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Internet Safety and Ethics

Internet Safety and Ethics Activity: The Golden Rule Goes Online: Preventing and Stopping Cyberbullying

Instructions for Your Students

Being a good online citizen is about more than just deleting your cookies. It's also about being a tough cookie and treating others online with the respect that you would give them in person. 

Check out what cyberbullying looks like and think about how you may have seen this in your own life. Finally, get your act on, and work with your friends to put on skits that show how every student can fight back against cyberbullying.

A word of warning: We're going to be talking about some pretty sensitive stuff here, so we're asking you to be super careful with the way you react. When conversations get heavy, it can be tempting to make jokes or try to inject a little humor, but that's not appropriate in this situation. 

This is serious stuff, and out of respect for yourself and your classmates (and hey—your teacher, too!), we're asking you to do your best to be kind and considerate throughout this lesson. Thanks. 

Step 1: Begin by reading the Internet Safety 101 webpage on cyberbullying and watching the 4-minute video at the bottom of the page. Afterwards, as a class discuss the following questions:

  1. What is cyberbullying? 
  2. Have you ever cyberbullied anyone? Has anyone ever cyberbullied you?
  3. Have you ever seen someone else be cyberbullied? Did you do anything to stop it? If not, what could you have done? 
  4. According to this website, what percentage of teenagers report being cyberbullied in the last year? 
  5. What are the different kinds of cyberbullying listed on the website? What do they each mean? What types of technology do people use to cyberbully? 
  6. Why can it sometimes be easier to bully people over phones and the Internet than in person? 
  7. In the video, what does the teenage girl say that other people have done when they hacked into her accounts, using her password? 
  8. What does one boy do when he goes into the bathroom, to bully a classmate? What were the consequences? 
  9. What are some things that you and your parents can do to keep track of the information that results from cyberbullying? 
  10. What can students do to get help from cyberbullying?

Step 2: So far, so good. You've tackled some tough stuff already, but this is where things get a little bit tougher. Remember: this is a sensitive subject, and joking about it isn't appropriate. 

Okay. Ready? Go ahead and watch CNN's report "Bullying Ends in Tragedy for Young Girl" regarding Hope Witsell's suicide. When the video is over, discuss the questions below with your class.

  1. What did Hope send to her boyfriend? 
  2. What did another girl do with what Hope sent? How would you feel if someone did this to you? 
  3. What did Hope's mother warn her about? Why do you think Hope didn't listen?
  4. What did bullies do to Hope? 
  5. Why do you think Hope kept quiet about the bullying?
  6. What did bullies write about Hope in the Shields Middle School Burn Book? Have you ever seen stuff like that online?
  7. How did Hope's friends try to help her? Is there something more they could have done?
  8. Why did Hope commit suicide? 
  9. Do Hope's parents think her school has some responsibility in her death? Why? 
  10. What did Hope's sister find online after Hope's death? 
  11. Do you know anybody who has ever been cyberbullied like this, or in other ways? If you feel comfortable, share the story. What did you do? If you could go back, what would you do differently?

Step 3: Next up: Cyberbullying.org. This website helps people learn basic digital skills and it includes a information on cyberbullying. Read some of their articles in the Teen Resources section and talk about it in class. 

Here are some questions you may want to consider: 

  1. What are some warning signs that may help you recognize a cyber bully?
  2. What steps should you take if you encounter a cyber bully? 
  3. How are these steps similar to and different from the way people say you should handle someone who bullies you face to face?

Step 4: Assignment time. Your teacher will help you break up into small groups, and assign each group one type (or tactic, as they're called in the Internet Safety 101 article from Step 1) of cyberbullying. The types of bullying tactics are listed below. 

  • Gossip
  • Exclusion
  • Impersonation
  • Harassment
  • Cyberstalking
  • Flaming
  • Outing and trickery
  • Cyberthreats

Psst! You can refer to the Internet Safety 101 article for definitions.

Once your group has been assigned its bullying tactic, work together to create a skit about that type of bullying. Your skit should include a situation where this type of bullying is used and present at least one way for a victim to get help in order to resolve the particular type of cyberbullying. After you write your skit, practice it a few times so you'll be ready to perform it in front of the class.

One more thing you should know: Your skit should be interactive, meaning that after you perform it, you should plan to stay in character to answer questions from the audience. Students may ask a character how s/he felt at a particular moment or why s/he made a certain choice. 

Step 5: Time for groups to perform their skits. After each group finishes, audience members can ask questions of the characters. If you're performing, don't step out of character until the last question is answered. And if you're watching, be ready to ask a few questions.