What are some of the main effects of cyberbullying?
Many adults and kids alike are wondering how to stop and prevent cyberbullying. Bullying has always been an issue, but the internet and digital technologies have made it easier for kids to be unkind to each other, and for that unkindness to spread and be shared. Cyberbullying has the potential to cause intense harm to others because it can happen anytime, be carried around with a person anywhere, and spread quickly in ways that can never be undone. Read more about Cyberbullying.
How do you identify a cyberbully?
There are two really important ways to identify when someone is cyberbullying:
- Someone is using technology to be mean or unkind and/or
- Someone uses technology to pressure someone into doing something they don’t want to do.
I think also when someone shares something that is private with others, that can be a form of cyberbullying as well, especially if the goal is to try to get attention at someone else’s
Most kids need to be invited to look at their *own* behavior before looking at others’ behavior, though. So often, cyberbullying behavior can end up manifesting itself even when kids don’t mean to. We all, as humans, have a tendency to want to protect ourselves before taking responsibility for our own behaviors. Kids can learn to look inward even as they also are watching for cyberbullying around them.
What are the techniques today to prevent cyberbullying?
- Self-awareness. Am I bullying or being unkind to others? Am I trying to be popular or “liked” at others’ expense? What are my values? Am I living true to them? Am I letting others’ behavior impact my own so that I am not living the way I want to live?
- Building emotional health. Most people who bully (children and adults alike) do so because they don’t feel good about themselves or they want power or control over others in some way or they want or need attention. Again, as kids learn to be self-aware, and as the adults around them focus on helping kids be healthy rather than only focusing on stopping bad behavior, we can address bullying more at the roots.
- Don’t be part of passing along or encouraging or supporting cyberbullying. If you see it, kindly call it out and don’t participate in any sharing of it.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to adults about it if you are a youth. Too often, cyberbullying happens in secret. (But again, if adults are to be helpful, they need to both support the ones being hurt AND help the kids doing the bullying get help, too.)
- In homes and schools and communities, we need to practice letting people have different opinions. Bullies often try to MAKE people think or act in a certain way rather than respecting others and their space to have feelings and opinions and experiences that may be different. Our political environment is feeding bullying behavior and making it seem like it is okay to mock others to make a point. It’s NOT. Bullying has to be recognized in all settings, not given a pass just because it’s in politics or just because you may be right about something. Bullying is NEVER OKAY. (This is more a message to adults, who often are not modeling healthy behavior as they talk about hard things like politics.)
- Remember that we are all human, and we are more alike than different. Everyone has a story, everyone has feelings, everyone has strengths, and everyone has weaknesses. That is what it means to be human.
- Practice being kind at home, with your friends, and with others. It is human nature to REact to hard social and relational situations rather than to stop and think. Kindness does not mean putting up with bullying, but it might mean not engaging a bully. Martin Luther King talked a lot about how we can’t solve hate with more hate. He and other leaders in history taught us a lot about preventing things like bullying. We first *practice* avoiding what we don’t want to see, and the ripples of good can and will reach outward.
- If you have been the victim of bullying, get help and support. The pain from bullying sometimes leads people to bully others. Again, hate doesn’t heal hate. Pain often leads to more pain. We can do things to stop the cycle of pain by being self-aware about what bullying has done and getting the help we need. (Back to self-awareness! It’s such a key to all of this, and no one can be self-aware for another. Each person eventually has to learn to be responsible for their own life and behavior.)
Let’s be influencers of change in our spheres and create ripples of good. #UseTech4Good
Below is a video from a national expert on prevention science (helping youth avoid harmful behaviors) who talks about a model called the Social Development Strategy. This can be helpful for adults who are interested in understanding how to help youth develop healthier social and emotional health. We had this expert come to the recent Digital Citizenship Summit. We hope more people (adults and students alike) can learn about how to help kids be healthy so they don’t turn as much to unhealthy behaviors to try to “fit in” or to escape stress in their lives.
Don’t forget to also search out and encourage those doing the opposite of Cyberbullying. Those who focus on #CyberKindness.