News

Reducing bullying and cyber bullying

By Elizabeth Englander and Kristin Schank
October 6th, 2010

bulliesThis fall, there are new and revamped laws in many states that address K-12 bullying and cyber bullying. In Massachusetts, we have one of the most comprehensive and far-reaching laws in the country. As in many states, K-12 teachers in Massachusetts have new responsibilities to respond to, report, and address bullying and cyber bullying. Here at the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC), we’ve developed 10 tips to help faculty cope with what can seem an overwhelming task.

1. Keep “responding” and “reporting” separate in your mind.

What behaviors do you have to report for possible formal discipline? Also, how should you respond when you see inappropriate (possibly bullying or definitely bullying) behaviors? Always respond by making it clear that you are disturbed by what you saw. Should you respond to a behavior that you might not normally report (such as laughter at a child’s expense)? The answer is yes. Remember that even if it’s not a “reportable” behavior—respond to it. Ignoring even mild bullying behaviors is essentially the same as endorsing them.

2. Focus on the small stuff.

It’s useful to understand the difference between “gateway” behaviors and blatant bullying. Gateway behaviors facilitate or reinforce bullying—they make disrespect seem normal (which facilitates bullying) or even rewarded (like laughing along with a bully). The difficulty is that there are usually no solid rules against gateway behaviors, so adults often ignore them. But research shows us how toxic they can be. In 2009 and 2010, MARC researchers found that it was the gateway behaviors that dominated victim reports.

Focusing on the small stuff means understanding that we need to educate kids about the impact of even small behaviors and react when we see them happening. How to respond? Explain that even small behaviors really affect others. Tell the child that you don’t want to see behavior that might be interpreted as rude, and instruct the child to stop. Make it a classroom rule. Then, repeated instances become insolence towards you—which is a possible matter for school discipline.

3. The cyber stuff: Approach and coach.

Although kids are comfortable with technology, they are not necessarily knowledgeable about it—don’t confuse the two. We all need to talk with kids about technology. Don’t worry about how much you know or don’t know. Ask kids what’s happening online with them. Ask them to tell you (or show you) what they’re up to online. And keep in mind that even if you might not know how to do a particular thing, you do know that even online they should watch what they say and be civil to others. Don’t hesitate to make that message loud and clear.

4. The Rumor Mill is still the leader in social problems.

Online and offline, rumors today fly at an incredible rate. In our research, bullies tell us that spreading rumors online is the by far the most common thing they do to others. So if we do anything to stop bullying, let’s be sure to focus on the rumors.

5. Talk to kids about how to handle things when they get mad at each other.

Kids today often vent electronically when they’re mad, instead of trying to resolve the problem. Faced with the choice between a difficult face-to-face conversation, versus the ease of venting online, they might often conclude that it makes more sense to go electronic. The problem is that by doing so, they usually escalate the conflict instead of resolving it. In bygone days, kids didn’t need to be coached on the benefits of talking face to face when they’re upset—but today they often do. In our research, girls particularly showed a tendency to do this.

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5 Responses to “Reducing bullying and cyber bullying”

lmj.norris
October 6, 2010

If we can teach our kids good standards of behavior they will help defend the bullied and push back on the bullies. It takes courageous kids to stand up for other kids who are less able to stand up for themselves. I think that’s the secret. We need to keep focusing on bringing up good kids. We must also not lose sight of good standards of behavior. There are many holes in the dike these days. Teachers can help, just like policeman can sometimes prevent a crime, but parents need to step up. The Internet actually has given more girls an opportunity to bully others — that’s been my experience with my own daughter where kids use surveys and other tools to humiliate other girls–all very sneaky and cowardly. They won’t necessarily do it to someone’s face in class, just behind their backs and online. Hard for a teacher to police that.

lmj.norris
October 6, 2010

If we can teach our kids good standards of behavior they will help defend the bullied and push back on the bullies. It takes courageous kids to stand up for other kids who are less able to stand up for themselves. I think that’s the secret. We need to keep focusing on bringing up good kids. We must also not lose sight of good standards of behavior. There are many holes in the dike these days. Teachers can help, just like policeman can sometimes prevent a crime, but parents need to step up. The Internet actually has given more girls an opportunity to bully others — that’s been my experience with my own daughter where kids use surveys and other tools to humiliate other girls–all very sneaky and cowardly. They won’t necessarily do it to someone’s face in class, just behind their backs and online. Hard for a teacher to police that.

Tereasa
October 7, 2010

Internet Safety classes need to include what is acceptable and what is not. I think we are missing the boat by not teaching this generation everything they need to know regarding Social Media. We threw these kids out into the “New” Media with absolutely no instruction, no Do’s and Don’ts, no consequences. How can we expect them to behave in a positive way when we have not given them the tools on how to do that? Adults and teachers need Social Media instruction so they can relate and instruct. If we don’t know ourselves there is no way we can teach.

Tereasa
October 7, 2010

Internet Safety classes need to include what is acceptable and what is not. I think we are missing the boat by not teaching this generation everything they need to know regarding Social Media. We threw these kids out into the “New” Media with absolutely no instruction, no Do’s and Don’ts, no consequences. How can we expect them to behave in a positive way when we have not given them the tools on how to do that? Adults and teachers need Social Media instruction so they can relate and instruct. If we don’t know ourselves there is no way we can teach.

tomjacobs59
October 7, 2010

After 23 years in juvenile court, I believe that teenagers often learn from the experiences of their peers, not just from being lectured by those in authority. Consequently, “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” was published in January, 2010.
Endorsed by Dr. Phil on April 8, 2010 [“Bullied to Death” show], “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” presents real cases of teens in trouble over their online and cell phone activities. Civil & criminal sanctions have been imposed on teens over their emails, blogs, text and IM messages, Facebook entries and more. TCI is interactive and promotes education & awareness so that our youth will begin to “Think B4 U Click.”
Thanks for looking at “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” on http://www.freespirit.com [publisher] or on http://www.askthejudge.info [a free website for & about teens and the law].
Respectfully, -Judge Tom.

tomjacobs59
October 7, 2010

After 23 years in juvenile court, I believe that teenagers often learn from the experiences of their peers, not just from being lectured by those in authority. Consequently, “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” was published in January, 2010.
Endorsed by Dr. Phil on April 8, 2010 [“Bullied to Death” show], “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” presents real cases of teens in trouble over their online and cell phone activities. Civil & criminal sanctions have been imposed on teens over their emails, blogs, text and IM messages, Facebook entries and more. TCI is interactive and promotes education & awareness so that our youth will begin to “Think B4 U Click.”
Thanks for looking at “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” on http://www.freespirit.com [publisher] or on http://www.askthejudge.info [a free website for & about teens and the law].
Respectfully, -Judge Tom.

Jonmadian
October 7, 2010

Do you think that the failure of our curriculum and classroom management to respect students social and intellectual needs may well contribute to the disrespect, power plays, and anger expressed in bullying?

Jonmadian
October 7, 2010

Do you think that the failure of our curriculum and classroom management to respect students social and intellectual needs may well contribute to the disrespect, power plays, and anger expressed in bullying?


As adults, it is our job to protect our children. We are responsible for teaching them to be accepting and kind to each other, and we are responsible for protecting them from bullying and abuse.

Recent events have brought increased attention to instances of bullying and cyber-bullying and we have sadly witnessed the catastrophic impact it can have on a young person. It’s not hard to understand why educators, parents and the public are concerned and are looking for ways to protect and educate their children.

Educators are well positioned to be on the look-out for situations where bullying is present and to educate children about bullying. It’s important that educators, parents and the community work together to educate themselves and be aware of the signs of bullying.

In light of recent events and the need for resources, Caron Treatment Centers’ Student Assistance Program (http://www.caron.org/student-assistance-program.html) has compiled information on signs that a child is being cyber bullied and how to keep a child safe online. If you’re interested, please read here: http://caronchitchat.org/response-to-tyler-clementi-tragedy/

Many thanks,
Katie S., Caron Treatment Centers
@carontreatment


As adults, it is our job to protect our children. We are responsible for teaching them to be accepting and kind to each other, and we are responsible for protecting them from bullying and abuse.

Recent events have brought increased attention to instances of bullying and cyber-bullying and we have sadly witnessed the catastrophic impact it can have on a young person. It’s not hard to understand why educators, parents and the public are concerned and are looking for ways to protect and educate their children.

Educators are well positioned to be on the look-out for situations where bullying is present and to educate children about bullying. It’s important that educators, parents and the community work together to educate themselves and be aware of the signs of bullying.

In light of recent events and the need for resources, Caron Treatment Centers’ Student Assistance Program (http://www.caron.org/student-assistance-program.html) has compiled information on signs that a child is being cyber bullied and how to keep a child safe online. If you’re interested, please read here: http://caronchitchat.org/response-to-tyler-clementi-tragedy/

Many thanks,
Katie S., Caron Treatment Centers
@carontreatment