Social workers in the contemporary school set up have been faced with various challenges involving students and their relationship with other stakeholders. However, the greatest challenge that has been document so far is the cyberbullying among students. Cyberbullying presents emotional, psychological, and social effects to parties involved directly and indirectly. In this short article, we shall present various dynamics of cyberbullying and how social workers can handle and address such cases both at the school level as well as within the community. In addition, we shall present ways in which all stakeholders including parents, teachers, social workers and school administrators can handle while preventing prevalence cases of cyberbullying in future. Finally, we shall present how cyberbullying is likely to shape school counselling programs in the future and mitigation measures to be employed to prevent it (Juvonen & Gross, 2008).
Cyberbullying can be described as repeated practice of constant threatening, harassing, humiliating, and intimidating another person through various means but specifically through use of information technology such as mobile devices and social media. Various forms of cyberbullying by use of such platforms include cyberstalking, denigration, trickery/outing, flaming and impersonation. Cyberbullying may be manifested through various forms as listed above with a clear intention to cause harm either physically, emotional or psychologically through a repetitive process aimed at causing fear over another person. This can take the form of threats, intimidation, insults, as well as other harmful statements aimed at causing grief to the victim (Beran & Qing, 2010).
There are various adverse effects of cyberbullying which if not checked would result to devastating consequences to the victim and more dangerously hamper the growth process in case of school going children. Cyberbullying damages the victims emotionally. Consequently, victims of cyberbullying have high tendencies of experiencing depression, poor academic performance, isolation, which can eventually degenerate to suicidal ideation. Cyberbullying unlike the traditional forms of bullying when the victim can escape whenever they are home away from school, the victim is in contestant with the bully whenever they have a mobile phone or internet connection whether home or in school. The continued activity of cyberbullying eventually can cause aggregated anxiety among the adolescent since they may perverse as if they have no safe haven or anywhere to turn to. These are some of the challenges that face school counselors in their attempt to devise the best strategy to counter such effects to the victims. The unique nature and cyberbullying and the fact that cyber bullies make hurtful and more dangerous statements online than they would do in person qualifies cyberbullying a destructive form of bullying considering it also targets younger generation prone to emotional imbalance. This further complicates the work of school counselors and how well to approach such a delicate issue (Dehue, Bolman & Völlink, 2008).
There are various ways in which social workers can participate to ensure cyberbullying is curtailed if not completely eliminated. First, school counselors ought to emphasize on education. With regard to education, school counselors ought to be conversant with the different forms and methodologies of cyberbullying. In addition, understanding the impacts it causes on its victims is paramount as well as ways and means of supporting the victims while at the same time providing consequences and guidance to all parties involved including perpetrators. Secondly, education should include all school personnel in all ways to address cyberbullying both while in school and outside school environment. Finally, education should focus on the students in attempts to understand what cyberbullying entails and its possible effects with importance of upholding online ethics and moral conducts. School counselors ought to utilize every resource at their disposal to deal with the menace. Such resources include the Cyberbullying Research Center, National Association of School Psychologists, and Stop Bullying Now. When such a collaborative effort is taken, cyberbullying will be minimal or outdated all together in the next ten years (Charles, 2013).
The direction cyberbullying has taken has called for a collaborative effort from all stakeholders. In the next ten years, school counselors should take a robust strategy and efforts to ensure the vice is eradicated. In this regard, school counselors should work in a collaborative manner with school administrators and school staff to abate the vice through proper preventive structures both on and off campuses. Therefore, the directional strategy with school counselor ought towards increasing work force while establishing collaborative ventures with school personnel. When incidences of cyberbullying are identified, school counselors should provide equal consequences to the perpetrators while providing support to the victims. With the current status in the cyberbullying trends, all stakeholders should be concerned and work in a collaborative manner. In this regard, there have been efforts by the government agencies, school counselors and providers of inline social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter who have implemented and advocated for the development and implementation of all measures to curb cyberbullying locally and internationally (Haber & Daley, 2011).
However, with the current trend of absorption of technology in daily activities in schools where population will probably be double from the current, school counselors should as well device ways and means of abating the increasing cases of cyberbullying. In this front, a collaborative approach would be effective with other stakeholders, government agencies and social medial provides. For instance, when educational materials are provided through internet-enabled devices, cases of cyberbullying would be expected to be high. Therefore, school counselors and administrators should request the device manufacturers to introduce filters that will limit contents accessible to school going children. These filters may as well be introduced to limit access to some avenues and sites prone to cyberbullying (Charles, 2013).