Posts tagged cyberbullying
GUEST POST by Amy Williams
Today we’re going to talk about something that’s been in the news a lot lately: privacy. As adults, we expect a certain degree of independence and acknowledgement in our lives – few things are more frustrating or insulting than having other people dig through our information without permission.
Given the value we put on privacy, when – if ever – is it acceptable to violate the privacy of our children?
Safety and Privacy
Bullying remains a huge problem in our society, with more than half of all children reporting that they’ve been bullied online (or were bullies themselves). We have tried for years to properly combat bullying, and many of the standard programs haven’t succeeded – they’ve made it worse.
Now, does anyone really think the numbers would be so high if our children knew how to protect themselves? I don’t. Children are capable of remarkable things if they’re taught the right way, but the fact remains that many of them don’t understand how to stop bullies, don’t always realize that bullying others is wrong, and can often suffer for years after the fact.
As parents, we want our children to grow up strong, independent, and happy – but children aren’t going to be independent just because they’re unsupervised. This is especially true of the online world, which is rapidly becoming the tool of choice for bullies who want to destroy the social lives of their victims.
In fact, there are times when we’re part of the problem – and while this usually isn’t intentional, it does mean that we occasionally need to rethink our approaches to a given problem.
This is where privacy comes back into the picture. As parents, we often allow our children a great deal of freedom in the digital world – but all the available evidence says that they’re not being responsible with that freedom. Quite frankly, children and young teens are not mature enough to use the internet without supervision, and that means we have to keep an eye on what they’re doing.
The Problem With Privacy
It’s almost impossible to get real-time information on exactly what your child is doing online – some types of software effectively allow it, but there’s no way you could watch them at every moment and enjoy the rest of your life. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day – but when we aren’t looking, kids will start doing things they shouldn’t.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to cut down on problems.
- First, require all devices to be used in a public, family area – ideally with the screen facing the rest of the house. Teens are instinctively nervous about people looking over their shoulders, even if they’re not doing anything wrong, and they’re far less likely to start bullying others if they think you could catch them at any moment.
- Next, don’t allow teens to take their smartphones into their bedrooms. They shouldn’t need to do that anyway – a better plan is requiring them to leave it out in a family area. This also helps to discourage smartphone addiction by stopping them from reaching for it every time it beeps at them – worthwhile in its own right.
- Finally, focus on teaching your child the skills they need to combat bullying on their own. It’s easy to try and rush in to solve the problem yourself, but if you do everything, then your child will never develop the skills they need to independently resolve troubles. Look at incidents of cyberbullying (and other online problems) as a chance to teach your child the best ways to act. The more they know about taking control of the situation, the happier they’ll ultimately be.
What about you? Do you think privacy or safety is more important for your own child, and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue, so please leave a comment below and let me know what you think!
About the Guest Blogger:
Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.
In their younger years, they were inseparable. They begged for playdates, planned out sleepovers, coordinated afterschool activities, and just seemed to find genuine joy in each other’s company. It was a match made in heaven, you observed, and you felt so lucky that your child had found such a positive friendship so early on in life.
Then, things changed. Seemingly overnight. One day, you are cajoling your tween to take a break from her 3-hour texting marathon with her bestie, and the next you notice that her cell phone suddenly sounds like radio silence.
Your daughter is devastated by this abrupt cut-off. You watch as she desperately tries to figure out why her friend has stopped responding to texts and how come none of the kids at her lunch table will talk to her anymore. But she can’t seem to glean any understanding of the cause. She only knows with certainty that nothing is the same.
What can you do for your child when he or she is on the receiving end of a sudden deep freeze from former friends? Read on for 9 strategies parents can use to support their children after bullying and social exclusion:
During the elementary school years, most kids are very aware of technology but still quite naïve about all of the hurtful ways in which it can be used. Well into their adolescence even, many kids remain oblivious to the legal consequences of their online actions. This real-life example of innocence-gone-awry by way of technology underscores that one of the most important things adults can do to bring an end to cyberbullying is to teach young kids about the risks of their online behavior and to give them skills to protect themselves from lasting harm.
For the full article, please click here or paste this link into your browser: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/signe-whitson/what-happens-when-kids-ma_b_5953026.html
This week, as part of a graduate course assignment following the completion of my 2-day Managing Conflict in Schools course, an Education professional submitted this personal reflection paper on how the concepts from 8 Keys to End Bullying: Strategies for Parents & Schools can be applied in his work setting. The student was kind enough to agree to allow me to share his writing with you:
Bullying. An issue that gains constant attention in society, the media, and most importantly for myself; schools. I have been in the education field for the past four years and over this time have witnessed accounts of bullying within the school environment. I wish that I could say that my undergraduate degree properly equipped me with the skills and tools that I would need to effectively intervene; however, in my experience I feel it was left out of my university education. It is a terrible feeling as a teacher when you witness bullying in your school, or know that it is happening, and you are not confident in your abilities to effectively address the situation. I was thrilled when I was able to attend a two day seminar in Victoria B.C. hosted by Signe Whitson titled: Managing Conflict in Schools: Practical Strategies to Stop Bullying and Help Kids Handle Anger Effectively. I found the two day course provided practical, effective solutions that I would be able to incorporate into my teaching when I returned to work on the following Monday. Furthermore, I was provided with a copy of a book written by Whitson titled: 8 Keys to End Bullying: Strategies for Parents and Schools (2014). This paper is a personal reflection on the book with the focus being on specific strategies and applications that I found useful and how I plan to use them in my class room and school.
I recently obtained a graduate degree in Education Leadership and School Improvement from the University of Alberta. A theme throughout the two year program was the necessity of establishing positive relationships with teachers, parents, administrators, and students. The importance of relationships was also highlighted by Whitson as an instrumental contributor to effectively end bullying. I found the three points that Whitson gave on why strong relationships with teachers are important to have a great impact on me. Whitson’s three points are: 1) Kids who bully act without the hindrance of disapproval by a grown-up that matters to them, 2) Kids who are victimized feel isolated from sources of support and intervention, 3) Kids who witness bullying have no one to turn to and report what they have seen. I feel that these connections are even more important when Whitson reports that bullying most often happens when no teachers or adults are present. I believe that students need to know that there are adults around them that will provide support. I found it refreshing when Whitson pointed out that sometimes the solutions that adults provide don’t need to be groundbreaking. We may not always have the answers or be able to rectify a situation immediately. Often a simple comment such as, “I am really sorry that this is happening to you” can provide some much needed relief to students. Whitson makes it clear that, “Teachers play a pivotal role in a schools effort’s to bring an end to bullying” (p. 55). School leaders and educators cannot hold the opinion that addressing bullying is not part of my job description or use the excuse, “if it did not happen in my class, it is not my problem”.
In the book Whitson argues that in order to stop bullying students need to be taught how to properly respond to it. Prior to reading the book, my first reaction when I witnessed a student being bullied was to discipline the child who was bullying; however I quickly learned this was the wrong approach. Whitson acknowledges in the introduction to Key 5, that a common approach among adults is to directly punish the aggressor. Davis and Nixon (2010) found that adult actions aimed at changing the behavior if children who bully are actually more likely to make things worse for their victims – not better (as cited in Whitson, 2013). Whitson urges teachers to help students develop important social and emotional competencies. Whitson points out the effective social and emotional learning (SEL) programming, “Drives important social outcomes such as positive peer relationships, higher levels of caring and empathy, increased social engagement, and reduction in problem behaviors such as bullying” (p. 97). Whitson proposes five components of a bully prevention SEL program: 1) Emotional Management – learning to manage strong feelings in constructive ways, 2) Empathy – the ability to understand how another person is feeling in a particular situation, 3) Problem solving and Conflict Resolution – teach students how to manage life’s inevitable conflicts in independent and respectful ways. 4) Assertiveness – being able to communicate in a verbal, non-blaming, respectful way, 5) Friendship building – being able to establish and maintain positive friendships. I found this section to be very important for teachers to realize and as Whitson points out, it’s important to teach these skills in the early years of formal schooling. Although teaching SEL is not part of the curriculum, I feel it is part of our duty to help young people develop these skills before they enter adult life. “Integrating SEL into the standard school curricula, from the earliest years through high school graduation, is a proven way to fortify kids with the skills they need to cope with bullying and to thrive in all of their interpersonal interactions (p. 120).
I mentioned earlier that I was appreciative of the “ready to use” strategies that are include through the book. Whitson includes specific activities that teachers can use with their students to help them understand bullying. Often times when attending professional development opportunities and reading books on educating young people, I have found that there are great ideas for teachers but they often lack to practical application aspect; Whitson managed to affective address this issue throughout the book. Furthermore this book is not only indented to reach out to teachers but also is intended for: parents, administrators, youth workers, and counselors. There is sound advice and strategies for all people who are invested in improving the emotional well-being of children.
Whitson, S. (2014). 8 keys to end bullying: Strategies for parents & schools. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
As a school counselor and educator on the topic of Bullying Prevention, I get to do a lot of reading, thinking, and talking on the subject of unwanted aggression in schools, families, and communities. More importantly, I aim to do a lot of listening to the teachers, parents and students who make up my audiences, for these are the people from whom I gain the most profound insights about the cruelty of bullying as well as the resilience of the human spirit.
Recently, a mother described to me the very emotional account of her son’s experiences with bullying throughout middle and high school. I was instantly moved to tears at her son’s painful experiences, shocked at the bland responses of too many adults who failed him, grateful for the nurturing care that finally came his way in school and amazed by the strength of his mother who was a warrior on his behalf.
Although this mother did not originally intend for her story to travel past my ears, I asked her for her permission to share it (with identifying details changed) because it is an important story of hope and perseverance and because while I know that her journey is all-too-common, I also know that families traveling down this road often feel as if they are completely on their own. She and her son agreed to let their story be told as a way to help others understand that they are not alone and to educate helping adults on how to effectively reach out to kids–and how to never, ever downplay a report of bullying.
Here it is, with profound thanks to one very brave mother and child for allowing their story to be shared:
In my book, 8 Keys to End Bullying and in my trainings for professionals, parents, and students on strategies for dealing with bullying, I talk about the importance of dealing directly with cyberbullying–rather than throwing our hands up and believing there is nothing we can do about unwanted online aggression. I also talk about how challenging traditional advice is for young people to implement. While it’s easy for an adult to advise, “If he’s posting mean things, just block him,” this advice (albeit good advice) is incomplete in that is doesn’t acknowledge the primacy of social networks in young people’s lives and how difficult an easy thing like blocking can be.
Training sessions are great for talking through these very complex issues. Outside of training, in interactions with kids, I suggest that it is helpful for young people to be equipped with more than just Plan A (e.g. “Blocking”) for dealing with cyberbullying. In fact, young people should be prepared with Plan B, Plan C–and perhaps even Plan D–along with a whole lot of adult support in order to effectively and comfortably manage this issue.
So below, please find 10 Guidelines for Kids on how to deal with cyberbullying, representing various options that can be used simultaneously or one-by-one, on an as-needed basis. I hope you find them helpful!
Please feel free to share this post and these guidelines with friends and colleagues who may find them useful in their work or personal interactions with kids. More information and suggested strategies for dealing directly with cyberbullying are available in the 8 Keys to End Bullying book or via my training workshops for professionals, parents, and and kids.
Thanks again to all those who attended my “Friendship & Other Weapons” webinar training, via Reclaiming Youth International. Here are the answers to the Cyberlingo Quiz:
Well, imagine my surprise when I came across this video clip! Yes, I do recall talking on camera to a reporter, just prior to beginning a recent Bullying Awareness StoryTime event, but No, I had no clue that it had been produced and published online. After initial feelings of stage fright-induced nausea…it’s actually a pleasant surprise.
So, friends, introducing ME, introducing my Shredders and Builders Activity (featured in Friendship & Other Weapons) to teach young kids about the power of words and the importance of kindness in friendship.
A friend of mine from graduate school and I were just lamenting over the fact that our daughters are asking to have e-mail accounts. Well, actually, we were marveling at how time has flown and that our kids are at this age already. Ok, truthfully, we were feeling sorry for ourselves about how old we must be to have tween-age kids, but I digress…
She and I are both concerned about setting guidelines for our girls as they take big steps into the world of technology social media. Here are the sets of guidelines she and I each pieced together from our own wisdom and bits of advice on the web. I like hers better…she liked mine…together, perhaps we have a whole parent’s brain. You can feel free to pick and choose from either. Hopefully, you can find the suggestions helpful:
1. Always be kind, and do not ever use email to say ugly, nasty, or mean things about ANYONE. Not only is that not behavior not acceptable, but email can always be forwarded to someone & hurt their feelings.
2. If you don’t recognize an address in your inbox, or someone sends you a weird email, don’t touch the email & come get me or Daddy.
3. No opening attachments or clicking on links without approval.
4. Daddy and I can and will access your emails at any time. You must give us your password(s) if you change them.
5. The only computers you are allowed to access your email from is mine or Daddy’s (and Grandma’s). If you access Gmail from school, you would have to be responsible enough to “SIGN OUT” so that the next person can’t access your email. Many grown-ups can’t even remember to do this, so I’m not going to ask you to. So, no accessing emails from school until I believe you’re responsible enough to do this.
6. NEVER click the “remember me” or “remember this password?” if you do access your email from another computer (against my rules). This will allow that computer to ALWAYS remember your password without the person sitting there to even think about it.
7. Never send to anyone in an email the following: your real address, phone number, any passwords, our cell phone numbers, your birthday/date, social security number or any other identifying information–not even to someone you know. This will cause you BIG, BIG problems or put you in DANGER from people who want to harm children.
8. Don’t use “Reply all.” Many grown-ups don’t even understand how to use this properly.
9. If someone emails you telling you you won something: you didn’t. Come get one of us.
10. Don’t go into the “Spam” folder – that’s not a place for children, and I’m trusting you enough to follow this rule (and the others). If you think an email you want may have mistakenly found its way in there, ask one of us to look in there for you.
11. You are not allowed to use Google+ without our permission. That is something you can earn with good behavior and when you’re a little older.
YOUR EMAIL ACCOUNT IS A PRIVILEGE. WE CAN REVOKE THIS PRIVILEGE AT ANY TIME. WE CAN RESTRICT THE PRIVILEGE IN ANY WAY AT ANY TIME. WE EXPECT YOU TO FOLLOW THESE RULES IF YOU WANT TO KEEP THIS PRIVILEGE.
SOCIAL MEDIA CONTRACT:
We believe our family values include kindness, honesty, and compassion for others. Our use of technology must reflect these values. Therefore, we recognize that having an email address, texting, using a YouTube account, and any other uses of technology must follow these rules:
- Communication (sending e-mails, commenting on videos, sending texts, etc) is for the purpose of friendship and exchange of ideas or information. It is never for spreading gossip, making rude comments, using bad language, or giving out personal information to people we don’t know.
- Technology can never be used for the purposes of humiliating, embarrassing, getting revenge upon, or hurting others in any way.
- Sending or uploading photos and videos with any personally identifying images or information are not permitted unless specially approved by Mommy or Daddy.
- Mommy and Daddy must always have access to the passwords and content for all of your technology accounts.
- Mommy and Daddy reserve the right to insist that particular sites and friends who behave in violation of our values be banned or blocked.
- No emails, texts, YouTube comments, etc after 9:00pm (school year) and 9:30pm (summer).
If these rules are not followed, the following will occur:
First violation: All technology privileges ended for 7 days.
Second violation: All technology privileges ended for 14 days.
Third violation: All technology privileges ended indefinitely.
While we understand that anyone can make a mistake, we believe that living according to our values is critically important.
For more information and suggestions for teaching kids about ethical uses of technology and social media, please check out my post on Psychology Today, Teaching Netiquette to Kids.