School Climate & Safety

Students Take a Stand Against Cyberbullying

By Michelle R. Davis — February 04, 2011 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

High school student Annabel C. was in middle school when she began receiving taunting, hurtful instant messages from an anonymous harasser when she was on her computer. After some sleuthing, the New Rochelle, N.Y., student realized that the instant messages were actually being written by someone she considered a friend.

“I was obviously hurt,” says Annabel, now a junior at the private Ursuline School. “I couldn’t understand why someone would send those messages, but it was worse to find out it was a friend.”

Instead of responding online, she says, she approached the student in person, asked her to stop, and told her they were no longer friends. But she also emphasized they weren’t enemies either. The online taunting stopped.

That experience, in part, prompted her to join her school’s Teenangels group when she was a sophomore. The program, created in 1999 by Parry Aftab, a cyberbullying expert who founded the nonprofit Internet-safety group WiredSafety, has 16 chapters around the country. The school’s Teenangels program has a policy that permits students to provide only their first names and the initials of their last names to the news media.

Teenangels trains middle and high school students on Internet safety, privacy, and security, and counsels them on how to deal with and prevent cyberbullying. The students then give presentations to other students, as well as to parents and other adults.

“Getting kids involved and getting their help to support policies to prevent cyberbullying is crucial,” Aftab says. “Kids respond when they’re part of it instead of having it shoved down their throats.”

Clearly, there’s a need for more education about cyberbullying, experts contend. According to a 2010 report on cyberbullying research from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, up to a third of teenagers say they have experienced some form of online harassment, and 26 percent say they have experienced harassment through voice or text messages on their cellphones.

Online harassment has an emotional impact, says Sameer Hinduja, the co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, based in Jupiter, Fla., and an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at Florida Atlantic University in Fort Lauderdale. Hinduja’s research has shown that cyberbullying is related to low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, anger, frustration, substance abuse, and delinquency in the victims.

Michael Nehring, a sophomore at New Jersey’s Ridgewood High School who was a Teenangel during middle school (his high school does not have a chapter), says he joined the group after reading about teen suicides related to cyberbullying. He also was growing concerned about sexting—a practice in which students send sexually explicit photos of themselves via cellphone.

Watching some of his friends get bullied in both real life and cyberspace made him feel even more strongly that he needed to take a stand.

“You can’t hide from cyberbullying,” Nehring says.

A version of this article appeared in the February 09, 2011 edition of Digital Directions as Teens Take a Stand to Change Behavior

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Third Party to Probe School's Actions Ahead of Mich. School Shooting
A third party will investigate events at Oxford High School, the Michigan district's superintendent said.
5 min read
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer embraces Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter as the two leave flowers and pay their respects Thursday morning, Dec. 2, 2021 at Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich. A 15-year-old boy has been denied bail and moved to jail after being charged in the Michigan school shooting that killed four students and injured others.(Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP)
School Climate & Safety Explainer: How Unusual Is It to Charge Parents in a School Shooting?
Guns used in U.S. school shootings have often come from the homes of young perpetrators, but parents are rarely charged, experts say.
3 min read
This image from 52-1 District Court shows a Zoom arraignment for Jennifer and James Crumbley in Oakland Co., Mich., on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. The parents of Ethan Crumbley, a teen accused of killing four students in a shooting at Oxford High School, plead not guilty to involuntary manslaughter charges. ( 52-1 District Court via AP)
School Climate & Safety Oxford School Shooting: Parents Charged, School's Response Under Scrutiny
The boy's parents failed to intervene, the prosecutor says, despite being confronted with a chilling note that was found at his desk.
4 min read
Waterford resident Andrew Baldwin, cousin of Madisyn Baldwin, places candles at the base of a a memorial with his 5-year-old daughter Ariyah Baldwin on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021 outside of Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich. Madisyn Baldwin, 17, was one of four teens killed in Tuesday's school shooting. A 15-year-old sophomore opened fire at his Michigan high school on Tuesday, killing four students, including a 16-year-old boy who died in a deputy’s patrol car on the way to a hospital, authorities said.
Waterford resident Andrew Baldwin, cousin of Madisyn Baldwin, places candles at the base of a a memorial with his 5-year-old daughter Ariyah Baldwin on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021 outside of Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich. Madisyn Baldwin, 17, was one of four teens killed in Tuesday's school shooting. A 15-year-old sophomore opened fire at his Michigan high school on Tuesday, killing four students, including a 16-year-old boy who died in a deputy’s patrol car on the way to a hospital, authorities said.
Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP
School Climate & Safety Explainer: Why Was Michigan Suspect Charged With Terrorism?
He also was charged with first-degree murder, assault with intent to commit murder and gun crimes in Tuesday's attack at Oxford High School.
3 min read
Parents walk away with their kids from the Meijer's parking lot in Oxford where many students gathered following an active shooter situation at Oxford High School, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in Oxford, Mich. Police took a suspected shooter into custody and there were multiple victims, the Oakland County Sheriff's office said.
Parents walk away with their kids from the Meijer's parking lot in Oxford where many students gathered following an active shooter situation at Oxford High School, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in Oxford, Mich. Police took a suspected shooter into custody and there were multiple victims, the Oakland County Sheriff's office said.
Eric Seals/Detroit Free Press via AP