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Cyberbullying: Grab the Tablet by the Horns!

by Sgt. Thomas Rich

This post, Understanding Cyberbullying Through Immersion: Educate, Empower, Engage, was originally published in SEEN Magazine.

Today’s technology has taken on a life of its own. Words such as “tweet,” “hashtag,” “snap” and “follow” have become integrated into our daily vocabulary. Every day there seems to be a new social media platform that kids are using, whether it’s Twitter, Snapchat, Yik Yak or Facebook. It’s as though our students speak another language and exist in an entirely different world outside of their homes and our classrooms, and frankly, it’s hard to keep up with it all.

This murky water inhibits many adults from entering into a sensitive conversation about online harassment for fear of overstepping or simply being confused about why a “subtweet” might make a student cry. (Subtweet is a post that refers to a user without directly mentioning them, typically used to mock.)

So how do we help the kid in crisis? We teach them simple steps to block predators, both known and unknown and we arm administrators with digital knowledge. To help mitigate the risks the online world can pose to our students, the best thing we can do is to provide them with valuable resources and create “teachable moments” to help them to identify and avoid the pitfalls of the digital age.

You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

As schools go 1-to-1 and classrooms leave behind paper syllabi for school websites and email, the connected teacher and classroom is emerging. There are even hashtags (#) that help cultivate forums for this growing community (see: #CPchat – connected principal chat or #edtechchat – educational technology chat). I’m not suggesting that you fill your “friend list” with students, but I am asking you to do your research. Not sure what an app is but it’s causing havoc in your school? Download it! Scroll through the app to see what it’s actually all about. It’s free and after a few clicks you’ll understand what you are looking at, or even better, ask a helpful student to walk you through the apps themselves. Sure, it might cost you a few wrong clicks, but now you are armed with a new understanding of your students’ online playground so you can better moderate crisis situations when these sources are cited. (And, hey, you can delete the apps after you’ve had enough teen chatter and Kardashian sisters for one day!) For Super Quick Safety Tips about many of the most popular mobile apps — Instagram, Vine, Twitter, etc. — you can visit: https://stopitcyberbully.com/resources

I Know What You Did Last Summer … Month … Tuesday … Lunch Break.

Many adults think social media is child’s play. They are afraid, uninterested, or just plain don’t understand why anyone would want to post 300 “Selfies.” But this growing chasm between adults and young users is hindering our ability to keep our students safe online. We wouldn’t send a class of sophomores off on a field trip without teacher supervision, so why are we giving students unmonitored, uneducated access to the world-WILD-web? One of the most important pieces of knowledge you can bestow on your students — and faculty — is how to turn off a device’s Geo-tagging to keep predators and bullies at bay.

Never heard of it? That’s OK. Geo-tagging is the process of attaching very specific location information to media. For instance, the exact latitude and longitude of the location of a photo that you took using your phone while at school. In the social media platform Instagram, there is a locations map that will pin each and every photograph to a location on a world map from the exact point that the photo was taken. So, if you were to post this imaginary photo of yourself in a classroom at your school and then post it to Instagram, I, as a fellow Instagram user, could then click on your Instagram Profile, tap the upside-down “teardrop” icon and pull up a complete map of your photos. Then by continuously tapping on the image of you in the classroom the map would zoom in until I knew the exact location you were standing in, in the exact town, on the exact street, all the way to the exact location of the classroom that your photo was taken in. Now I know where to find you and you are completely unaware. This is scary stuff, right?

Now, I will tell you how to turn the map function “OFF” and you can share this process with your students and staff. Snip20160429_38

Within your Instagram profile click the “teardrop” icon on the top toolbar, this will open on the photomap. At the bottom of the screen tap the icon with nine squares, this option will show all of the images that have been added automatically to the map. Once the images are displayed, tap “Deselect all” and confirm that you’d like to remove the geo-tags (locations) from your map. This will remove all of the location data from the selected photos from your account. Don’t worry; this will remove the location data, not the images. Double check that the changes have been made to confirm the deletion, the photomap should now be clear.

Next, to turn off the location sharing data for all future photos, look for the “Add to Photo Map” option when uploading the next Instagram photo and toggle the option to “OFF.” All future photos will use this option as a default.

Note: If tapping the “teardrop” icon does not work then the mapping function has already been turned “OFF.”

Finally, to ensure all location services are turned “OFF”, leave the Instagram app and go into your phone’s Settings, tap “Privacy,” choose “Location Services,” scroll down until you see “Instagram” and choose the setting “Never” to dis-allow all location access within the app. While in “Location Services” take a moment to see what other applications are using “Location Services,” you might see Facebook, Vine, or Yik Yak too, turn their settings to “Never” and protect you and your students from danger across all social media platforms.

Grab the Tablet by the Horns!

In closing, this internet “stuff” isn’t going away anytime soon, so grab technology by the horns and go for the ride. Be an ambassador among your peers for engaging with children through social media and simultaneously prompt them to put their best foot forward online. Balance the risks of this digital world by cultivating a class of Upstanders, who see something online and say something. Engage your school’s to create online content that gives back to the student body. Challenge leadership groups to reach down to the younger grades and have a positive influence on their everyday lives to encourage them to grow into responsible digital citizens too. Create a school climate and culture that promotes positivity online and be rewarded with social change that you can see in the hallways as well — and then embrace technology so that your school can benefit from the many amazing gifts our digital world bestows on our classrooms and us.


SEEN 17.3 Cover

Sgt. Thomas Rich, is an 18-year veteran of the Summit, New Jersey police force and cyber-safety keynote speaker at over 700 events nationally, reaching over 500,000 students. Rich’s presentations cover cyberbullying and how technology fuels this epidemic. He has also been a featured expert on the subject of online safety and cyberbullying for Good Morning America, The Nancy Grace show and Fox television. More information about Sgt. Rich and STOPit can be found at www.stopitcyberbully.com.

Original article, Understanding Cyberbullying Through Immersion: Educate, Empower, Engage, was originally published in SEEN Magazine. Check out more thought leadership profiles in the latest edition of SEEN Magazine! 

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