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September 03, 2013  |   Comments (2)   |   Post a comment

9 tips for thwarting cyberbaiting

Cyberbaiting — when students taunt a teacher or bus driver to record their reaction — can lead to embarrassing online exposure. Here’s an overview of the problem and tips to help your drivers prevent it.

by Debbie Rike

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Debbie Rike recently retired as director of transportation at Shelby County Schools in Arlington, Tenn. Before her work in transportation, she served as a special-education teacher and administrator.
<p>Debbie Rike recently retired as director of transportation at Shelby County Schools in Arlington, Tenn. Before her work in transportation, she served as a special-education teacher and administrator.</p>

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.   

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I have a dedicated run. When my middle/high school students start "sharing" their electronic devices across the aisle or with each other, I remind them that there is no sharing of electronic devices policy. Parents may have preferences on what their child is/is not exposed to- and students need to understand and respect these wishes. They usually keep their devices to themselves or they are asked to put them away. Last resort, letting them know you'll hold onto their device till they get off the bus. On my elementary run, the kids will let me know right away if something isn't right. If students know what the rules are, they usually respect them. The key is to be consistent, firm and fair.

Kristine    |    Nov 29, 2013 03:46 AM

How do you propose drivers enforce the cell phone policy, if the schools themselves do little to enforce the policy? It's difficult enough to navigate through neighborhoods, count children as they load or unload, enforce any seat belt policy, manage the school bus environment, and now we're expected to pay attention to who is using a cellphone? In an ideal world, each driver has built a relationship with their students. They know each others names, neighborhoods, and bus stop locations. Drivers in my district can see up to 180 students per day, thanks to non-mirrored routes. Our administration addressed this a few years ago during in-service training, but gave no tools to the drivers to enforce the rules. A solution I thought of is having an additional adult on each bus, however that is costly. Does anyone have any tried and successful solutions?

Meredith Bray    |    Sep 04, 2013 05:00 PM

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