Cyberbullying pervades school environments and can have devastating consequences if it goes unnoticed or unaddressed. Do educators have the knowledge and skills to prevent and manage such behavior? Researchers in Australia developed a framework to capture preservice teachers’ understanding of cyberbullying as well as their perspectives on how to manage and prevent it. They hoped this approach could offer insight into how teacher education might help prevent and combat bullying behavior.
The researchers first developed a Cyberbullying Conceptual Framework by identifying general concepts in the existing literature on the subject. They discovered three main categories of discourse: identification, management, and prevention. They then used this framework to analyze 61 preservice teachers’ comments recorded during a three-week online course in which they engaged with teachers and teacher educators about cyberbullying. The group read a novel about a teenager who commits suicide after experiencing cyberbullying and discussed pedagogical questions raised by the book.
Using their Cyberbullying Conceptual Framework, the researchers categorized the preservice teachers’ comments and questions, and drew inferences for teacher education. Their inquiry revealed a deep concern with preventing bullying; 43% of all posts addressed this theme, while 34% were about managing cyberbullying and 23% related to identification. Furthermore, the preservice teachers perceived cyberbullying management as primarily a school- and community-wide concern: in the management category, 78% of posts discussed the role and responsibility of the school, while only 32% were associated with the role and responsibility of the individual teacher. Comments revealed teachers’ understanding of their role within a larger system and highlighted the importance of parent and professional counselor involvement. On the other hand, the participants identified teachers as the primary agents in cyberbullying prevention, with 48% of comments in this category focused on the role and responsibility of the teacher, versus 29% about that of the school and 22% the role and responsibility of teacher education. The comments focused on the teacher’s duty to design a supportive environment, to foster relational and conflict resolution skills in their students, and to set anti-bullying expectations.
Although the researchers acknowledged that their study was small and engaged preservice teachers from a single university, they noted that the participants involved displayed high concern about cyberbullying, but low knowledge of and confidence about how to manage and prevent it. The study suggests the value of offering education on cyberbullying to both preservice and inservice teachers. Through ongoing professional development and training, educators can be better equipped to prevent and respond to cyberbullying.Unsplash