Cyberbullying, how to make a difference

Definitions of cyberbullying vary, but usually, it’s defined as some form of intentional, repeated aggression, using electronic forms of contact, such as texting and social media.

I am not a big fan of the words “cyberbullying” and “bullying.” Pre-teens and teens have heard these words so many times they roll their eyes when they come up. Do the test —ask them if they feel they have been saturated with stuff about “bullying” and see how they respond. So, when I talk with them about such topics I often use the terms “online aggression” and “social cruelty.”

No matter what we call it, unkind and stressful human interactions are a part of life, and the sooner we give kids skills to practice working through conflict and cruelty, the better.  Research shows that twenty percent of 8-year-olds and forty percent of 10-year-olds have phones (the majority of which are smartphones) and kids with phones, not surprisingly, are significantly more likely to be involved in cyberbullying.

Given a common aversion to the topic that teens can have, means that as adults we need to be more skillful in how we approach our conversations. Consider bringing up a news story of person bad-mouthing another person, and then from there, a good entry is the simple question about why—“Why might a person be acting a certain way?” There are always reasons behind a person’s behaviors and talking about this with our kids is a nice way to help build their insight and empathy. For bullying, maybe a person wants to gain power in a social structure because they feel powerless in another setting, such as at home.

I am excited to provide in this TTT some great materials to foster many types of conversations and solutions around online cruelty with your kids. Just two days ago a teacher told me that she loves our website because of all the resources on it.  Our team has worked hard to continue to add more and more to the site. We have put together a list that addresses online cruelty. Here are few sites we just added:

MARC, Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, provides terrific resources for parents, educators, and students. Here is a site where you can find tons of free handouts for parents to help through some of these kinds of issues including information what bystanders can do. This center is the brainchild of an incredible researcher and change-maker, Elizabeth Englander, Ph.D.

iCanHelpline.com is a service that schools pay a small fee for, and when bullying type content gets posted the school calls iCanHelpline, which then works to get it removed from the social media platform. The founder Ann Collier has been doing this work for years and has many connections with all the big players which is why she is so effective. She happens to be an incredibly caring person to boot.  

Many states have reporting processes in place. You might look at your Attorney General’s office website as a start.  For example, Colorado has a great service called Safe2Tell which is an 800# phone-line where any concerned person can call —parents, students, teachers, etc. —and anonymously report that they are worried about someone. Then, the organization gets in touch with someone who can help out.  Stopbullying.gov and Stomp Out Bullying.org have resources by state.

If you know of other useful tools, contact me, I love to hear from you. Delaney@screenagersmovie.com.

For this week’s Tech Talk Tuesday, let’s talk to our kids about how people can help prevent cyberbullying, as well as effective ways to respond to social cruelty incidents and the subsequent harmful ramifications.

  1. Who have you seen in news reports vicious to someone else? What are some of the many reasons a person might be compelled to act so hurtfully?
  2. How does your school talk to you about cyberbullying? Is it successful at all, or not? If not, what would you do if you were running a school?
  3. What do you think of having a group at school that helps take down social media posts/ texts that are hurting someone?
  4. What would make you place an anonymous call to a service like Safe2tell?