What would you do if you started getting calls from parents because one of your school bus drivers was starring in a YouTube video?
If the video was getting thousands of hits, then likely the behavior on display is less than professional. The debacle may be the result of an activity known as cyberbaiting.
Every once in a while, we receive a sign in our daily life to make us aware of potential hazards. Two years ago, such a sign occurred in my school district. I received a call from a high school assistant principal about a video that a student showed him on his smartphone. He attached the video to an e-mail and sent it to me.
The video showed one of my drivers standing at the front of the bus giving a little dance and lecture to students. Fortunately, the student had not posted the video and just thought it was funny. We erased the video, but it got me thinking and searching the Internet.
You might be surprised what you find just by searching for “angry bus driver” or “crazy bus driver.” But it doesn’t stop there. What would you do in these situations?
• Students take video of a school bus driver texting and post the video on the Internet.
• A student takes photos of other students engaging in inappropriate touching on the bus and posts them on Facebook.
• Students kick the back of the driver’s seat. When asked to stop, they continue and continue and continue. The driver loses his or her professionalism and yells inappropriate language. A different student is taking video and posts it (they had it all planned out in advance).
Cyberbaiting — what is it? It is a form of cyberbullying that occurs when students taunt someone — such as their school bus driver or a teacher — and capture his or her reactions on a cell phone to upload to the Internet.
Cyberbaiting may occur in any situation with an adult in authority, with students attempting to aggravate the adult into reacting in an inappropriate manner, such as a verbal outburst. Other students may not be directly involved, but they certainly might encourage it.
What do the students want to accomplish? Why are they doing this? The goal might be to get the teacher or driver fired. But more generally, they do it because they can — they now have very powerful technological tools to record verbal conversations, take photos and capture videos. They can post the footage online before they even get off of the bus.
Some students just enjoy making adults feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. What used to be isolated to the bus can now be published for the entire world to see. One such video that I reviewed recently had gotten nearly 125,000 hits.
Some students may use the video to justify their own behavior. For example, a student might try to show that the driver is picking on him or her while other students are doing the same thing with no consequences.
Many times cyberbaiting happens to newer, less-experienced employees, but it is not limited to them.
So how widespread is this phenomenon? According to a 2011 Norton Online Family Report, one in five teachers across the globe had personally experienced cyberbaiting or knew someone who had.
Preventing the problem
How can our school bus drivers prevent this from happening to them? For starters, they should not allow students to use iPods or cell phones just because it keeps them quiet. Some drivers underestimate the damage that can be done: Student may record acts of bullying, vulgar/inappropriate behaviors, fights and other harassing or embarrassing images.
Surprisingly, elementary students appear to be just as likely as the older students to engage in cyberbaiting. These days, it seems that everyone has a smartphone.
Consider these tips for school bus driver training:
1. Raise driver awareness of cyberbaiting and its potential harm.
2. Require drivers to enforce the district’s student cell phone policy.
3. Drivers should avoid personal and social networking/communication with students. They are not your friends.
4. Drivers should not take video or photos of students or situations on the bus.
5. Don’t take student behavior personally.
6. If drivers always remain calm and professional, cyberbaiting will never be a problem for them. If you don’t want to be heard using unprofessional language, simply don’t say it.
7. Remember: The eyes of the world are always watching. Respond in all situations as if the media were present.
8. Report all violations of cell phone policies, especially if it appears that a student may be recording incidents on the bus.
9. Drivers can ask for the student’s phone, but they should not get involved in a power struggle — no one wins.
Most of all, school bus drivers must remember that they are the adult in the situation. They should always act like the professionals they are.