Assess cyber-bullying. As mentioned in the HRSA strategies previously, assessment is an important part of prevention. Because cyber-bullying is not typically as visible as face-to-face bullying, it is all the more important to utilize anonymous surveys to assess the prevalence and types of cyber-bullying that might be occurring in the school. This data can be helpful in developing specific prevention or intervention strategies on campus, in addition to providing ways to communicate with parents about cyber-bullying concerns.
  2. Define and provide training and resources on cyber-bullying. In order to prevent cyber-bullying, we all need to start with a shared definition of the behaviors and their impact on students. Students are usually aware of the technologies used in cyber-bullying, but may not necessarily regard certain behaviors as bullying. Parents, teachers, and administrators, however, may not even be aware of technologies used for bullying, such as instant messaging, social networking sites, and text messaging. A shared understanding among students and adults of the impact of cyber-bullying is especially useful.

Sending home information for students and their families on preventing and addressing cyber-bullying is vital. As parents are more likely to encounter their child’s involvement in cyber-bullying, sharing resources with parents about ways to find additional help can be a very effective way to combat cyber-bullying. Assisting parents in understanding cyber-bullying through newsletters and events is useful, as is informing them about legal issues that might arise if their child harasses or threatens another online.

  1. Develop clear rules and policies about cyber-bullying. Schools can include language about cyber-bullying in their “Acceptable Use” policies regarding computer usage on campus. While public institutions cannot define consequences for events that happen outside of school due to free speech rights, such policies can delineate the definitions of cyber-bullying in these policies and inform the readers (students and parents) of the possible legal consequences of this behavior, including those that would require the school to report the behavior to the police (e.g., nude pictures of a student).

Private schools may have more leeway in defining consequences for behaviors that may occur out of school. Public schools may, however, be able to discipline students for cyber-bullying if students have signed a behavior code that lists these behaviors even if they occur after school. Administrators are encouraged to obtain legal counsel in the development of any of these policies and procedures.

  1. Teach students and parents online “netiquette.” Through technology, most of us have a more public persona than ever. Students and their parents are sometimes not aware of the potential impact that students’ posts on various sites can have on their futures. It is becoming common practice for employers to search for a job candidate’s profile on social network sites (Haas, 2006).

The content on these sites is often seen as a reflection of an individual. We can teach students and parents to monitor their online reputations as well as encourage appropriate “netiquette” in posting it5. Harness the expertise of your students. Many schools have addressed these issues by developing mentor programs on their campuses. Peers often have more legitimacy than teachers or administrators in addressing social issues.

ems regarding other individuals.

  1. Harness the expertise of your students. Many schools have addressed these issues by developing mentor programs on their campuses. Peers often have more legitimacy than teachers or administrators in addressing social issues.

Responding to bullying or cyber-bullying when it occurs is a touchier situation. As most bullying and cyber-bullying occurs off campus, the boundaries regarding responsibilities are blurry and often determined by state law and local policies. However, it is best to err on the side of keeping the student safe and inform the parent if there is suspected bullying of either type.

The parent of the victimized student may choose to contact the parent of the other student and may need help from the administration in figuring out the best way to handle the situation. The following scenes provide an action list for parents to help eliminate bullying.

Ten actions ALL parents can take to help eliminate bullying:
1. Talk with and listen to your kids – every day. Research shows that parents are often the last to know when their child has bullied or been bullied. You can encourage your children to buck that trend by engaging in frequent conversations about their social lives. Spend a few minutes every day asking open-ended questions about who they spend time with at school and in the neighborhood, what they do in between classes and at recess, who they have lunch with, or what happens on the way to and from school. If your children feel comfortable talking to you about their peers before they’re involved in a bullying event, they’ll be much more likely to get you involved after.

  1. Spend time at school and recess. Research shows that 67% of bullying happens when adults are not present. Schools don’t have the resources to do it all and need parents’ help in reducing bullying. Whether you can volunteer once a week or once a month, you can make a real difference just by being present and helping to organize games and activities that encourage kids to play with new friends. Be sure to coordinate your on-campus volunteer time with your child’s teacher and/or principal.
  2. Be a good example of kindness and leadership. Your kids learn a lot about power relationships from watching you. When you get angry at a waiter, a sales clerk, another driver on the road, or even your child, you have a great opportunity to model effective communication techniques. Don’t blow it by blowing your top! Any time you speak to another person in a mean or abusive way, you’re teaching your child that bullying is ok.
  3. Learn the signs. Most children don’t tell anyone (especially adults) that they’ve been bullied. It is therefore important for parents and teachers to learn to recognize possible signs of being victimized, such as frequent loss of personal belongings, complaints of headaches or stomachaches, avoiding recess or school activities, or getting to school very late or very early. If you suspect that a child might be bullied, talk with the child’s teacher or find ways to observe his or her peer interactions to determine whether or not your suspicions might be correct. Talk directly to your child about the situation.
  4. Create healthy anti-bullying habits early. Help develop anti-bullying and anti-victimization habits early in your children, as early as kindergarten. Coach your children what not to do – hitting, pushing, teasing, saying “na-na-na-na-na,” being mean to others. Help your child to focus on how such actions might feel to the child on the receiving end (e.g., “How do you think you would feel if that happened to you?”). Such strategies can enhance empathy for others. Equally if not more important, teach your children what to do — kindness, empathy, fair play, and turn-taking are critical skills for good peer relations. Children also need to learn how to say “no” firmly, and how to avoid being mean to others. Coach your child about what to do if other kids are mean – get an adult right away, tell the child who is teasing or bullying to “stop,” walk away and ignore the bully. It may help to role play what to do with your child. And repetition helps: go over these techniques periodically with your Kindergarten and early elementary school aged children.

Chapter 3 – Prevention & Intervention

Exercise 31 – Responding to Bullying

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  1. Help your child’s school address bullying effectively. Whether your children have been bullied or not, you should know what their school is doing to address bullying. Research shows that “zero-tolerance” policies aren’t effective. What works better are ongoing educational programs that help create a healthy social climate in the school. This means teaching kids at every grade level how to be inclusive leaders and how to be empathic towards others and teaching victims effective resistance techniques. If your school does not have effective bullying strategies and policies in place, talk to the principal and advocate for change.
  2. Establish household rules about bullying. Your children need to hear from you explicitly that it’s not normal, ok, or tolerable for them to bully, to be bullied, or to stand by and just watch other kids be bullied. Make sure they know that if they are bullied physically, verbally, or socially (at school, by a sibling, in your neighborhood, or online), it’s safe and important for them to tell you about it and that you will help. They also need to know just what bullying is (many children do not know that they are bullying others), and that such behavior is harmful to others and not acceptable. You can help your children find other ways to exert their personal power, status, and leadership at school. Work with them, their teachers, and their principal to implement a kindness plan at school.
  3. Teach your child how to be a good witness. Research shows that kids who witness bullying feel powerless and seldom intervene. However, kids who take action can have a powerful and positive effect on the situation. Although it’s never a child’s responsibility to put him or herself in danger, kids can often effectively diffuse a bullying situation by yelling “Stop! You’re bullying!” Kids can also help each other by providing support to the victim, not giving extra attention to the bully, and/or reporting what they witnessed to an adult.
  4. Teach your child about cyber-bullying. Children often do not realize what cyberbullying is. Cyber-bullying includes sending mean, rude, vulgar, or threatening messages or images; posting sensitive, private information about another person; pretending to be someone else in order to make that person look bad; and intentionally excluding someone from an online group. These acts are as harmful as physical violence and must not be tolerated. We know from research that the more time a teen spends online, the more likely they will be cyber-bullied, – so limit online ti
  5. Spread the word that bullying should not be a normal part of childhood. Some adults hesitate to act when they observe or hear about bullying because they think of bullying as a typical phase of childhood that must be endured, or that it can help children “toughen up.” It is important for all adults to understand that bullying does not have to be a normal part of childhood. All forms of bullying are harmful to the perpetrator, the victim, and to witnesses, and the effects last well into adulthood (and can include depression, anxiety, substance abuse, family violence and criminal behavior). Efforts to effectively address bullying require the collaboration of school, home, and community. Forward this list and articles you’ve read to all the parents, teachers, administrators, after school care programs, camp counselors, and spiritual leaders you know. Bullying is an enormous problem, but if we all work together, we can have a positive impact.

If the bullying is particularly egregious or is becoming disruptive to the school environment, the school has the responsibility to inform the parents of the students involved. Of course, to do this, the school must have some evidence of its occurrence. In the case of cyber-bullying, the administration will want to provide the parents evidence of the occurrence (e.g., a hard copy of the derogative posting on Facebook).

If the event has happened during school, the administration has the jurisdiction to use the usual avenues for informing parents and disciplining the perpetrator(s) and supporting the victimized student(s). More common, however, is that the bullying has occurred outside of school and the administration may be in the position of supporting and providing resources to the families of both the targeted and offending students.

Such activities should be reported to the police directly and they can conduct their own investigation. School personnel should get advice from the police about contacting the parents of the students iBased on what we see on television or read in the newspapers, many of us develop beliefs about bullies and victims. Sometimes those beliefs are more myth than fact. Some myths and facts about bullies and victims are covered in the following screens.

nvolved so as not to interfere with an investigation.

Myth #1: Bullies are rejected by their peers and have no friends. Many people believe that everybody dislikes the class bully. But in truth, the research shows that many bullies have high status in the classroom and a lot of friends. Particularly during the middle school years, some bullies are actually quite popular among their classmates who perceive them as especially “cool.”

Myth #2: Bullies have low self-esteem. Just as it has been incorrectly assumed that bullies are rejected by peers and have no friends, there is a general belief that such youth have low self-esteem. That myth has its roots in the widely accepted view that people who bully others must act that way because they think poorly of themselves. On the contrary, many studies report that bullies perceive themselves in a positive light, perhaps sometimes displaying inflated self-views, and that high self-esteem can sometimes encourage bullies to rationalize their antisocial actions.

Myth #3: Being a victim builds character. Another misconception is that bullying is a normal part of childhood and adolescence and that the experience of peer harassment builds character. In contrast to this view, research findings quite clearly show that bullying experiences increase the vulnerabilities of children.

Myth #4: Many childhood victims of harassment become violent as teens. The portrayal of victims lashing out at their tormentors has been reinforced by the media portrayals of school shooting incidents over the past few years. However, the truth is that most victims of bullying are more likely to suffer in silence than to retaliate. As indicated previously, many victims experience psychological adjustment problems like depression and low self-esteem, which may make them inclined to turn inward rather than outward.

Myth #5: There is a victim personality. Although certain personality characteristics (e.g., the tendency to be shy or withdrawn) indeed place children at higher risk for being bullied, there are also a host of situational factors (e.g., being a new student in a school) and social risk factors (e.g., not having a friend) that increase the likelihood of a child’s being or continuing to be bullied. These situational factors explain why there are more temporary than chronic victims of bullying.

Myth #6: Bullying involves only perpetrators and victims. Many parents, teachers, and students view bullying as a problem that is limited to bullies and victims. Yet, there is much research showing that bullying involves more than the bully-victim dyad. For example, bullying incidents are typically public (rather than private) events that have witnesses. This is true even in cases of cyber-bullying.

Helping Parents Prevent and Manage Cyber-Bullying. While face-to-face bullying happens in school most often, 70% of harmful messages occur while a child is at home (Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2006). An i-Safe America (2006) survey found that 93% of parents thought they had a good understanding of what their child was doing on the internet. However, 41% of 5th-12th graders in the same survey reported that they shared what sites they viewed or interacted with.

Sadly, the survey also found that only 35% of the children who had been cyber-bullied told their parents. School administrators and teachers should be prepared to offer suggestions and advice to parents as they struggle to help their children find their way in this technology-saturated world.

Chapter 3 – Prevention & Intervention

Exercise 32 – Parents Managing Cyberbullying

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Parents need to take a more proactive role in educating and supervising their children’s interaction with technology. Much like talking about bike safety or stranger danger, parents must discuss safety issues of various technology environments, including cell phones and computers. An initial reaction from parents might be a black and white response—ban all potentially offending sites or technology. However, such a response does not recognize the importance of technology and communication in this generation; neither does it teach children to use technology responsibly.

Ongoing discussions about communicating online should include the following: 1. Discuss the miscommunication that can happen when communicating online. Suggest that direct communication that includes non-verbal cues might be the better way to share feelings or opinions.

  1. Explore the idea that people are not invisible online. While children can easily set up an anonymous email or website and can feel disinhibited when they do so, they need to know that their actions can be traced. Threats, harassment, extortion, and posting of pornographic images can be criminal, and the family could be held responsible for the child’s actions.
  2. Encourage children to protect their passwords. Someone you trust with your password one day may not be one you would trust at a later date. Parents should know their children’s passwords and screen names should an emergency arise.
  3. Help the child manage his or her reputation online. A discussion about the contents of an appropriate profile or text or email message is important.
  4. Discuss the need to filter and/or monitor a child’s online presence. Families need to decide whether they want to use filtering software to block access to certain sites, and/or if they would prefer to monitor their child’s interaction online. Children need to understand that their parents take their online communication seriously and will do what they need to keep them safe.

Filtering software can give parents a false sense of security about their child’s interactions, as it is relatively easy to figure out ways to subvert the filters. Parents can monitor their child’s technological “whereabouts” by checking the internet browser’s history, as well as periodically reviewing the history on the child’s cell phone. Google the child’s name periodically to search for what is posted online about the child. Discussions with the child should always follow any monitoring.

  1. Encourage your child to talk with you about cyber-bullying, including the instances in which they are bystanders. When your child has that experience, help him or her figure out how to manage what has happened; you don’t have to have the knee-jerk reaction of halting the behavior completely.

In case cyber-bullying does occur, Kowalski et al. (2008) provide the following excellent tips for responding: “Save the evidence. Print copies of the messages and websites. Use the save feature on instant messages. First offense (if minor in nature): ignore, delete, or block the sender. Instant message programs, email and cell phones usually have blocking features.

If a fake or offensive profile targeting your child is set up on a social networking site, report it to the site. The link for reporting cyber-bullying and fake profiles can be found under the Help sections of many websites. Make sure to copy the link (the web address) to the site for reporting purposes. Investigate your child’s online presence. Set up an alert on Google, or search your child’s name occasionally through a variety of search engines.

If the perpetrator is another student, share evidence with the school counselor. Check to see whether bullying may be occurring at school. If the perpetrator is known and cyber-bullying is continuing or severe, contact the child’s parents and share your evidence (if you are comfortable doing so). Ask that they ensure that the cyber-bullying stop and any offending material be removed.

Chapter 3 – Prevention & Intervention

Exercise 32 – Parents Managing Cyberbullying

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If the parent of the perpetrator is unresponsive and the behavior continues, the parent of the target may wish to contact an attorney or send a certified letter outlining possible civil/legal options if the behavior does not stop or material is not removed. Report the cyber-bullying to the police or high tech crimes unit in your area if the cyber-bullying contains threats, intimidation, or sexual exploitation. If your child expresses emotional distress or thoughts of self-harm, seek help from a school counselor or other mental health professional immediately” (p. 106).

Bullying and cyber-bullying can create an environment that makes learning potentially difficult for all students in a school environment. Everyone is involved in the “bullying circle,” even as a bystander of bullying. While it may be hard to address bullying, especially cyber-bullying, in a school setting, it is our responsibility to make a good faith effort to work with parents and our community to protect children from this kind of harm.

You are the principal at a middle school and learn from observing and listening in to some conversations in the lunch room that one of your students, Keisha, seems to have been sending suggestive emails to what seems to be every boy in school. Everyone in the lunchroom seems to be laughing and pointing at Keisha. Eventually Keisha runs to the bathroom and stays there until lunch is over. After school, a teacher comes to talk to you about the situation. She learned from Angela, Keisha’s best friend since pre-school, that Angela had shared Keisha’s email and Facebook passwords with a group of popular girls at the school. It appears that these girls have logged into Keisha’s email account and sent out a mass sexually explicit email to all of the boys in the school. Angela reports that Keisha is devastated and won’t talk to her. Angela reported to the teacher that the girls haven’t changed anything on Keisha’s Facebook page, but she wonders if they will.

Chapter 3 – Prevention & Intervention

Exercise 33 – Scenario

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What is your responsibility as the principal?
Whom should you contact, if anyone?
What impact could this situation have on the individual and the school?
What could have been done to resolve this case earlier?

Chapter 3 – Prevention & Intervention

Exercise 33 – Scenario

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The handout contains a list of references for this course.

Many youth in the United States have fully integrated the Internet into their daily lives. For them, the Internet is a positive and powerful space for socializing, learning, and engaging in public life. Minors use the Internet and other digital technologies to communicate with friends and peers, to connect with religious leaders and mentors, to conduct research for school assignments, to follow the progress of favorite sports teams or political candidates and participate in communities around shared interests, to read the news and find health information, to learn about colleges and the military, and in countless other productive ways. Most minors do not differentiate between their lives off and online, in part because the majority of online social interactions involving minors do not involve people who are not part of their offline lives.

Minors face risks online, just as they do in any other public space in which people congregate. These risks include harassment and bullying, sexual solicitation, and exposure to problematic and illegal content. These risks are not radically different in nature or scope from the risks minors have long faced offline, and minors who are most at risk in the offline world continue to be most at risk online. In the past, however, the risks were primarily local, and ideally addressed by parents, educators, social services, law enforcement, and others working together at the local level. In the online context, the risks implicate services from companies and access to audiences from around the world. The technologies involved also make visible risky behaviors and problematic interactions that were less visible offline, while allowing at-risk youth to more publicly and prominently display signs that they need help. Parents and local community members often are unfamiliar with the relevant technologies and do not have direct experience with the way the risks evolve in the context of the Internet and interactive technologies. Addressing risks online therefore carries different challenges and requires broader collaboration to find innovative solutions.

The Internet Safety Technical Task Force was formed to consider, on an accelerated timeline, the extent to which technologies can play a role in enhancing safety for minors in these online spaces. The Task Force was a collaborative effort among leaders from Internet service providers, social network sites, academia, education, child safety and public policy advocacy organizations, and technology development. The Task Force was created in accordance with the Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Safety announced by the Attorneys General Multi-State Working Group on Social Network Sites and MySpace in January 2008.

Sexting, the act of sending naked pictures via text message, has stirred controversy in many communities and in the legal system at large as teenagers have been charged with pedophilia and forced to register as sex offenders for transmitting and receiving nude photos of underage individuals.

The most prominent case is that of Philip Albert, an 18-year-old Floridian who, after a particularly nasty break-up with his ex-girlfriend, distributed the nudie photos she texted him to more than 70 people. One of the recipients was his ex-girlfriend’s grandparents. When police busted Albert, he was sentenced to five years of probation and was obligated to register as a sex offender — a label he’ll carry for the next 25 years. The girl was never charged.

Similar cases are sprouting wherever you turn. A 15-year-old girl in Pennsylvania has been charged with child pornography after emailing naked photos of herself to a 27-year-old man on MySpace; the 27-year-old, meanwhile, was charged only with “unlawful sexual activity.”

In Virginia, a 15-year-old and an 18-year-old were charged with possession of child pornography and electronic solicitation after investigators discovered sexted messages on at least seven cell phones. One of them contained an image of an elementary school student.

These examples are particularly vile. However, what of the six teenagers in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, who swapped explicit photos of themselves among themselves? Though technically viewed as illegal behavior, the incident could also be construed as a naive exchange between young people oblivious to the far-reaching consequences.

The list of cases goes on and on. According to USA Today, police have investigated sexting charges for at least two-dozen teens in at least six states. The practice has reached epidemic proportions. Many of the guilty aren’t even aware they are committing a crime. In Ohio, after several teens were busted for sexting, the perpetrators were required to survey their peers to determine whether or not sexting was acknowledged as a crime. Of the 225 surveyed, only 31 knew.

The main problem with these sexting charges is determining who is guilty and who is not. In some cases, those who snapped the photographs have been charged; in others, it’s those who received the images and inadvertently stored them on their mobile devices or email accounts. On the state level, there are far too many variations of the law to assess who is responsible for what. For instance, if a father discovered the images his daughter sent, shouldn’t he be charged with viewing child pornography and be punished? The consequences for sexting shift and, as in the case of the porn-collecting 27-year-old MySpace man, they are occasionally irrationally biased against the youngest involver.

Late last year it was reported that at least 20 percent of teenagers have sexted or emailed naked self-photos. Forty percent said they’ve viewed them. These acts are clearly perpetrated by young adults without a basic understanding of child pornography laws, and some states, like Utah, are taking this into account as sexting rises in popularity. Lawmakers there have agreed to lessen the sexting penalty for minors from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Thirty-three percent of boys and 25 percent of girls polled said they have nude or semi-nude images that they intended to be private and shared only among themselves, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Chapter 3 – Prevention & Intervention

Exercise 34 – The Internet and Sexting

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A staggering 15 percent of those who sent sexually suggestive content through emails or text messages said they had done so with someone they only knew online. The teens polled who have sent or posted sexually suggestive content provided a number of reasons: 66 percent said they did so to be fun or flirtatious. 52 percent did it as a sexy present for their dating partner. 40 percent sent the material as a joke.
The consequences of these actions could be devastating and 75 percent of the children polled realize that, while 19 percent said it was “no big deal.”

Chapter 3 – Prevention & Intervention

Exercise 34 – The Internet and Sexting

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What many teens don’t realize is that these private messages could easily become public. A photo sent to a boyfriend or girlfriend could find its way to a social networking website. After that, sexual predators could stalk these teens using the material that goes viral over the Internet.
Not only that, but potential employers and college administrators use social networking sites to do background checks.

Here is a list of recommended preventive measures to protect children: Talk to your children about what they are doing online. Know who your children are communicating with online and on the phone. Consider imposing limitations on electronic communication. Be aware of what your children are posting online. Set expectations and make a safety plan.

State and federal child pornography laws were created to protect the children. But children now can be in violation of the statutes that were created to protect them. As a parent, you have to stay in touch with your kids. You have to know what they are doing.

The Task Force makes specific recommendations to the Internet community and to parents, as well as recommendations regarding the allocation of resources:

1. Members of the Internet community should continue to work with child safety experts, technologists, public policy advocates, social services, and law enforcement to: develop and incorporate a range of technologies as part of their strategy to protect minors from harm online; set standards for using technologies and sharing data; identify and promote best practices on implementing technologies as they emerge and as online safety issues evolve; and put structures into place to measure effectiveness. Careful consideration should be given to what the data show about the actual risks to minors’ safety online and how best to address them, to constitutional rights, and to privacy and security concerns.

  1. To complement the use of technology, greater resources should be allocated: to schools, libraries, and other community organizations to assist them in adopting risk management policies and in providing education about online safety issues; to law enforcement for training and developing technology tools, and to enhance community policing efforts around youth online safety; and to social services and mental health professionals who focus on minors and their families, so that they can extend their expertise to online spaces and work with law enforcement and the Internet community to develop a unified approach for identifying at-risk youth and intervening before risky behavior results in danger. Greater resources also should be allocated for ongoing research into the precise nature of online risks to minors, and how these risks shift over time and are (or are not) mitigated by interventions. To allow for more systematic and thorough research, law enforcement should work with researchers to help them gather data on registered sex offenders’ use of Internet technologies, and technology companies should provide researchers with appropriately anonymized data for studying their practices.
  2. Parents and caregivers should: educate themselves about the Internet and the ways in which their children use it, as well as about technology in general; explore and evaluate the effectiveness of available technological tools for their particular child and their family context, and adopt those tools as may be appropriate; be engaged and involved in their children’s Internet use; be conscious of the common risks youth face to help their children understand and navigate the technologies; be attentive to at-risk minors in their community and in their children’s peer group; and recognize when they need to seek help from others.

The attached handout is the complete report submitted by The Internet Safety Technical Task Force. This report is over 250 pages in length. No examination questions will be based on the information in this report, but it is strongly recommended that you read the handout to better understand the issues facing today’s youth when using technology, cell phones, and the Internet.


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