Cyberbullying Share “You have no friends.” Imagine if a youth in your church received an email with a purposefully hurtful message, such as the one above. Or, what if an electronic vote were taken among class members of who the fattest kids were? Or, consider if someone’s private photographs were posted on a public website. All such actions could be devastating to a child, teenager or adult. And, all are examples of a new, but increasingly prevalent, class of harassment: cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is defined by the Cyberbullying Research Center as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cellphones, and other electronic devices.” The National Crime Prevention Council reports it is a problem that affects almost half of all American teens. Implementing a Policy Against Cyberbullying To help prevent cyberbullying incidents from occurring under your church’s watch, a policy against cyberbullying can be implemented. Such a policy should promote: No Tolerance: Members should be informed in writing that your church does not tolerate cyberbullying on its property or during any of its events. Being Accessible: Show your members that your church is open, accessible, and supportive with regards to cyberbullying, so there is no hesitation by a victim to report an incident. Education: Educate members on cyberbullying and how to respond if it occurs. Recommended Victim Responses The following are recommended responses for a victim should cyberbullying occur: What to avoid: Do NOT respond to or retaliate against the sender. This may escalate the situation. Do NOT pass along cyberbullying messages to others. What to do: Print all instances of cyberbullying. Preserve electronic evidence. Take a screen shot or store the message in a folder. There may be important electronic information that can help law enforcement trace the source. Report improper content and usage to the associated website or Internet Service Provider (ISP). Block the sender. If a person is a repeat offender, the phone company can be contacted to block their number. Websites or ISPs can block specific users or email addresses. Tell a trusted adult (youth leader, parent, teacher, social worker or law enforcement). Call police if you feel you or someone else is in danger. Response by the Church What can you do when cyberbullying occurs on your property? Take the following actions as necessary. If your church has computers available for member use, cyberbullying should be prohibited as a part of your acceptable use policy. If cyberbullying is proven to occur, the violator of the policy is prohibited from further using the facilities. If the incident occurs on your website or a social media page, such as Facebook, the site administrator can remove the content once it has been saved. The appropriate administrator should also be proactive in notifying the parent/guardian of both victim and perpetrator if they are known. Address cyberbullying in your youth groups or meetings. Consider inviting experts on cyberbullying from among the community to youth groups or events, and invite parents to attend. Make sure youth who feel they have been bullied are aware of their avenues of support. Protecting Your Congregation By educating your members and members’ children, managing computer use on your property, and working with parents or guardians to remedy cyberbullying situations, your church can do its part to control this new and growing type of harassment. For additional information on cyberbullying, please visit the National Crime Prevention Council website. Tags SafeChurch Religious Organization © 2024 GuideOne Insurance. GuideOne® is the registered trademark of the GuideOne Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.