Let’s Get Behind Online Citizenship Education to Tackle Cyberbullying and Harrassment

Chuck Cosson, Microsoft Senior Policy Counsel writes on the Microsoft on the Issues Blog:

Cyberbullying was in the news again last week as local authorities try to crack down on the problem. At Microsoft, we believe the best way to prevent cyberbullying is through education. We’d like to see it included in Internet safety curricula in schools.

Cyberbullying methods may be virtual, but the pain is real, especially for young people whose social lives depend heavily on their online connections. Communities are searching for the right boundaries to set when the rough-and-tumble of online discussion turns cruel and even harassing. Context and individual judgment are important in setting limits that protect healthy child development and personal reputations without inhibiting free expression of critical opinion, political and cultural discussion.

Education is not the single solution, but it has proven effective against cyberbullying, it doesn’t impinge on free expression, and it receives broad support around the world as an important and appropriate response. Education was mentioned by nearly all of the witnesses at a recent Congressional hearing on cyberbullying. Reports from safety experts note the importance of education, particularly as part of child development and as a means to more effectively target high-risk situations. Education can help individuals distinguish appropriate social boundaries, identify ways to protect their privacy and reputation, and learn how to be civil while speaking candidly.

Yet many schools do not include online safety in the curriculum, and of those that do, many omit cyberbullying and other aspects of online citizenship. We believe that comprehensive Internet safety curricula should become an integral part of society’s efforts to help students achieve technological literacy, learn job skills, and participate constructively in civil and democratic societies. Schools can take advantage of the many free curricular materials and other tools that are available to support this effort.

You can go here to read more about Microsoft’s views on safety education, here for basic tips on prevention of cyberbullying, and here for perspectives on the importance of free expression online. We encourage you to post your thoughts about cyberbullying and education. And please, encourage your community and legislature to make online safety a part of local school curricula.

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