Fifth Grade and Cyberbullying

Copy of teaching digital citizenship in elementary

How on the ball are these fifth grade teachers? It’s the second week of school, and I’ve already pushed in to almost every class to teach my second digital citizenship lesson. This time, we’re talking about cyberbullying. It so hurts my heart that this is a topic I have to discuss with ten-year-olds, but a simple poll in each of the classes revealed that more than one fifth grader in every single homeroom has been cyberbullied.

My learning target for this lesson was that “Students will be able to identify cyberbullying behaviors and learn how to block or report them.” There are digital citizenship TEKS for grades 3-5, so this lesson fulfilled digital etiquette, personal safety online, and positive social behavior TEKS (§126.7.b.5). 

We started by defining bullying. Again, this is a lesson they’d been taught by the counselor, so they had a good idea of what it is. I emphasized that bullying happens over a period time, and we discussed how in-person bullying usually happens because of a power imbalance (or a perceived power imbalance) but cyberbullying doesn’t because everyone on the internet feels powerful.

I then pulled up this graphic to help define the different types of cyberbullying. For many of the types, I asked a student to volunteer, and I used a silly example to illustrate each type. For instance, Student A volunteered to demostrate outing and trickery, so I told him to think of the most embarrassing musical artist ever. He came up with Justin Bieber, so I pretended I made my Facebook status that “Student A LOOOOOVES The Biebz!” (outing) and that I had a phone in my pocket, recorded him saying that, and then posted it online (trickery). The students were really engaged with this, and it cracked me up how many students were eager to be “cyberbullied.”

The one type that I didn’t use a in-class silly example for was cyberthreats. I really wanted them to understand just how serious it is to make a threat to harm others or themselves. We discussed what to do if someone threatens you, your school, or themselves, and I could see their eyes get huge. Again, it makes me sad to have to teach this, but we’ve had a few instances in our district of older students making false threats to avoid coming to school, so I thought it was important.

We concluded by watching this video by Wellcast about blocking and reporting cyberbullying. I think a lot of students benefit from hearing things multiple times and in different ways than just coming out of my mouth. We skipped a portion of this video since it’s designed for older kids and I took that opportunity to reiterate some points and apply them to texting as well as more typical online browser-based activities.

Best student insight of the unit: “Hey, I should only accept messages from people I know!” Yes! I couldn’t have scripted that any better! You’re getting it, kid!

Best student question of the unit: “Is it cyberbullying if your grandma keeps putting up terrible pictures of you?” Probably not, but if you figure out how to stop grandmas from doing that, please let me know!

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