How can schools, parents, and social media companies work to end cyberbullying and protect children from the potentially deadly, devastating, and lasting harm cyberbullying can cause?
An expert on the prevention of cyberbullying, SC&I Associate Professor of Library and Information Science Vivek Singh is working to end cyberbullying, and by doing so protect children in schools and in the digital and physical worlds beyond schools where children are also often victimized.
Because of his expertise, Singh was invited to serve on the North Jersey Anti-Bullying Task Force, which was spearheaded by U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and led by Jane Clementi (founder of the Tyler Clementi Foundation).
According to the Task Force, its goals include strengthening New Jersey’s laws and policies to ensure cyberbullying ends and its victims are protected. Yesterday, September 10, 2020, the task force released its findings in the “North Jersey Anti-Bullying Task Force Report.”
Singh said, “As one of the task force members, I was able to bring in my expertise on cyberbullying (i.e. the abuse of online tools for harming others) prevention to the task force. I was able to add a perspective as the task force made recommendations for reducing bullying in schools and beyond.”
While the report still focuses mostly on students, not adults who are also victims of cyberbullying, for the first time it does so in a much broader way, Singh said. “The traditional focus has been on cyberbullying in schools. This report recommends expanding the focus into settings (digital and physical) beyond the school which affect the students,” Singh said.
There are about a dozen members of the Task Force, including teachers, counsellors, a police chief, and a high school student, Singh said. “The goal was to bring in different perspectives pertaining to bullying (and its prevention) to the table.”
The North Jersey Anti-Bullying Task Force was convened by Congressman Gottheimer to strengthen the New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, New Jersey’s Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying laws, school bullying policies, and federal anti-bullying laws.
The Task Force originally grew out of the Five-Point Anti-Bullying Action Plan Gottheimer launched on January 13, 2020 to “improve data and incident reporting, to increase conversations between schools and parents, to help schools take more proactive steps with the right policies, to find and share the best practices on the local level, and to ensure social media companies are properly combating cyberbullying.”
The Task Force’s key findings, according to their report released yesterday, include their discoveries that “. . . the New Jersey State bullying law excludes many types of bullying and includes some incidents that did not constitute bullying. Additionally, the Task Force found that the efficiency and effectiveness of investigations into bullying incidents could be improved and that teachers, staff, parents, and community members could be better equipped to address bullying situations with confidence to achieve more positive outcomes. Furthermore, the Task Force identified missed opportunities to prevent future bullying incidents and improve the well-being of both the targets and the aggressors. Lastly, the Task Force found that increasingly prevalent cyberbullying incidents are not being prevented or resolved as successfully as they could be.”
As a result of their findings, the Task Force is recommending a number of key steps to enable New Jersey to make improvements. Singh said, “The Task force has made recommendations in areas such as the definition of bullying, training of teachers and staff, and working with online social media companies. Together, we as a group have identified 5 major concern areas and recommendations for tackling them.”
These are, Singh said, to:
- Redefine the New Jersey definition of bullying.
- Improve investigations into bullying incidents.
- Improve and expand training for teachers and staff.
- Incorporate mental health services into the school setting.
- Address cyberbully earlier and beyond school settings.
The Rutgers Tyler Clementi Center for Diversity Education and Bias Prevention, named for Jane Clementi’s son Tyler, a Rutgers student who died on September 22, 2010, has been a supporter of some of the Task Force’s research on cyberbullying prevention, Singh said.
Singh has also collaborated and co-authored a research article with Susan Furrer, a former director of the center.
NorthJersey.com: “How can we end bullying? For starters, stop using the word ‘bully, report says.’”