With the new school year just starting, we thought parents would appreciate some strategies for helping kids deal with the uncomfortable position of being a witness or bystander to bullying/cyberbullying incidents. Dr. Michele Borba, educational psychologis, parenting expert, and author, posted a comprehensive article to her Reality Check blog on how kids can step up and “Be a Bully B.U.S.T.E.R.”
In our district trainings with parents and students, we always tell kids to “tell a trusted adult” about the bullying/cyberbullying issue(s) they are witnessing. Yet we know students are often uncomfortable with playing the role of “the snitch.” Dr. Borba makes an important distinction between “tattling” or “reporting”:
Teach students the crucial difference between “Tattling” and “Reporting” so they will know when they should step in because a child is bullied or when to step back and let two kids handle things for themselves because it’s just friendly teasing.
Also identify specific trusted adults children can go to and report bullying incidents if they do identify bullying. Here is the crucial difference:
Tattling is when you trying to get kids IN trouble when they aren’t hurting themselves or other.
Reporting is when you’re trying to help keep kids OUT of trouble because they may get hurt (or they are). Report bullying to an adult you trust. If the adult doesn’t listen, keep reporting until you find an adult who does listen.”
As she points out in the NBC Dateline special The Perils of Parenting (shown below), removing the bystanders is the key to eliminating the bully/cyberbully.
2WebWatchers had the pleasure of participating in “When Cyberbullying Spills Into School,“ a webinar hosted by edweek.org and sponsored by Talk About It Anonymous Communication Service. Presenters included two nationally-recognized experts on bullying: Nancy Willard, executive director, Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use and Barbara-Jane Paris, principal, Canyon Vista Middle School in Austin, Texas. Michelle R. Davis, senior writer, Education Week Digital Directions was the moderator for the event.
Much of students’ social lives outside of school these days takes place online, through social networking sites. And even though this form of bullying may happen most often after school hours, the impact from online conflicts and negative comments in cyberspace can directly affect a student’s in-school life, including the ability to learn. – edweek.org
Some of the questions addressed during the webinar included:
The webinar has been archived and you can access it here: http://www.edweek.org/go/webinar/Cyberbullying.
You can also download the PowerPoint presentation in PDF format here: http://www.edweek.org/media/2012-02-23-cyberbullying.pdf
We are already actively incorporating many of the thoughts and ideas shared in the webinar:
Kamala Harris, attorney general of California, wrote an excellent piece on cyberbullying for San Jose Mercury News. We encourage you to read the article, but if you’re pressed for time, a couple of standout points include:
California recently enacted two laws criminalizing certain forms of online impersonation and giving school officials the authority to suspend or expel students who engage in cyberbullying. These laws are crucial to promoting safety, but they aren’t enough.”…..
…Ultimately, it is young people themselves who must make the Internet a place of tolerance. They have the most at stake. Their generation is the first to be born into a digital, connected world, and they will have the biggest hand in shaping its contours. I hope we can all affirm that, while the Internet has changed how we interact, it has not fundamentally changed how we should treat one another.”
So how do we get the word out to our students/children that they must be the change? We warmly invite your input on this important topic. What questions or suggestions do you have? Where can we find strategies, resources, and models that are genuinely bringing about a decline in bullying/cyberbullying?
2WebWatchers would like to thank Microsoft for the excellent free resources they have created on key topics of digital citizenship:
Thank you, Microsoft!
One of our favorite sites for current, research-based information on confronting cyberbullying is the Cyberbullying Research Center. We appreciate the commitment Professors Justin Patchin and Sameer Hinduja have made to providing up-to-date information about the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of cyberbullying among adolescents.
Here is a sampling of a few resources you might like to add to your cyberbullying toolkit :
On Friday, July 8th, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 746, a bill that will allow schools to suspend students who use social networking sites to bully other students. The bill modifies California’s AB 86 (2008), which gave school administrators the authority to discipline students for bullying others offline or online.
The original cyber-bullying law (AB 86) targeted instant messages, text messages and e-mails sent to individuals. It did not apply to comments or pictures posted on social networking sites. For example “Facebook burn pages” did not exist in 2008. They are now a growing disruptive issue today. Burn pages are created by students to harass, ridicule, or embarrass students at particular school sites. As fast as they are taken down, new burn pages pop up. The language of AB 746 would give schools the ability to discipline students for creating these social networking website burn pages.
As stated on the CA Watch Website:
According to the state education code, students who engage in bullying or cyber-bullying face possible suspension and expulsion. Stephanie Papas, a bullying specialist with the California Department of Education, said it’s up to administrators to determine if behavior is “materially disrupting the learning environment,” even if that bullying is happening outside of school.”
As Papas points out, the gray area still exists when the cyberbullying happens outside the school day. Articles such as the California Watch article, point out two sides of the issue: freedom of speech versus student well-being and safety.
So who should be responsible and accountable for cyberbullying? Schools? Parents? Both? This question provides material for classroom debates/essays and dinner table conversation around a serious topic and concern. We would love to hear how you are addressing this issue at school or within your home.
2WebWatchers would like to acknowledge two new resources provided by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). The first is Net Cetera – Chatting with Kids about Being Online, available as a free download (PDF) or as a booklet that you can order through OnlineOnguard.gov. Educators and parents can order multiple copies at bulkorder.ftc.gov. The booklet “covers what parents need to know, where to go for more information, and issues to raise with kids about living their lives online.” We really appreciate being able to provide our workshop participants with this great take-away.
In connection with Net Cetera, the FTC also recently posted a short video called “Stand Up to Cyberbullying.” This is a great tool to teach students to be kind online and stand up for bullying victims. The video calls cyberbullying a “lose-lose situation” because “it makes the person being harassed feel bad, and it makes the bully look bad.”
According to STOP Cyberbullying.com, some methods of cyberbullying are unique to certain kinds of cyberbullies and so are the ways the cyberbully maintain their secrecy or broadcast their actions to others. Some are secretive, some require an audience and some are entirely inadvertent.
The Five Types of Cyberbullies Include:
The “Vengeful Angel”
In this type of cyberbullying, the cyberbully doesn’t see themselves as a bully at all. They see themselves as righting wrongs, or protecting themselves or others from the “bad guy” they are now victimizing. They may be angry at something the victim did and feel they are taking warranted revenge or teaching the other a lesson.
Just as their schoolyard counterparts, some cyberbullies want to exert their authority, show that they are powerful enough to make others do what they want and some want to control others with fear. “Power-Hungry” cyberbullies usually need an audience. It may be a small audience of their friends or those within their circle at school. They often brag about their actions. They want a reaction, and without one may escalate their activities to get one. The “Power-Hungry” cyberbully is often the victim of typical offline bullying.
The “Revenge of the Nerds”
“Revenge of the Nerds” cyberbullies usually target their victims one-on-one and the cyberbully often keeps their activities secret from their friends. If they share their actions, they are doing it only with others they feel would be sympathetic. They also often resort to cyberbullying-by-proxy. Because of this and their tech skills, they can be the most dangerous of all cyberbullies.
The “Mean Girls”
The last type of cyberbullying occurs when the cyberbully is bored or looking for entertainment. It is largely ego-based and the most immature of all cyberbullying types. Typically, in the “Mean Girls” bullying situations, the cyberbullies are girls bullying other girls. “Mean Girls” cyberbullying is usually done, or at least planned, in a group, either virtually or together in one room. This kind of cyberbullying is done for entertainment. It may occur from a school library or a slumber party, or from the family room of someone after school. This kind of cyberbullying grows when fed by group admiration, cliques or by the silence of others who stand by and let it happen.
The Inadvertent Cyberbully
Inadvertent cyberbullies usually don’t think they are cyberbullies at all. They may be pretending to be tough online, or role playing, or they may be reacting to hateful or provocative messages they have received. They may feel hurt, or angry because of a communication sent to them, or something they have seen online. And they tend to respond in anger or frustration. They don’t think before clicking “send.” They do it for the fun of it. They may also do it to one of their friends, joking around.
STOP Cyberbullying.com Resources
President Obama was joined by the First Lady for last week’s White House Summit.
In a video posted on the safety page, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama encourage Facebook members to join in the effort to decrease bullying, both online and off.
“For a long time, bullying was treated as an unavoidable part of growing up,” President Obama says in the video. “But more and more we’re seeing how harmful it can be for our kids, especially when it follows them from their school to their phone to their computer screen.”
As part of the Summit, Facebook rolled out a new set of anti-bullying tools that allow users to privately report bullying to parents or teachers. In recognition of the serious consequences that often accompany issues of bullying, Facebook said the “social reporting” feature is intended to get reports of bullying to the people with the best chance of stopping it.”
Spreading rumors and playground bullying is nothing new to students. There has been a huge shift. Children are now using their mobile phones and the Internet to hurt, humiliate, and harass each other. They are receiving and sending inappropriate texts, instant messages, and embarrassing photos. This type of bullying is especially disturbing because it is constant and very public.