Bullying is a widespread scourge plaguing almost every school around the world (UNESCO, 2019). Although definitions of bullying vary, experts around the world seem to agree that bullying is a subclass of aggressive behavior characterized by three major properties, namely, intentionality, repetition, and power imbalance (Thomas, Connor, & Scott, 2015). In other words, bullying is an act of intended harm, either physically, psychologically, or socially (intentionality), against a less powerful victim (power imbalance) over a prolonged period (repetition). 

Most school-related bullying happens under the jurisdiction of school staff and most importantly teachersHowevernowadays it is becoming ever so tricky for teachers to pick up on acts of bullying happening around them in cyberspace, hidden behind password protected smartphones and social media profiles.


The Covert Nature of Cyberbullying: The Silent Menace  

Cyberbullying is a covert form of aggression, similar to social exclusion, gossiping, or negative facial expressions. It is considered to be so because it is mediated by the use of technology (i.e., smartphones, the Internet) which grant a certain anonymity and detachment to perpetrators.  


The fact that some forms of violence and bullying are more visible than others seem to complicate things more for teachers, as this makes it more difficult for them to assess the seriousness of bullying and affect their decision whether to intervene or not.  

Research has proven time and again that teachers give more importance to visible forms of bullying (e.g., physical aggression) and tend to ignore covert forms of bullying (e.g., cyberbullying), as they tend to underestimate their gravity (Bauman & Del Rio, 2005; Asimopoulos et al., 2013). 

The Social Nature of Cyberbullying: A Dagger in the Crowd  

In the last few years, researchers have started to break with the long-standing dyadic perspective (perpetrator vs target) that has dominated our collective perception of bullying. Nowadays, scholars are shifting towards a more socio-ecological reading of bullying, where bullying is viewed as a group dynamic influenced by the wider societal contexts (Interactions between peers, families, school environment, and cultural norms and beliefs, etc.) (Swearer & Hymel, 2005).  

The socio-ecological approach affords a great opportunity to better understand the dynamics cyberbullying (Swearer & Espelage, 2011). For instance, beyond the immediate microsystem that children are directly exposed to (e.g., family, peers, teachers), broader contexts also come into play. The mesosystem involves the interplay between two or more microsystems (e.g., student-student and teacher-student relations), and the exosystem refers factors which might not come into direct contact with children but that nonetheless affect them (e.g., school policy that shapes the institutional context and staff training to reduce bullying).

All these social layers play a part in the escalation or de-escalation of bullying. For instance, children’s social experiences in one microsystem (e.g., student teacher relationship) can influence their experiences in other microsystems (e.g., student-student relationships). As teachers hold one of the most substantial roles in studentslives and could have a substantial impact on studentsbehavior, it is paramount to better prepare them to deal with this multi-layered and complex phenomenon in a proactive manner away from the detrimental role of a passive bystander.   

Teacher Training: The Three Pillars  

Most studies conducted in first world settings have revealed that teachers are constantly expressing their dissatisfaction with the lack of anti-bullying training in their preparation programs (Charmaraman, Jones, Stein, & Espelage, 2013). This lack of preparation and training could provide an explanation as to why many teachers opt to disengage from dealing with complex and problematic issues such as cyberbullying (Cassidy, Brown, & Jackson, 2012). 

1. Raising Awareness

To help teachers prevent, identify, and address bullying, teachers should be made more aware of the scope of this issue. Greater care should be given to the authentic portrayal of victims. Subgroups of bullies and victims such as victims who also bully their peers (bully-victims) could help teachers paint a more nuanced and complete picture.  

Furthermore, stereotypical portrayals, such as that victims lack self-esteem, are submissive, and signal to others that they are insecure should be challenged. These stereotypes may play a role in forming an adverse perception of individuals subjected to bullying, potentially causing teachers to disregard students who are victims but do not exhibit the typical traits associated with victimization, such as those seen in bully-victims.  

2.Challenging Teachers’ False Beliefs

Prevalent myths about bullying (e.g., bullying is just a normal part of growing up, and bullying is character building) also affect teacher circles. Clearly, teachers are not always aware of the detrimental effects of traditional bullying and cyberbullying (Stauffer et al., 2012).  

It is of absolute importance that teachers should be made aware that all bullying subtypes are serious and that bullying in all its forms contributes to creating a toxic school environment that has proven to be very averse to successful learning outcomes. 

3.Teacher Sensitization: Bridging the Technological Gap 

There is a well-documented gap between teachers and their students in terms of technological familiarity (Cassidy et al., 2012). This schism may be the reason behind teachers’ shy interest in cyberbullying incidents (Cassidy et al., 2012) and even training (Li, 2008).  

In general, teachers seem to put more emphasis on learning outcomes rather than the relational dynamics between their students (Li, 2008). This seemingly widespread view should be challenged at every turn, as educational researchers worldwide tend to always stress the importance of healthy peer relationships and of a good classroom climate to foster school achievement (Wang et al., 2013).  

Teachers’ cautious perceptions and handling of cyberbullying seems to originate from a place of technological hesitancy and digital reluctance. However, this could be remedied if teachers were provided with enough training, guidance, and support.  

School policies could also supply teachers with guidelines for monitoring, reporting, and handling bullying cases.  

Training (especially technological training) and written materials could also prove very effective when backing the teachers’ efforts against cyberbullying. Teachers should also be provided with a space to share and discuss bullying cases between themselves and with other more senior educators.

Given that teachers may have more opportunities to witness bullying and cyberbullying incidents than any other adult figures present in a child’s life. More focus on teachers’ perspectives, roles, and empowerment should prove decisive in creating a positive school climate where bullying and cyberbullying incidents are kept to a minimum.