Cyberbullying in Schools: International and Korean Views / by Tyler Wood

With the introduction of new technologies into education comes the side-effects of those technologies that educators must address for the safety of the children and their ability to access education without intimidation or limitations of any kind that can be addressed. One of the newest of these side-effects that must be addressed is cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is bullying through the means of communication technologies such as cell phones, social media sites, text messaging, or others. I will discuss the recommendations of UNICEF and the laws addressing this issue in South Korea and see what can be done and what is being done. 

According to UNICEF Canada, cyberbullying and bullying are two sides of the same coin in that they both “can have significant and lifelong physical and mental health effects upon children, as well as many other personal and social consequences for both child victims and perpetrators. Bullying is a serious form of violence against children – the effects of which can include violations of such rights as, inter alia: the right to life, survival and development (article 6); the best interests of the child (article 3); protection from harm (article 19), participation (article 12); privacy (article 16), information (article 17); freedom of thought (article 14); the highest attainable standard of health (article 24); and education (articles 28 and 29)” (UNICEF, 2012). There have been many studies indicating the risks to children from the UN and WHO and many other organizations on children’s health. Bullying is of serious concern to the health and education of children. 

However, cyberbullying “allows perpetrators to remain anonymous, it enables quick distribution and replication of messages, and it can turn masses of children into bystanders or witnesses of non-physical or social bullying of a highly malicious nature. Though these facets of cyberbullying may exacerbate bullying in new ways, evidence suggests that most cyberbullying is perpetrated by individuals known to the victims, in their daily lives and offline social relationships.” (UNICEF, 2012). This means that though bullying and cyberbullying are both similar in negative effects, prevention will be different because of the different ways they rear their heads. For example, one of the major issues with prevention is adult awareness because the communication tools used by children are not always well know to the adults in their lives (e.g. parents or teachers) because of the digital divide (UNICEF, 2012). 

UNICEF goes on to make many recommendations for governments and organizations on how they should tackle this issue. One program has been working in Canada and has four main points on how a school can combat cyberbullying and become “Rights Respecting”. First, get more students participating. When students are taking part in the workings of the school and when their opinions are respected by the school it allows better communication and prevention of bullying in general. Second, better awareness of children’s rights. Both children and faculty should be well versed in children’s rights to better be aware of what to look out for and how best to deal with that in the school setting. Third, to enrich teaching and learning with the point of addressing student and student as well as student and teacher interaction expectations. Teachers should address these concerns and model rights respecting attitudes and behaviors for students. Fourth, strengthened leadership that puts child rights at the forefront of decision making for the school. At times, schools with push for better technology without considering the negative side-effects before integration. This idea would make sure administration, and other leadership, would first suss out the possibly child rights issues before implementing new technology into the school. For example, making sure there are blocks in place on certain social media sites because they pose a cyberbullying threat, especially if the site is not conducive for the school environment anyway (UNICEF, 2012).

For the full UNICEF report, including all of the recommendations, click the button below. 

In South Korea, technological advancement is seen as nearly an ubiquitous need. It is very common for Koreans to buy the latest technology. Schools, however, tend to be a bit behind the times on the technological front. Though technology is creeping into schools slower than it does in society generally, the government has taken some steps on the matter of cyberbullying. In Korea, they take a similar stance to that of UNICEF in that they liken it to bullying generally and have put them both under the umbrella of “violence in schools”. The law addressing this is called the Act on the Prevention of and Countermeasures Against Violence in Schools. This act addresses cyberbullying directly and how to deal with victims and bullies. Their definition of cyberbullying is “any form of constant or repeated actions whereby students inflict emotional harm on other students by using the Internet, cell phones or other information and communications devices to reveal personal information about a specific student or to spread lies or rumors about a specific student, and then inflict pain thereon” (Ministry of Education, 2015). The Act requires the government, both nationally and locally, to prepare institutional systems to research and collect data on this issue for on-going study. They will also set-up assistance in treatment and rehabilitation for victim students as well as placement of counselors. 

There is a long list of things that this Act has set up in the way of investigating, protecting victims, duties of different staff an faculty, etc. but the only things related to technology is that someone who prevents an act of cyberbullying shall be subsidized for their expenses incurred or telecommunication service fees (Ministry of Education, 2015). The Ministry of Education’s jurisdiction ends at setting up the infrastructure for this issue and does not extend to the technology itself. According to the data collected by Korea Communications Commission, “17.2 percent were victims of cyber bullying in the past year” (Korea Herald, 2016) but there have yet to be any concrete updates to the less than detailed plan from the aforementioned Act. It appears that there are resources for victims that have been set up by the Act for counseling and rehabilitation, but very little has been done for prevention efforts and it is up to each school to come up with measures that can help reduce or eliminate cyberbullying on campus. This might be a reason schools are reluctant to introduce new technology into the education process and could be hindering the ability to offer newer, tech-based courses. 

Note: This article will be updated with new information as this is an ever-changing topic.

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References

 

The Korea Herald. (2016). Two Out 10 Students Involved in Cyberbullying: Report. The Korea Herald. Retrieved from http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20160510000645

 

Ministry of Education. (2015). Act on the Prevention of and Countermeasures Against Violence in Schools. Retrieved 2 October 2016, from http://elaw.klri.re.kr/eng_service/lawView.do?hseq=38775&lang=ENG

 

UNICEF Canada. (2012). Bullying and Cyberbullying: Two Sides of the Same Coin. Retrieved 2 October 2016, Bullying and Cyberbullying: Two Sides of the Same Coin