Cyberbullying Research Center https://cyberbullying.org Resources and strategies to help combat bullying and cyberbullying. Wed, 16 Sep 2020 20:43:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.1 Bullying and Cyberbullying: The Connection to Delinquency https://cyberbullying.org/bullying-cyberbullying-delinquency https://cyberbullying.org/bullying-cyberbullying-delinquency#respond Wed, 16 Sep 2020 16:03:42 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=30329 Sameer and I have long been interested in the connection between cyberbullying and offline behaviors. Nearly fifteen years ago we published a paper which found preliminary evidence that youth who had been cyberbullied were more at risk to engage in school violence and delinquency. We framed this possible relationship from the perspective of General Strain…

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Sameer and I have long been interested in the connection between cyberbullying and offline behaviors. Nearly fifteen years ago we published a paper which found preliminary evidence that youth who had been cyberbullied were more at risk to engage in school violence and delinquency. We framed this possible relationship from the perspective of General Strain Theory, a popular contemporary criminological theory that argues that crime and deviance can be a function of strain (or extreme stress) in one’s life. When one is strained by various life circumstances (e.g., death of a parent or breakup with a significant other) and experience negative emotions (namely anger and frustration) as a result of that strain, that person is at a greater risk to engage in deviance as a coping mechanism to escape the strain. For example, if I am angry about my recent romantic relationship ending, I may be more inclined to seek revenge against my ex by sharing personal information or pictures of her, or be controlling and abusive towards other girls because I’m scared they might also eventually break my heart.

In a new paper that was just published in the academic journal Violence and Victims, we, along with some colleagues, found more evidence that experience with bullying and cyberbullying victimization is related to participation in delinquent behavior. For this study we surveyed a national sample of 2,760 middle and high school students in 2016 about their experiences with bullying at school and bullying online, whether those incidents made them angry or frustrated, and whether they participated in various forms of delinquent behaviors (e.g., theft, assault, drug use).

Nearly 30% of the students in the sample had been bullied at school, while about 19% had been cyberbullied. These numbers are generally in line with our other research over the years. About 18% of the students admitted to engaging in one or more of the eight deviant/delinquent behaviors we asked them about. Finally, about three-quarters of the students who had been bullied at school said it made them angry or frustrated, while about half of the students who had been cyberbullied felt the same way.

Students who were bullied at school were almost three times as likely to engage in delinquency, while those who were cyberbullied were more than three times as likely to have engaged in delinquency.

Results suggest that students who experienced bullying or cyberbullying were more likely to engage in delinquency, as were students who developed negative emotions from those experiences. Specifically, students who were bullied at school were almost three times as likely to engage in delinquency (log odds = 2.82) while those who were cyberbullied were more than three times as likely to have engaged in delinquency (log odds = 3.17). However, bullying victimization seems to matter more than the negative emotions that stem from it, especially when it came to school bullying. Even though students who experienced negative emotions were more likely to engage in delinquency, the strength of the relationship decreased for cyberbullying and disappeared for school bullying. In other words, students were more likely to engage in delinquency when they had been bullied, regardless of whether they developed negative emotions from being bullied.

One important caveat is that this paper relies on data collected at one point in time. So even though there appears to be a relationship between bullying/cyberbullying and delinquency, it is impossible for us to definitively say that being bullied causes someone to engage in delinquency. It is also plausible that the delinquent behaviors occur prior to the bullying (in which case the bullying cannot cause the delinquency). In fact, Sameer and I published another paper over ten years ago which found that youth who experienced stressful life events that resulted in anger or frustration were more likely to participate in bullying or cyberbullying. So we’ve now looked at school bullying and cyberbullying as both causes of strain and effects of strain – and have found support for both pathways.

We’ve now looked at school bullying and cyberbullying as both causes of strain and effects of strain – and have found support for both pathways.

As a final note, I’m particularly proud of this paper. Not because it uses a great sample or especially sophisticated statistical analyses, but because it is the first that I have been a part of where a co-author is a former student. Even better, one of his former students is also a co-author! So there are three generations of academics in this one paper. Mentoring the next generation of scholars is truly one of the most rewarding parts of my job.

You can read the full paper here. If you are unable to access it, just reach out and we’ll send you a copy.

Image: Kylie De Guia (@captured_deguia) – Unsplash

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TikTok: Pros, Cons, and the Promise of Youth Empowerment https://cyberbullying.org/tiktok-pros-cons-youth-empowerment https://cyberbullying.org/tiktok-pros-cons-youth-empowerment#respond Tue, 01 Sep 2020 12:09:50 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=29866 I trust by now that you’ve at least heard of TikTok, the fledgling short-form video app that has been around since 2016 but has exploded in popularity since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. With at least two billion downloads and at least 800 million active users (and probably way more), its reach seems to…

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I trust by now that you’ve at least heard of TikTok, the fledgling short-form video app that has been around since 2016 but has exploded in popularity since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. With at least two billion downloads and at least 800 million active users (and probably way more), its reach seems to be expanding rapidly with every passing week. This may be in part because the 15-60 second video clips users post align well with our attention spans and desire for small bites of entertaining content, and because its algorithms work perhaps faster than their counterparts in identifying what types of content we are specifically interested in seeing (and, by extension, what we would quickly skip over). Furthermore, it is built around niches occupied by fervent and passionate users who have discovered that TikTok is a fun and engaging way to stay connected with each other about the things they love (e.g., shared interests such as magic, comedy, furries [animal characters with human features], anime, memes, sports, cooking/baking, and music).

TikTok’s popularity may be in part because the 15-60 second video clips users post align well with our attention spans and desire for small bites of entertaining content, and because its algorithms work perhaps faster than their counterparts in identifying what types of content we are specifically interested in seeing.

TikTok as a Point of Contention

However, as with any new app, there is a lot of confusion and even concern about TikTok. It is being discussed fervently in the US political arena (as President Trump seeks to ban it because of its current ownership by a Chinese corporation). In addition, it is a point of focus for K-12 schools – where teachers and students have embraced it in numerous ways but still worry about certain problematic cultural messages or behaviors being amplified on the app -) and families – as parents are wondering about whether it is a safe space for their kids to interact with others.

We absolutely want to equip parents and educators with the knowledge they need to keep students safe on this app. Here are some of the positives and negatives I’ve identified in case they help to round out your own perspective on the app. 

Benefits of TikTok

  • Perhaps because of the interface and the relatable way that individuals are portrayed in any TikTok, users feel very comfortable to be themselves and to share compelling, creative bite-sized videos with others. The app has also been the location where memes originate and go viral, new phrases where challenges are posted and receive participation from all over the world, and a favorite platform of many celebrities.

  • It is arguably easier to edit content in TikTok than in other apps like Snapchat and Instagram. The filters and functionality to modify and improve your video are actually enjoyable to use.

  • There is always something original to explore because it’s a mirror of current social trends, and benefits from new songs being released (and featured) all of the time.

  • It is just really fun. In unique and inviting ways.

Concerns about TikTok

  • Accounts on TikTok, when first created, are set to Public. I realize the corporate benefit of this. I just hope that all users realize this, pause for a moment to reflect on the implications, and then take a second to toggle the setting to Private if they would prefer to control who is able to see their TikToks and leave them comments.

  • Parents tell me that they’re concerned about the fact that many videos feature songs with inappropriate lyrics. Yes, this is jarring when you watch a video and hear some profanity, and I wouldn’t personally want kids exposed to such language. However, I do know that many are exposed to this language at school, among friends, and those songs are readily accessible to them on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, etc. Have a conversation with your kid about your expectations for lyrical content in their TikToks and have consequences in place if they violate your trust.

  • Parents also convey that they see many girls (and even some boys) act in very sexually suggestive ways in the TikToks they post. I’ve seen this too. It does make me uncomfortable. I’ve seen similar content on Instagram, but it’s not as “in your face” as it seems to be on TikTok. My major concern is that I don’t want youth (particularly girls, since they are disproportionately involved) to get caught up in objectifying themselves to get likes, comments, and follows. It’s very hard to understand the implications of this when you’re 13 – it just is amazing that others seem so interested in you, and really seem to care about you. To be sure, this concern is valid across many platforms.

  • TikTok provides the ability to filter out certain content that might be considered “mature” through a setting called “Restricted Mode.” This is available under “Me” (bottom right icon) and then “Digital Wellbeing.” (Parents, you will have to enable a “Family Pairing” setting (which links your child’s account to yours) in order to prevent your kid from changing the security settings you implement). Restriced Mode does a relatively good job at keeping sexual content and violence out of your Home feed, but it is not perfect. I have seen some sexually suggestive dancing by younger girls come through (this may or may not upset your sensibilities, I’m just relaying my experience). And I’ve never seen any porn (nor should I, because it violates their Community Guidelines). I do know that TikTok is continually refining their algorithms to improve their accuracy of detecting mature content.

  • It’s easy to get stuck in a content silo if you are only scrolling through the For You Page.  To combat this, use the Discover button to search for different hashtags and be introduced to different creators.

Please don’t miss this major point: all apps have pros and cons. The concerns I have mentioned above are present on all other major social media apps. They are not inherent or uniquely restricted to TikTok. What is also interesting is that our Center has yet to receive a request for help from a TikTok user specific to cyberbullying, threats, or related issues (and we do get help requests all the time from users on other platforms). Is that because TikTok is super responsive to Reports sent in through the app? I hope so. If so, that’s great.

The concerns I have mentioned above are present on all other major social media apps. They are not inherent or uniquely restricted to TikTok.

When parents ask for my professional opinion on TikTok (or any app), I discuss the benefits and the concerns, show them how it works on my phone, and explain to them why it’s so popular and sticky. And then I tell them to download it, spend a few minutes on the For You (or Home) page, and make sure they follow their teen’s account so they can stay in the know of what is being posted.

Overall, we should refrain from demonizing certain new apps due to a lack of understanding or appreciation of their benefits. Plus, we would do well to remember that social media in and of itself isn’t bad or wrong or evil. While we often hear about and focus the most attention on the bad things that occur on or via social media, we should remember that it is also often being marshalled for positive purposes. Many youth are feeling increasingly empowered because of the platform that social media provides to share what they care deeply about. TikTok is a global community, much like the ones that exist on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Twitch. The users – as a collective – set the tone and therefore dictate the environment in which others can feel free to post and share what matters to them. The more voices out there that promote tolerance, kindness, and mutual respect, the better it will be for everyone.

TikTok as a Platform for Cyberbullying Prevention

As I close, I wanted to focus on something I’m seeing that I love: youth speaking out about cyberbullying and attempting to shift peer perceptions on what is appropriate, and what is not.

Here are a few videos that I found on TikTok across where teens are speaking out (or otherwise conveying) about the need to be respectful in comments, demonstrating resilience, and trying to set a tone of kindness for others. I’ve uploaded them to YouTube for ease of experience across devices.

One observation here is worth exploring: all of the creators of the videos shared above are of the same demographic – young white girls. Why is that? TikTok users span the spectrums of age, gender, race, and religion and is available in 75 languages. Users come from all over the world. Is this demographic disproportionately targeted? Or, do they feel safer and freer than other groups to speak up and speak out? It was very hard for me to surface anti-bullying TikToks by non-white, non-female creators (if I could have, I would have featured them here). You’d think as a dark-skinned male of Indian descent, I would see a more diverse assortment of creators’ content. This said, I feel like TikTok would do well to identify, elevate, and otherwise promote TikToks that contribute to establishing a kind, accepting, respectful environment so that other users of those differing demographics feel supported. Instagram has publicly asserted that they want their platform to be known for kindness, and this shouldn’t be the exception among social media companies. It should be the norm, and TikTok should help lead the way.

Finally, regardless of what happens with TikTok’s ownership situation, it is not going away any time soon. You may have heard that a number of American companies (such as Microsoft, Twitter, and Oracle are interested in purchasing it). Plus, we’ve already seen an increase in TikTok users familiarizing themselves with VPNs to get around any technological bans that Internet Service Providers might be forced to implement (even though I don’t think this is a long-term solution). I’m confident it’s going to continue to grow – and hopefully TikTok will take continued intentional steps to safeguard its userbase and promote healthy, happy interactions. 

Let me know if I can answer any questions you may have!

Image sources:
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https://bit.ly/3liWsru
https://bit.ly/2QnJpXy
https://bit.ly/3aUTOn6
https://bit.ly/3gKBwq3


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Cyberbullying: Top Ten Tips for Health Care Providers https://cyberbullying.org/cyberbullying-tips-health-care-providers https://cyberbullying.org/cyberbullying-tips-health-care-providers#respond Sat, 22 Aug 2020 18:07:44 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=29846 This resource provides tips for health care professionals (pediatricians, school nurses, etc.) to help them identify and care for students who may have experienced cyberbullying.

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(For a formatted .pdf version of this article for distribution, click on the image above [or click here]).

Health care providers (pediatricians, primary care physicians, school nurses, etc.) may be in a unique position to identify and help with cyberbullying among youth. As such, they should be prepared to help children and families with these problems when confronted with evidence of them. Here are some tips to help in this endeavor.

1. REMEMBER THE IMPORTANCE OF EARLY DETECTION. Early detection is vital to reversing the negative consequences for targets of bullying as well as countering the aggressive behavioral tendencies of those who may bully others. As soon as children are placed in environments where peer harassment can occur on a regular basis, you should ask them about how they are treated – and how they treat others. Continue to track over time their experiences with peers, and how they are reacting, adjusting, and growing in their relational skills. Often, clues early on can help prompt helpful conversations and interventions before serious and lasting implications can result.

2. KNOW THE WARNING SIGNS OF BULLYING
Bullying and cyberbullying have been linked to various emotional, psychological, and physiological consequences, including sleep problems, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, headaches, and self-harming thoughts and behaviors. Know the warning signs associated with bullying offending and bullying victimization, and ask the parent(s) if their child has exhibited any of them. The signs may very well be indicative of bullying at school or online, since 75% of 12-17 year-olds say that they’ve been bullied and approximately 30% say they have been cyberbullied at least once in their lifetime based on our most recent data.

3. UTILIZE WELLNESS EXAMS AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO ASK SCREENING QUESTIONS FOR BULLYING VICTIMIZATION AND BEHAVIORS
One of the best ways to detect bullying early is to ask screening questions. Questions can include: I’d like to hear about how school is going. How many good friends do you have in school? Do you ever feel afraid to go to school? Are you ever afraid in your neighborhood? Do other kids ever give you a hard time or bully you at school, in your neighborhood, or online? Who bullies you? When and where does it happen? What do they say or do? Screening questions should also identify whether youth have a support system that will help them resolve the issue. Who is a trusted adult or ally in your school or life who can help you if you’re targeted? Lastly, health care providers should frame questions based on various levels of involvement in bullying or cyberbullying: the aggressor, target, and the witness/bystander.

4. FRAME THE ISSUE AS A “HEALTH” CONCERN AND NOT A “SOCIAL” CONCERN
Health care providers should convey to parents that bullying and cyberbullying are not just “social concerns” who may then think the issues will work themselves out over time. Instead, be clear about the health implications of bullying and cyberbullying on their child, and encourage a responsibility in them to be calmly but actively involved in their online activities (as well as their offline activities).

5. TAKE TIME TO TRAIN YOURSELF AND YOUR STAFF
Consider having your institution host workshops for your community of patients that aim to dispel misconceptions about bullying, discuss effective anti-bullying policies and practices in homes and schools, and expand on how parents, siblings, and extended families can be part of the solution.

6. CONSULT WITH OTHER STAKEHOLDERS
Ensure that you have relationships with point people in the community who can provide various services, depending on your patient’s situation. You should have at least one contact in law enforcement, multiple contacts in adolescent mental health (e.g., one who specializes in trauma, cognitive behavior therapy, suicide prevention and crisis management, etc.), and at the school district level (in case formal actions need to be taken to keep your patient safe at school). You may even choose to form a multidisciplinary, community-based coalition to improve coordination in the assessment, intake, and referral of children who are bullied (or who bully others) for treatment, counseling, and other community services.

7. BE A VOICE FOR THE CHILDREN WHO ARE TARGETED
By being a voice for those youth who disclose to you that they are being bullied, you are serving as their advocate and defender. Perhaps their situation has been trivialized or dismissed by other adults, and they’ve confided in you because of your position and status in the community, or your bedside manner. For example, if you discover that a child is a target of bullying, explain to the parents how bullying is a health problem, and encourage them to listen, believe, and support their child. Many times, children who have been bullied can move more readily towards healing simply by knowing their voice is heard, their experience is validated, and well-meaning adults want to help them recover and then thrive.

8. ENCOURAGE OPPORTUNITIES TO GROW IN RESILIENCE
Targets of bullying often feel as if they are the problem, and experience self-blame, shame, and judgment. Encourage parents to identify social situations where their son or daughter can feel supported and find success. Research has shown that extracurricular activities where youth can grow in their social skills (e.g., conflict resolution, emotional self-regulation, the nuances of banter) and can experience “wins” (earning an award, helping a team to victory, discovering a talent or ability they didn’t know they had) help produce resilience and self-confidence. Those traits, then, can buffer against the harms that peer harassment or other adolescent struggles typically cause.

9. HELP THE STUDENTS WHO BULLY OTHERS
If a patient (or their parent) reveals that they have bullied others, probe to determine the root cause(s) of their antisocial behavior. Reiterate that what they are doing is wrong but show disapproval towards the actions, rather than the individual. In addition, talk to the parents and/or refer the child to a mental health counselor if you believe that may help resolve the underlying issue.

10. BE A RELIABLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION FOR THE COMMUNITY
Parents, children, school administrators, teachers, and other members of the community look to health care providers as respected and knowledgeable sources of information. Distribute relevant materials with research-based information on bullying identification, prevention, and response to parents who visit your office with their children. Take advantage of the free PDF resources we share on our website, which include tip sheets with clear, actionable strategies for families and youth themselves. Having these resources posted visibly in your office or waiting room will allow parents and children to learn more about bullying and cyberbullying, and strategies to confront them, even without formally disclosing experiences with you.

Citation information: Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2020). Cyberbullying: Top Ten Tips for Teens. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved (insert date), from https://cyberbullying.org/Cyberbullying-Top-Ten-Tips-Health-Care-Providers.pdf.

Keywords: tips, teach, educate, health care providers, pediatricians

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Digital Dating Abuse: Top Ten Tips for Teens https://cyberbullying.org/digital-dating-abuse-top-ten-tips-for-teens https://cyberbullying.org/digital-dating-abuse-top-ten-tips-for-teens#respond Sat, 22 Aug 2020 17:39:14 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=29840 “Digital dating abuse” involves using technology to repetitively harass a romantic partner with the intent to control, coerce, intimidate, annoy or threaten them. Given that youth in relationships today are constantly in touch with each other via texting, social media, and video chat, more opportunities for digital dating abuse can arise. Below are ten tips to help keep teens safe online when it comes to romantic relationships.

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(For a formatted .pdf version of this article for distribution, click on the image above [or click here]).

“Digital dating abuse” involves using technology to repetitively harass a romantic partner with the intent to control, coerce, intimidate, annoy or threaten them. Given that youth in relationships today are constantly in touch with each other via texting, social media, and video chat, more opportunities for digital dating abuse can arise. Below are ten tips to help keep teens safe online when it comes to romantic relationships.

1. CONSIDER THE CONTEXT OF YOUR TEXTS. Teens sometimes report feeling more confident communicating via text instead of face-to-face, especially when it comes to personal or sensitive topics – and often in romantic situations. However, always remember that your love interest may misinterpret the content of your text or make assumptions about your meaning because they can’t see your facial expression or body language, or pick up on the tone or inflection in your voice. If it’s a difficult conversation, it is always best to have it in person. Don’t risk misunderstandings. And ask for clarification if your love interest texts you something that causes any concern or question.

2. BE MINDFUL THAT YOUR LOCATION MAY BE SHARED THROUGH POSTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS, OR EVEN VIA YOUR FAVORITE TEXTING/MESSAGING APP. Some teens report using social media as a way to track or “stalk” one another. You can turn off location sharing in each social media app you use, and automatically strip every photo or video of any “metadata” by adjusting your Messaging settings. If you feel that your significant other is demanding to know your whereabouts, doesn’t allow you to go certain places, or implies that you “owe” them information about what you are doing or why, those are signs of an unhealthy, abusive relationship. In healthy relationships, people feel free and comfortable to live their life without constantly reporting back to their partner.

3. DO NOT BE PRESSURED TO SHARE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PASSWORDS. Studies show that when teens who have shared social media passwords break up, there is a likelihood for privacy invasions, impersonation, posting inappropriate comments, and even getting locked out and having to start over with a new account. If you have given your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend your password (intentionally or unintentionally), change it immediately. This includes the lock code on your phone.

4. BEWARE OF GUILT-TRIPPING AND PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVENESS. If your partner is making you feel guilty about not handing over your passcode, not giving them sexual photos or any other related matter, then they lack respect for your privacy and individuality. If they say or do things that are hurtful or backhanded just to get you to respond in a certain way, recognize that they are trying to control you. Both of these are signs of an abusive relationship. In a healthy relationship, your partner will never try to shame or pressure you into doing something you are not completely comfortable with.

5. DECIDE YOUR COMFORT LEVEL WITH BLOCKING, MUTING, UNFRIENDING, AND UNFOLLOWING EX-BOYFRIENDS OR EX-GIRLFRIENDS. Do you really want to keep giving them access to all of your posts and content? Will knowing that they see what you share affect your actions? Do you always want to be thinking about how they might interpret the fact that you double-tapped on a new guy’s picture, or accepted a new girl’s follow request? That seems like a lot of unnecessary stress and pressure, and a lot less freedom than you should have. If a relationship ends, or if things go sideways with someone and you stop “talking,” you may be better off cutting them off to avoid further drama.

6. DETERMINE HOW OFTEN TO STAY IN TOUCH VIA TEXT OR OVER THE PHONE. In a healthy relationship, your partner will be considerate of your feelings and the contact level will be mutual, whereas in an unhealthy relationship, your partner may be more demanding and neglect your feelings or comfort level in this area. In a healthy relationship, both people care equally about the other’s comfort level and emotions. There should be mutual agreement about how often you communicate. Be wary of repetitive insistent messages and/or calls demanding a response. Reacting or responding to this type of behavior in an obligatory manner may create an environment that invites more of it.

7. HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS HAVE BOUNDARIES. Just because you might be in a relationship with someone, it doesn’t give them the right to go through your phone or know what you are doing every minute of the day. Going through your partner’s phone or social media without their permission is unhealthy, controlling, and abusive behavior. In a healthy relationship, you and your partner will mutually trust one another and respect personal boundaries. If your partner goes beyond the boundaries you feel comfortable with, you must communicate that to them and see if they are willing to reestablish your trust.

8. IF SOMEONE ASKS YOU FOR NUDES OR SEXUAL PHOTOS OR VIDEOS OF YOURSELF, DON’T FEEL OBLIGATED TO SHARE THEM. Even if you trust your partner or know that they will delete the pictures immediately, we know of numerous cases where the content gets out beyond its intended audience. Sharing content like this also can create an unhealthy power imbalance in your relationship. If your love interest has images of you, they may share the images with their friends just to gain popularity or “cool points.” Once someone has explicit photos or videos of you, they can use them as leverage or blackmail to control you and get you to do things you would never do. Also remember that pictures and videos you post – but do not specifically share – can still be saved and sent around without your knowledge.

9. BE MINDFUL TOWARDS YOUR PARTNER WHEN YOU ARE TOGETHER. Being in a relationship means being considerate about your significant other’s feelings. Many couples complain that their partner spends too much time on their phones, laptop, or gaming console while they spend time together. Even when couples are on dates, much of that time may be spent scrolling through social media feeds, texting others, etc. Some teens in relationships have reported feeling jealous or not important enough to their love interest because of the latter’s inability to stay off their devices when together.

10. BE CAREFUL NOT TO OVERSHARE. Since a major method of communication in teen dating relationships is through messaging and social media, it becomes easy to engage in candid self-disclosure and personal sharing of really private thoughts. Of course, this is fine in a long-term relationship where trust has been established over many months, but it can lead to issues if done prematurely. For example, if you are not positive that you can fully trust them, something incredibly intimate and private that you share with them may be shared with others. You may also get caught up in unhealthy emotions without balance or long-term perspective that time provides, which often leads to unhealthy decisions with your partner. Take your time to really get to know the other person, and don’t rush intimacy just because it feels good to unload yourself and share everything about yourself as soon as possible. It’s just not wise.

Citation information: Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2020). Digital Dating Abuse: Top Ten Tips for Teens. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved (insert date), from https://cyberbullying.org/digital-dating-abuse-top-ten-tips-for-teens.

Keywords: tips, teens, dating abuse, prevention, activities, teach, educate

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Cyberbullying Fact Sheet: How to Preserve Cyberbullying Evidence Through Screenshots https://cyberbullying.org/cyberbullying-fact-sheet-how-to-preserve-cyberbullying-evidence-through-screenshots https://cyberbullying.org/cyberbullying-fact-sheet-how-to-preserve-cyberbullying-evidence-through-screenshots#respond Sat, 22 Aug 2020 07:47:00 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=2380 This Fact Sheet provides instructions on how to create an image of what you see on any screen (on any device – your laptop, tablet, gaming console, Kindle, phone, iWatch, etc.) so that evidence of cyberbullying (or any other problematic behavior) can be saved and used for an investigation at school, or to send to…

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This Fact Sheet provides instructions on how to create an image of what you see on any screen (on any device – your laptop, tablet, gaming console, Kindle, phone, iWatch, etc.) so that evidence of cyberbullying (or any other problematic behavior) can be saved and used for an investigation at school, or to send to a social media or gaming company to get an account taken down, or to give to the police.

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. (2020). Cyberbullying fact sheet: How to preserve cyberbullying evidence through screenshots. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved [insert date], from https://cyberbullying.org/making-cyberbullying-screenshots.pdf

Download PDF

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Cyberbullying Crossword Puzzle: Talking to Youth about Internet Harassment https://cyberbullying.org/cyberbullying-crossword-puzzle-talking-to-youth-about-internet-harassment https://cyberbullying.org/cyberbullying-crossword-puzzle-talking-to-youth-about-internet-harassment#respond Sat, 22 Aug 2020 07:02:00 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=2297 A crossword puzzle to be distributed to youth to promote discussion about cyberbullying. Use it in the classroom, an after-school program, or even at home as a fun way to connect with kids about these issues, and how they can stay safe to enjoy all that the Internet, social media, and online gaming have to…

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A crossword puzzle to be distributed to youth to promote discussion about cyberbullying. Use it in the classroom, an after-school program, or even at home as a fun way to connect with kids about these issues, and how they can stay safe to enjoy all that the Internet, social media, and online gaming have to offer!

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J.W. (2020). Cyberbullying crossword puzzle: Talking to youth about Internet harassment. Cyberbullying Research Center.

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Cyberbullying Word Find: Talking to Youth about Internet Harassment https://cyberbullying.org/cyberbullying-word-find-talking-to-youth-about-internet-harassment https://cyberbullying.org/cyberbullying-word-find-talking-to-youth-about-internet-harassment#comments Sat, 22 Aug 2020 07:01:00 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=2294 A word search to be distributed to youth to promote discussion about cyberbullying and Internet safety. Use it in the classroom, an after-school program, or even at home as a fun way to connect with kids about these issues, and how they can stay safe to enjoy all that the Internet, social media, and online…

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A word search to be distributed to youth to promote discussion about cyberbullying and Internet safety. Use it in the classroom, an after-school program, or even at home as a fun way to connect with kids about these issues, and how they can stay safe to enjoy all that the Internet, social media, and online gaming have to offer!

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. (2020). Cyberbullying word find: Talking to youth about Internet harassment. Cyberbullying Research Center.

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Cyberbullying Scripts for Parents to Promote Dialog and Discussion https://cyberbullying.org/cyberbullying-scripts-for-parents-to-promote-dialog-and-discussion https://cyberbullying.org/cyberbullying-scripts-for-parents-to-promote-dialog-and-discussion#respond Sat, 22 Aug 2020 01:30:00 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=2344 Provides parent/teenager “scripts” to promote dialogue and discussion about cyberbullying.

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Provides parent/teenager “scripts” to promote dialogue and discussion about cyberbullying.

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2020). Cyberbullying Scripts for Parents to Promote Dialog and Discussion. Cyberbullying Research Center.

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Bullying and Delinquency: The Impact of Anger and Frustration https://cyberbullying.org/bullying-and-delinquency-the-impact-of-anger-and-frustration https://cyberbullying.org/bullying-and-delinquency-the-impact-of-anger-and-frustration#respond Thu, 20 Aug 2020 16:49:13 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=29781 Few studies have explored whether individuals who are bullied at school or online are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior. Even less is known about whether negative emotions (i.e., anger or frustration)—as a result of being victimized—mediate the relationships between being bullied or cyberbullied and delinquency (as predicted by Agnew’s general strain theory). The…

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Few studies have explored whether individuals who are bullied at school or online are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior. Even less is known about whether negative emotions (i.e., anger or frustration)—as a result of being victimized—mediate the relationships between being bullied or cyberbullied and delinquency (as predicted by Agnew’s general strain theory). The current study uses data from a national sample of 2,670 middle and high school students in the United States. Results indicate that youth who were bullied or cyberbullied, and who experience negative emotions as a result, are more likely to engage in delinquency. Negative emotions did not mediate the relationship between bullying and delinquency; however, they did partly mediate the relationship between cyberbullying and delinquency. The findings indicate that being bullied matters more in explaining delinquent behavior than the negative emotions that may result. Implications for research and policy are discussed in light of these findings.

Lee, C., Patchin, J. W., Hinduja, S., & Dischinger, A. (2020). Bullying and Delinquency: The Impact of Anger and Frustration. Violence and Victims, 35(4), 503-523.

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Law Enforcement Perceptions of Cyberbullying: Evolving Perspectives https://cyberbullying.org/law-enforcement-perceptions-of-cyberbullying-evolving-perspectives https://cyberbullying.org/law-enforcement-perceptions-of-cyberbullying-evolving-perspectives#respond Thu, 20 Aug 2020 16:38:21 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=29777 Cyberbullying – using technology to intentionally and repeatedly engage in bullying behaviors – has gained considerable public attention over the last decade. Parents and educators regularly instruct students about appropriate online behaviors and threaten consequences for misbehaviors. The role and responsibility of law enforcement officers in preventing and responding to cyberbullying incidents remains uncertain. While…

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Cyberbullying – using technology to intentionally and repeatedly engage in bullying behaviors – has gained considerable public attention over the last decade. Parents and educators regularly instruct students about appropriate online behaviors and threaten consequences for misbehaviors. The role and responsibility of law enforcement officers in preventing and responding to cyberbullying incidents remains uncertain. While clear violations of the law (e.g. threats of physical harm) most directly implicate the police, other – more common behaviors – such as rumor spreading or hurtful online commenting do not. The paper aims to discuss this issue. The current study surveyed 1,596 law enforcement supervisors attending the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy (NA) program. The survey instrument assessed perceptions of law enforcement responsibility in cyberbullying incidents. Data were collected in three waves over a nine-year period, allowing the measurement of attitudinal changes over time. The authors find that certain officer characteristics are associated with a greater interest in responding to different types of cyberbullying (including having children at home and having previous experience dealing with cyberbullying) and that these perceptions have evolved over time. The data are specific to law enforcement leaders who participated in the NA and are therefore not generalizable to all officers. Nevertheless, implications for explaining variance and law enforcement involvement in cyberbullying incidents are discussed. This is the first study to survey law enforcement leaders over time to assess their evolving perceptions of law enforcement’s role in addressing cyberbullying among youth.

Patchin, J.W., Schafer, J. A., & Jarvis, J. P. (2020). Law Enforcement Perceptions of Cyberbullying: Evolving Perspectives. Policing: An International Journal, 43(1), 137-150.

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Trauma, Bullying, and Cyberbullying https://cyberbullying.org/trauma-bullying-cyberbullying https://cyberbullying.org/trauma-bullying-cyberbullying#respond Wed, 05 Aug 2020 15:38:08 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=29476 I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the felt experiences of youth who have to deal with bullying at school or online, and how it may have a traumatic effect on some of them. One might argue that most bullying incidents don’t induce trauma, and that may be true if we view all forms and…

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I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the felt experiences of youth who have to deal with bullying at school or online, and how it may have a traumatic effect on some of them. One might argue that most bullying incidents don’t induce trauma, and that may be true if we view all forms and their impact from a macro level. However, it stands to reason that some incidents do have major long-term impacts. As such, it is callous of us to try to qualify or dismiss that away. We are outsiders. We are not walking in the shoes of the target. We don’t know their past wounds or current stressors, and how repeated harassment and exclusion in the school lunchroom or in an online gaming environment might be deeply affecting them.

Let’s explore this further.

What is Trauma?

Trauma results from “an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.”1 Bullying, widely considered a form of school violence, often occurs as a stressor that over time can have traumatic effects.2 Indeed, bullying was labeled an “Adverse Childhood Experience” (ACE) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2017,3 and has been strongly and consistently linked (as is the case with many other ACEs) to poor outcomes later in life.4-8 Apart from the harm, what seems to be most important is the repetitive nature of bullying and cyberbullying because it disrupts trust in oneself, others, and the world. One study showed that the level of frequency of exposure to bullying is the greatest factor in predicting level of trauma.9 

Trauma results from “an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.”1

How Can Bullying and Cyberbullying Lead to Trauma?

Chronic exposure to bullying has been linked to greater emotional, psychological, and physical distress, symptomatology, and pathology in children.10-13 For instance, numerous studies reveal that being bullied compromises the physical, 14-16 emotional,17-19 psychological,13,16,20 academic,16,21 mental,22-26 behavioral,27-29 economic,30 and social31-33 health of youth. Outside of these immediate consequences, studies have shown that these disturbances can have long-term consequences on children and even into their adult years10,34-36 (to our knowledge, no prospective studies have followed the experiences of cyberbullied youth into adulthood to see its long-term effects).

Studies have shown that bullying can have long-term consequences on children and even into their adult years10,34-36

The Link Between Bullying and PTSD

Notably, a number of studies have shown that bullying symptoms resemble that of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and that the former is correlated with (although not predictive of) the latter.12,13,37-39 For instance, 37% of an British sample of adolescents who were bullied indicated clinically significant levels of posttraumatic stress,40 As another example, 25% of adults studied still seemed to experience PTSD symptoms such as intrusive memories of bullying even many years after they had finished their schooling,41 Finally, in a meta-analysis of 29 cross-sectional studies, 57% of bullying targets on average reported symptoms of PTSD above thresholds for caseness (i.e.,, enough to formally classify it as trauma).13

What Does It Mean To Be Trauma-Informed?

Given the empirical link between bullying and trauma, our goals in schools should be to move towards trauma-informed care42-45 – also known as a trauma-informed approach or trauma sensitive. Basically, we need educators to be familiar with 1) the research about the prevalence, trends, and impact of trauma on youth and 2) know the best practices and methods to support children and families who have experienced trauma.46 Inherent in this approach is the prioritizing of specific care leading to better outcomes especially when considering the heavy costs, burdens, and negative impact of trauma when untreated or otherwise unaddressed.

We need educators to be familiar with 1) the research about the prevalence, trends, and impact of trauma on youth and 2) know the best practices and methods to support children and families who have experienced trauma.46

Who Is Best Positioned to Help Address Trauma in Schools?

While ideally every adult in a school should become trauma-informed, school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, and other mental health professionals are the best positioned to help students recover from traumatic experiences given their work with students individually and in small groups. Many students who are bullied engage in avoidant coping, where they repress the intrusive thoughts or feelings that arise specific to the abuse they’ve experienced.47 This manifests in a blunt affect, a general numbness, and the avoidance of any stimuli that may potentially trigger traumatic thoughts.48 What appears most productive, then, is a solution focused approach49 that revolves around providing emotional and practical support, as well as developing productive coping mechanisms to manage anxiety and traumatic symptoms.11,50,51 Allow me to share some of these solutions below.

Three Strategies to Prevent Trauma

Practice Self Care

First, it is essential for self-care to be prioritized – among students, among educators, among everyone involved. Only after we take care of ourselves are we positioned to personally thrive while also optimally serving and supporting those around us. Here is a collection of videos  where youth of varying ages discuss how journaling, taking walks, drawing, playing with slime and fidget toys, breathing exercises, physical activity, watching movies, hanging out with friends or pets, treating yourself, meditation, and prayer help them Many of these can (and should) be used by adults as well!

Crisis Intervention Plans

Second, schools must create a Crisis Intervention Plan. Basically, this involves proactively creating an “emotional first aid” response to a traumatic event. This plan is determined by a building team made up of the administrator(s), counselors, and perhaps some teachers, social workers, and related staff members. The team has email templates, protocols, flowcharts, resources for dissemination, and more – all at the ready. We have to realize that schools are not only dealing with all of the tragedies they usually face (e.g., suicides, natural disasters like hurricanes, cancer or related illnesses among students) but also the added burden of COVID-19. Plus, we know that bullying and cyberbullying continue to occur even with distance learning, further compounding the intensity of the stressors that a school community may face. As such, creating and implementing a crisis plan is paramount. Here is an introduction to a plan, which includes the most critical components.

You can also find various templates available here.

Experiential Grounding

Third, to reduce the impact of trauma we need to lower intense hyper-arousal (an atypical heightened state of anxiety) while improving the ability to regulate emotions.52-55 When stress affects the body, numerous responses are triggered on a neurological, cognitive, emotional, and physical (somatic) level. As such, students and staff need to learn how to sense and understand what exactly is happening in these situations in order to temper or even forestall their negative impact. One way this can happen is through experiential grounding. Also known as centering, this iswhere those who have experienced trauma practice certain techniques to keep them in the present, instead of being swept away in more autonomic outcomes like withdrawal, rumination, panic, disassociation, defensiveness, and denial.56-59 The video below shares some practical techniques that can be used to help trauma survivors towards this end.

We hope these strategies help you to become a school that appreciates the reality and gravity of trauma as an outcome of bullying and cyberbullying. Obviously, it takes a lot of effort to become a trauma-informed school, but doing so can prevent a significant amount of negative health-related outcomes for our students. Consider sharing these points and tips with others. We are here to help you – and them – in any way we can, and we’ll continue this conversation as new knowledge becomes available from research and practice.

***I’d like to thank Dr. Julie E. McDaniel-Muldoon, Student Safety and Well-Being Consultant at Oakland Schools in Waterford, Michigan for our discussions and her guidance and expertise in this area.

Image source: https://bit.ly/2Du5lNC

References

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2.            Cantor D. School crime patterns a national profile of US public high schools using rates of crime reported to police: report on the study of school violence and prevention. DIANE Publishing; 2002.

3.            StopBullying.gov. Bullying as an Adverse Childhood Event (ACE). 2017. https://www.stopbullying.gov/sites/default/files/2017-10/bullying-as-an-ace-fact-sheet.pdf. Accessed August 3, 2020.

4.            Ballard E, Van Eck K, Musci RJ, et al. Latent classes of childhood trauma exposure predict the development of behavioral health outcomes in adolescence and young adulthood. Psychological medicine. 2015;45(15):3305-3316.

5.            Quinn K, Boone L, Scheidell JD, et al. The relationships of childhood trauma and adulthood prescription pain reliever misuse and injection drug use. Drug and alcohol dependence. 2016;169:190-198.

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8.            Bernet CZ, Stein MB. Relationship of childhood maltreatment to the onset and course of major depression in adulthood. Depression and anxiety. 1999;9(4):169-174.

9.            Baldry AC. The impact of direct and indirect bullying on the mental and physical health of Italian youngsters. Aggressive Behavior: Official Journal of the International Society for Research on Aggression. 2004;30(5):343-355.

10.          Gladstone GL, Parker GB, Malhi GS. Do bullied children become anxious and depressed adults?: A cross-sectional investigation of the correlates of bullying and anxious depression. The Journal of nervous and mental disease. 2006;194(3):201-208.

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20.          Moore SE, Norman RE, Suetani S, Thomas HJ, Sly PD, Scott JG. Consequences of bullying victimization in childhood and adolescence: a systematic review and meta-analysis. World journal of psychiatry. 2017;7(1):60.

21.          Schoeler T, Duncan L, Cecil CM, Ploubidis GB, Pingault J-B. Quasi-experimental evidence on short-and long-term consequences of bullying victimization: a meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin. 2018;144(12):1229.

22.          Kaess M. Bullying: peer-to-peer maltreatment with severe consequences for child and adolescent mental health. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 2018;27(8):945-947.

23.          deLara EW. Consequences of childhood bullying on mental health and relationships for young adults. Journal of Child and Family Studies. 2018:1-11.

24.          Chang FC, Lee CM, Chiu CH, Hsi WY, Huang TF, Pan YC. Relationships among cyberbullying, school bullying, and mental health in Taiwanese adolescents. Journal of school health. 2013;83(6):454-462.

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26.          Landstedt E, Persson S. Bullying, cyberbullying, and mental health in young people. Scandinavian journal of public health. 2014;42(4):393-399.

27.          Quinn ST, Stewart MC. Examining the long-term consequences of bullying on adult substance use. American Journal of Criminal Justice. 2018;43(1):85-101.

28.          Schultze-Krumbholz A, Jäkel A, Schultze M, Scheithauer H. Emotional and behavioural problems in the context of cyberbullying: A longitudinal study among German adolescents. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties. 2012;17(3-4):329-345.

29.          Hinduja S, Patchin JW. Offline consequences of online victimization: School violence and delinquency. Journal of school violence. 2007;6(3):89-112.

30.          Brimblecombe N, Evans-Lacko S, Knapp M, et al. Long term economic impact associated with childhood bullying victimisation. Social Science & Medicine. 2018;208:134-141.

31.          Mishna F, McInroy LB, Lacombe-Duncan A, et al. Prevalence, motivations, and social, mental health and health consequences of cyberbullying among school-aged children and youth: protocol of a longitudinal and multi-perspective mixed method study. JMIR research protocols. 2016;5(2).

32.          DeHue F, Bolman C, Völlink T. Cyberbullying: Youngsters’ experiences and parental perception. CyberPsychology & Behavior. 2008;11(2):217-223.

33.          Mishna F, Saini M, Solomon S. Ongoing and online: Children and youths’ perceptions of cyberbullying. Children and Youth Services Review. 2009;31:1222-1228.

34.          Wolke D, Copeland WE, Angold A, Costello EJ. Impact of bullying in childhood on adult health, wealth, crime, and social outcomes. Psychol Sci. 2013;24(10):1958-1970.

35.          Klomek AB, Sourander A, Elonheimo H. Bullying by peers in childhood and effects on psychopathology, suicidality, and criminality in adulthood. The Lancet Psychiatry. 2015;2(10):930-941.

36.          Klomek AB, Sourander A, Gould M. The association of suicide and bullying in childhood to young adulthood: A review of cross-sectional and longitudinal research findings. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 2010;55(5):282-288.

37.          McKenney K, Pepler D, Craig W, Connolly J. Psychosocial consequences of peer victimization in elementary and high school: An examination of posttraumatic stress disorder symptomatology. Child victimization: Maltreatment, bullying and dating violence, prevention and intervention. 2005:15-12.

38.          Veenstra R, Lindenberg S, Oldehinkel AJ, De Winter AF, Verhulst FC, Ormel J. Bullying and victimization in elementary schools: a comparison of bullies, victims, bully/victims, and uninvolved preadolescents. Developmental psychology. 2005;41(4):672.

39.          Plexousakis SS, Kourkoutas E, Giovazolias T, Chatira K, Nikolopoulos D. School bullying and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms: the role of parental bonding. Frontiers in public health. 2019;7:75.

40.          Mynard H, Joseph S, Alexander J. Peer-victimisation and posttraumatic stress in adolescents. Personality and Individual Differences. 2000;29(5):815-821.

41.          Rivers I. Recollections of bullying at school and their long-term implications for lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. Crisis. 2004;25(4):169-175.

42.          Reeves E. A synthesis of the literature on trauma-informed care. Issues in mental health nursing. 2015;36(9):698-709.

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49.          Newsome WS. The impact of solution-focused brief therapy with at-risk junior high school students. Children & Schools. 2005;27(2):83-90.

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51.          Dougall AL, Craig KJ, Baum A. Assessment of characteristics of intrusive thoughts and their impact on distress among victims of traumatic events. Psychosomatic Medicine. 1999;61(1):38-48.

52.          Heller L, LaPierre A. Healing developmental trauma: How early trauma affects self-regulation, self-image, and the capacity for relationship. North Atlantic Books; 2012.

53.          Blaustein ME, Kinniburgh KM. Treating traumatic stress in children and adolescents: How to foster resilience through attachment, self-regulation, and competency. Guilford Publications; 2018.

54.          Van der Kolk BA. The neurobiology of childhood trauma and abuse. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics. 2003;12(2):293-317.

55.          Ford JD, Russo E. Trauma-focused, present-centered, emotional self-regulation approach to integrated treatment for posttraumatic stress and addiction: Trauma adaptive recovery group education and therapy (TARGET). American journal of psychotherapy. 2006;60(4):335-355.

56.          de Tord P, Bräuninger I. Grounding: Theoretical application and practice in dance movement therapy. The Arts in Psychotherapy. 2015;43:16-22.

57.          Covington S. Beyond trauma. Center City, MN: Hazeldon. 2003.

58.          Miller NA, Najavits LM. Creating trauma-informed correctional care: A balance of goals and environment. European journal of psychotraumatology. 2012;3(1):17246.

59.          Fisher J. The work of stabilization in trauma treatment. Trauma Center Lecture Series, Boston, Massachusetts. 1999.

60.          Soma C. 10 Steps Every Educator Needs to Know to Create a Trauma Informed School. 2017. https://starr.org/10-steps-every-educator-needs-to-know-to-create-a-trauma-informed-school/. Accessed May 9, 2017.

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62.          Resnick MD, Harris LJ, Blum RW. The impact of caring and connectedness on adolescent health and well‐being. Journal of paediatrics and child health. 1993;29:S3-S9.

63.          Barber BK, Olsen JA. Socialization in context: Connection, regulation, and autonomy in the family, school, and neighborhood, and with peers. Journal of adolescent research. 1997;12(2):287-315.

64.          Hawkins JD. Academic performance and school success: Sources and consequences. Sage Publications, Inc; 1997.

65.          Battin-Pearson S, Newcomb MD, Abbott RD, Hill KG, Catalano RF, Hawkins JD. Predictors of early high school dropout: A test of five theories. Journal of educational psychology. 2000;92(3):568.

66.          Hinduja S, Patchin JW. School climate 2.0: Preventing cyberbullying and sexting one classroom at a time. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press; 2012.

67.          NWF. Whole Child: Developing Mind, Body and Spirit Through Outdoor Play. 2010. https://www.nwf.org/~/media/PDFs/Be%20Out%20There/BeOutThere_WholeChild_V2.ashx.

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Cyberbullying Videos to Use in Presentations https://cyberbullying.org/videos https://cyberbullying.org/videos#comments Fri, 17 Jul 2020 02:11:52 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=4856 Sameer and I regularly give presentations to students about the importance of using technology safely and responsibly. Due to time and resource constraints, this is often done in large school assemblies. By themselves, assemblies likely don’t accomplish all that we would hope for in educating young people about these issues, but they can serve as…

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Sameer and I regularly give presentations to students about the importance of using technology safely and responsibly. Due to time and resource constraints, this is often done in large school assemblies. By themselves, assemblies likely don’t accomplish all that we would hope for in educating young people about these issues, but they can serve as one important component of what would ideally be a multi-pronged approach to teaching digital citizenship.

We’ve learned over the years that it is crucial to be open, honest, and real with students about what they are doing, seeing, and experiencing online (here’s how we do it!). Attempting to scare them away from technology by offering only the worst-case scenarios (sex offender registries and suicide), doesn’t seem to resonate with students (and may also be counterproductive). It’s like warning them about going out in the rain by telling them that they will be struck by lightning. That could happen, but it isn’t likely. There are, however, other reasons not to go out in the rain.

We’ve also learned that we need to convey the information in a way that is interesting and entertaining (here’s what we mean). We can’t just get up on stage, stand behind a podium, and lecture to them in a monotone voice for an hour about what they should and shouldn’t do online. In our presentations, we try to be dynamic, energetic, and interactive. We use PowerPoint to illustrate what we are talking about. When possible, we use flash polling so that students can participate in the discussion via their mobile devices and see their aggregated responses to various questions appear instantly on the screen.

In addition, we also often include one or two short videos to help break up these presentations. Many students and adults have asked us over the years for links to these videos so I thought I would list some of our favorites here (see others on our YouTube Channel).

If we find new ones that are great, we’ll add to this list. If you have some suggestions for new videos that you have found resonate well with youth, please offer them in the comments!

“Let’s Fight It Together”
Childnet
May 3, 2008


Sameer first found this video on a trip he made to the UK several years ago. This is an older video (by technology standards), but it’s still a very good overview of the issues (especially for younger students). We still sometimes show this to upper elementary and middle school students. I have to admit that when we first watched this it really looked like the story was going to end very badly. And frankly, if it did end that way (with Joe committing suicide), we would not show it (especially not in schools). There are too many of those kinds of fear-based videos out there and we try to avoid them.

Discussion questions:
1. How did the bullying start in the first place?
2. Why did Joe resist telling adults in his life about what he was experiencing?
3. If you were on the bus when Joe was being made fun of, what could you have done?
4. Why were the police called to the school at the end?
5. The ending is a bit abrupt: one minute Joe is being mistreated by his friends, the next they are all friends again. What do you think happened during that time to resolve this? What could you do if something like this happened to you?

“Where Are You?”
Mark C. Eshemon
2011


This video was submitted to Trend Micro’s annual “What’s Your Story” video contest. After viewing, you can see why it was the winner. It is compelling, eloquent, creative, and totally relatable and engaging to students. Middle and high school students really appreciate the unique way important messages are conveyed in this video.

Discussion questions:
1. Can you think of a time when you have been on the wrong side of the line?
2. How can you encourage your friends to stay on the right side of the line?
3. Do you think you could write and perform something like this? Give it a shot and let your words matter!

Anti-Bullying Learning and Teaching Resource (ALTER) Catholic Education Office, Wollongong
May 30, 2012


Australian researcher Donna Cross introduced me to this wonderful video created by students and staff at a Catholic school in New South Wales, Australia. What I love most about this video is its simplicity. The students acknowledge the problem and then offer suggestions for what to do.

Discussion questions:
1. Can you think of any other ideas for what to do when you see bullying?
2. This is an example of something that was largely student-directed and created. What can you do in your school to help stop bullying?

“We Are All Daniel Cui”
October 31, 2012


Daniel Cui was a freshman soccer goalie from Hillsborough, California. During his first season, a lot of students were blaming him and bullying him online for his team losing all of their games. To show support for Daniel, his teammates and dozens of other students changed their Facebook profile pictures to one of him making a great save. Others tagged, liked, and commented on the photo posts to encourage and cheer Daniel on. He came back the following year and played with a new sense of confidence, helping his team to many victories. This shows what can happen when we demonstrate to others we believe in them and build them up, rather than hate on them and tear them down. This video was produced by Facebook to highlight the importance of standing up for others (online and off).

Discussion questions:
1. How do labels influence our behaviors?
2. Do you stand up for others when you see them being put down online or at school?
3. Are there ways to show support for others through the use of social media?

“Social Resolution”
Facebook
October 31, 2012


This video discusses some relatively new tools that Facebook offers to resolve conflict on their platform. Students who are new to social media could benefit from an introduction to some of the most common reporting tools.

Discussion questions:
1. Did you know about these Facebook features before seeing this video?
2. Do you think the strategies discussed can be effective?
3. What else could Facebook or other social media environments to do help curb cyberbullying?

“To This Day”
Shane Koyczan
February 19, 2013


This is another great spoken word poem. Written by Shane Koyczan, this is based on a very popular TED Talk. It is a bit long so we don’t show it in school assemblies, but it can be good when you have more time to spend with students.

Discussion questions:
1. How do nicknames define who we are?
2. Do you think it is true that words spoken or typed don’t hurt as much as physical bullying?

With a Piece of Chalk
Juba Films
August 5, 2012


For younger students, this video depicts a day in the life of a normal kid who faces bullying, family problems, and other issues but fights to stay true to his heart.

Discussion questions:
1. Can you relate to Joseph’s life – on any level?
2. Why was his unique talent highlighted in the short film?
3. How can we remember to become the best versions of ourselves, regardless of haters and the stresses of life?
4. What makes you special, and are you hiding it or failing to feed it?

Digital4Good Smile Cards
#ICanHelp
February 6, 2017


This video features a high school’s effort to promote positivity by using “Smile Cards.” They were distributed to lift the spirits of students in creative, fun ways.

Discussion questions:
1. Do you automatically think this is lame? Why? What does that say about you?
2. Is there value in at least trying new initiatives to make kindness go viral at your school?
3. What might you come up with?

Massive mob overwhelms school’s favorite police officer!
DUDEbenice
August 18, 2016


This video depicts how a high school in Brentwood, CA decided to show love towards their awesome campus police officer.

Discussion questions:
1. Have you ever noticed someone on campus who deserves to be recognized? Who?
2. What might be done for them?
3. How can you contribute to building a culture at school where people notice, feature, and commend others who are typically in the shadows or otherwise ignored or taken for granted?

Pause and Think Online Contest by Meadowbrook School
The Meadowbrook School of Weston
March 30, 2014


This video is for younger students, and provides interviews with kids as to what digital citizenship is, as well as a fun re-enactment of an animated video involving kids for a Common Sense Media contest.

Discussion questions:
1. What does digital citizenship mean to you?
2. In what ways do you personally need to be a better digital citizen?
3. How can we work together at school to spread this message in creative ways?

“#Rethink Labels”
The Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio
November 19, 2015


This video is very hard-hitting and not for younger audiences, but powerfully discusses how students are labeled in derogatory ways, which compartmentalizes them into pre-established, historically-judged groups and perpetuates hateful stereotypes.

Discussion questions:
1. How have you been negatively labeled in the past?
2. How have you seen others labeled in these ways?
3. If the labeling doesn’t stop, how can we ever address intolerance and stop racism, sexism, and other forms of hate?
4. If you want to be accepted for who you are, and not what socially-constructed group you belong to, what must be done individually and collectively?

All That We Share
TV2Danmark
January 27, 2017


This video involves older teens, young adults, and adults – and discusses how we put people in boxes – and how that makes them feel and promotes isolation, loneliness, and division. It then shows how there are so many commonalities to the human condition, and how that brings us together in wonderful ways.

Discussion questions:
1. How have you been put into a box?
2. How have you put others into a box?
3. Why is it so hard to be fully authentic, and how can be more intentionally let others fully be who they are?

The Common Sense Census – A Day in Teens’ Digital Lives
Common Sense Media
November 3, 2015


This video discusses what youth are doing online on an average day through the viewpoint of a typical American teen.

Discussion questions:
1. Can you relate to Alejandra and Sasha when it comes to what you are doing online? What don’t you agree with?
2. How does social media, gaming, your tablet, and your phone make your life better? Does it make your life worse – in any way?
3. What are some of the problems you’re seeing because of technology in the lives of teens – and what can you personally do about it? What have you previously done about it when you’ve seen it?

The Common Sense Census – A Day in Tweens’ Digital Lives
Common Sense Media
November 4, 2015


This video discusses what youth are doing online on an average day through the viewpoint of a typical American tween.

Discussion questions:
1. Can you relate to Tristan and Lauren when it comes to what you are doing online? What don’t you agree with?
2. How does social media, gaming, your tablet, and your phone make your life better? Does it make your life worse – in any way?
3. What are some of the problems you’re seeing because of technology in the lives of kids – and what can you personally do about it? What have you previously done about it when you’ve seen it?

Taylor Swift MEAN / Silverado Middle School// Anti Bullying PSA
Patty Wyman, Forensic Speech Class
April 21, 2016


This video, set to a tremendously catchy TSwift song, can be used to promote conversation about meanness among students and in society, the role of resilience in deflecting hate, and how schools can use technology to promote positive messages across campus.

Discussion questions:
1. What sort of meanness and cruelty do you see or hear around you on a daily basis at school? What about in society?
2. Why are people mean?
3. In the end, does meanness typically win? Why or why not?
4. In what specific ways can we get rid of meanness at our school, so it’s a happier, more positive place to be?

FSU Player dines with Autistic Boy
CBS New York
September 1, 2016


Shares a story of how a college wide receiver sought to impact a boy’s life when he saw him sitting alone at lunch during school, and provides inspiration as to why we need to look for the lonely and step out boldly to include them and be a friend to them.

Discussion questions:
1. Are there kids who others consider “different” at your school, and therefore ignore or reject?
2. Have you ever intentionally sought to be their friend?
3. What are some acts of kindness you’ve demonstrated to other students, with no expectation of anything in return?
4. How can we make these sorts of moments much more frequent?

Flash Mobs, Lip Dubs, and Other Creative Group Efforts

Many schools and other youth groups across the globe have created amazing public awareness campaigns using music and dance. Here are some that we like (just search YouTube and you can find dozens of others!):

David Lloyd George Elementary School, Oakridge Center, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Freeport High School

Cypress Ranch High School Anti-Bullying Lip Dub “Who Do U Think U R?”

Clarksville Jr High Shake It Off Lip Dub

Discussion questions:
1. Do you have an idea for a public display to help bring awareness to this problem?
2. If you had unlimited resources (money, time, people), what would you do to prevent cyberbullying and promote kindness?


Image source: http://bit.ly/2BCRfEn

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Current Efforts to Curtail Teen Sexting Not Working https://cyberbullying.org/teen-sexting-research-2016-2019 https://cyberbullying.org/teen-sexting-research-2016-2019#respond Tue, 14 Jul 2020 18:19:19 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=29166 The current global pandemic has greatly constrained the way people are able to interact with each other. Schools in the U.S. moved to online learning mid-March and health safety guidelines continue to warn against gathering in groups outside of immediate households. As such, teens haven’t been able to hang out with their friends in hallways,…

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The current global pandemic has greatly constrained the way people are able to interact with each other. Schools in the U.S. moved to online learning mid-March and health safety guidelines continue to warn against gathering in groups outside of immediate households. As such, teens haven’t been able to hang out with their friends in hallways, homes, or neighborhood haunts for many months. Text and video chats are great but can’t make up for the physical interaction and connection that most youth crave. That is especially true when it comes to romantic relationships.

A teacher friend of mine recently relayed a story about one of his high school students who had figured out a way to meet up with his significant other despite the stay-at-home mandate. During their weekly trip to school to pick up and drop off homework, they would sneak away and hide out in one or the other’s vehicle for a brief clandestine “study session” before returning home. This worked for several weeks until a teacher finally noticed the pattern of the two always arriving and leaving together. Kids are nothing if not resourceful.

While I cannot comment definitively on whether sexting among teens has increased over the last few months, I can say that it does seem to have increased over the last few years.

Absent the ability to connect in person, youth might turn to technology to achieve some level of intimacy. Anecdotally, there is some speculation that sexting (the sharing of explicit images) has increased during the pandemic as teens seek to satisfy their sexual desires from a distance. While I cannot comment definitively on whether sexting among teens has increased over the last few months, I can say that it does seem to have increased over the last few years. In both 2016 and 2019 we collected data from middle and high school students from across the U.S. about a number of online behaviors. One of those was sexting.

Sexting Behaviors Increasing

In our student surveys, we define sexting as: “when someone takes a naked or semi-naked (explicit) picture or video of themselves, usually using their phone, and sends it to someone else.” While some include salacious text messages in their definitions of sexting, we focus exclusively on images. We published a paper last year with a detailed look at our 2016 sexting data. Of note, only about 12% of the students we surveyed said they had ever sent a sex while 19% said they had received a sext from someone else. Boys and older students were more likely to have sent and received sexts.

We asked these same questions among our student sample in 2019. Generally speaking we found comparable results. Relatively few students were exchanging sexually explicit images (14.3% sent; 23.2% received), with older students and boys more likely to participate. Among 15-17 year-olds in our sample, 18.3% had sent a sext (compared to 10.3% of 12-14 year-olds). A just-released report from the United Kingdom also using data from 2019 showed similar findings on that side of the Atlantic. Seventeen percent of the 15-17 year-olds reported that they had sent a nude image to others.

When comparing more directly our 2016 and 2019 data, we found that all sexting behaviors had increased during that period (though not dramatically). Not only had more students sent and received sexts, but more had asked others for sexts, been asked for sexts, and shared sexts without permission (see chart below).

Teen sexting - 2016-2019

The largest increase seems to have been in the extent to which young people are being asked to share sexts (from 17.5% in 2016 to 23.8% in 2019). That means nearly one in four middle and high school students has been asked by someone to send them a sexually explicit image. Again, overall these numbers are still relatively low, but the fact that they are increasing is cause for concern.

Another, potentially worse problem that showed an increase, is the unauthorized sharing of explicit images. The percentage of youth who said they shared an image with someone else, without the permission of the original sender, increased from 4.2% in 2016 to 5.4% in 2019. Similarly, those who believed an image they had sent to another was shared with someone else without their permission increased from 4.1% to 5.1% over that time. Private images that are shared beyond their original target is one of the worst outcomes of sexting, with potentially significant and irreversible emotional and reputational ramifications.

Let’s Talk About Sexting, Baby

It is critical that parents talk to their children about sexting. It’s not easy, but what about parenting is? Their natural desire to be intimate with others isn’t going to go away with physical separation. In fact, it is probably more likely these impulses will only become more intense with distance. Without guidance they may be inclined to satiate their urges in ways that may create significant problems later on. Teens aren’t wired to carefully consider the long-term consequences of their actions, so the adults in their life need to regularly remind them of what could happen if they aren’t careful.

Teens need to realize that once they send an image to another person, they have lost complete control over who might see it and where it might end up. Sure, most adolescents think they can trust their partner not to share the picture with others, but you never can be fully certain that they won’t. Our research shows that at least 5% of the time images are shared beyond their original target. Ask your child how they would feel if a nude or nearly nude image they sent ended up being shared with others (or worse, posted online).

Teens aren’t wired to carefully consider the long-term consequences of their actions, so the adults in their life need to regularly remind them of what could happen if they aren’t careful.

Some states are finally beginning to realize that child pornography statutes are not the best way to handle the vast majority of teen sexting behaviors (see all state sexting laws here). For predators who groom, manipulate, and pressure a child to send explicit images, implicating the formal law may be necessary. But most teen sexting involves the willing exchange of images with a romantic partner. We nevertheless probably don’t want teens to be doing this, but threatening to arrest and charge them as child pornographers has proven futile.

Results from our research do not match the rhetoric in some media articles that teen sexting is a widespread out-of-control problem. Messages like that actually serve to encourage more than discourage the behavior. If teens think that sexting is more common than it actually is, they may be more inclined to participate themselves: “Everyone is doing it!” The truth is that most teens are not doing it. Stressing this reality can help empower teens to say no when asked for a sext, and might make it less likely that someone would ask for one in the first place.

In “It is Time to Teach Safe Sexting,” published earlier this year in the Journal of Adolescent Health, we propose a harm reduction model of sexting education which acknowledges that some youth will participate in the behavior and we should therefore offer suggestions for minimizing the worst of the possible consequences that could result. They could send flirty or suggestive photos, for example, instead of explicit ones. They should avoid sending any images that could be connected to them directly (by obscuring their face or other identifiable features). Like sex, sexting will never be 100% “safe,” but with education the hope is that fewer youth will participate and those who do will take measures to minimize the likelihood of serious fallout.

The bottom line is that whatever we are doing to deter teens from participating in sexting clearly isn’t working. Just like trying to prevent them from being with each other during a pandemic, they will find a way. Something more thoughtful needs to be considered. A comprehensive evidence-based sex education curriculum has demonstrated success at reducing teen sex and pregnancy. Perhaps it is time to consider a similar strategy if we would like to stem the rising tide of teen sexting.

Facebook Research provided support to collect some of the data presented in this post.

Image: Tim Mossholder (unsplash)

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Defund the Police? Implications for Cyberbullying Prevention https://cyberbullying.org/defund-the-police-cyberbullying https://cyberbullying.org/defund-the-police-cyberbullying#comments Thu, 25 Jun 2020 16:35:21 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=29002 As someone who teaches criminal justice in a university setting to many future law enforcement officers, I was appalled by the treatment of George Floyd by members of the Minneapolis Police Department. Appalled, but not surprised. Regrettably, these incidents continue to happen at an alarming rate and the last month of worldwide protests have been…

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As someone who teaches criminal justice in a university setting to many future law enforcement officers, I was appalled by the treatment of George Floyd by members of the Minneapolis Police Department. Appalled, but not surprised. Regrettably, these incidents continue to happen at an alarming rate and the last month of worldwide protests have been a clarion call for meaningful change. Reform is unquestionably required, but what about the proposal to substantially reduce or altogether eliminate the police? And while many are rightfully focused on the implications of these ideas on violent crime, another question is how a reduction in police services will affect cyberbullying and other adolescent school and online behaviors.

Defund the Police: Rhetoric or Reality?

As a result of recent events some have begun to reimagine what public safety should look like. As a slogan, “defund the police” is sensational and prescriptive. For most people though, “defund the police” doesn’t literally mean defund the police. If I understand the sentiment behind the placards, most are arguing for systematic reforms and resource reallocation that would shift money from the “crime fighting” activities of police officers to the community development activities of social workers and counselors.

It is true that we’ve asked a lot of police officers. They are often the first people we call when something bad has happened, whether they are capable of resolving the situation or not. Your typical police officer is well-versed in how to enforce the law (e.g., make an arrest or investigate a crime), but most circumstances they encounter will not require this skillset. More often, they are summoned to solve a social problem or assist in a medical emergency. One idea floated is to remove these service aspects of their job, and give them to someone better equipped to respond.

Your typical police officer is well-versed in how to enforce the law (e.g., make an arrest or investigate a crime), but most circumstances they encounter will not require this skillset.

These are not novel suggestions. State and local governments have long grappled with how to best distribute increasingly scarce funds to further public safety. An example of this is something referred to as justice reinvestment. The idea behind justice reinvestment is you move resources away from law enforcement (most notably jails and prisons) and into social assistance programs like mental health services, substance abuse treatment, and other crime prevention strategies. The goal is to invest in avoidance rather than after-the-fact accountability. You could spend money to put more police officers on the street or to build a new prison, or you could direct resources into initiatives designed to prevent people from getting into trouble in the first place. For example, does it make sense to pay $35,000 per year to house an inmate in a state prison for a drug offense when we could instead pay about $100 per person to implement a proven substance abuse prevention program?

Justice reinvestment is a data-driven policy. Proponents advocate for a problem-solving approach that identifies underlying causes of deviant or disruptive behavior (drug addiction, homelessness, mental health problems) and seek to invest in ways to address those. Most of these people are not anti-police provocateurs, but concerned citizens looking to make their communities safer.

The Role of School-Based Law Enforcement

Along with the national call to reduce funding for the police, some school districts are severing agreements with local police departments to staff officers at schools. Is this just another knee-jerk reaction to frustrations with the police or a justifiable response to unrealized expectations about improved school safety?

School Resource Officers (SROs) (also sometimes referred to as School Liaison Officers) began appearing in schools in the 1950’s but burgeoned amid a glut of federal funding for more local cops following the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. SROs are sworn police officers with full arrest powers who are employed by a police department (with costs often shared with the school district). There is no good data on the current number of SROs serving in U.S. schools, but the National Association of School Resource Officers estimates the number to be somewhere between 14,000 and 20,000 officers assigned to about 20% of K-12 schools.

There have been several high-profile examples of school-based police officers using excessive force when interacting with students, and there is no question that incidents that would have previously been handled by educators and parents are now more often being treated as crimes (such as a water balloon fight at a North Carolina high school).

It’s also true that research on the value of SROs is mixed at best. Studies show that students don’t feel any safer at school when an SRO is present. In addition, schools with SROs have a higher rate of suspensions and expulsions. Moreover, having police officers in schools leads to more student arrests for particular offenses, especially disorderly conduct, and officers assigned to disadvantaged schools tend to enforce the law more strictly. It is difficult to know from this research, however, whether the addition of an officer resulted in more disciplinary problems and extreme responses, or if severe problematic behaviors led to the addition of the officer.

It is also evident, however, that officers who are better trained and more thoughtfully integrated into the school culture are more effective at supporting students in crisis. Some research has also found that with more SRO-student interactions comes more positive attitudes. In short, it seems to really matter how well SROs are trained, how motivated they are to connect with kids, and whether they have the autonomy and support from their police department and school needed to build positive relationships on campus.

New Research on Law Enforcement’s Role in Cyberbullying Education and Response

Coincidentally, I recently published a new paper with two friends who routinely study police practices. The data analyzed in this paper come from a decade-long project where we surveyed law enforcement officers (mostly from the United States, but a handful were from other countries) about their perceptions of—and experiences with—cyberbullying and sexting. In 2010 we surveyed about 1,000 officers (one-third were SROs while the others were traditional officers). We learned back then that most officers didn’t know much about cyberbullying and few (17%) had directly investigated cyberbullying cases. Moreover, SROs were significantly more likely than traditional officers to believe that law enforcement can play a significant role in addressing cyberbullying.

Officers who had personally handled a cyberbullying case previously, or who had worked in a school in the past, were more likely to see a significant law enforcement role in dealing with cyberbullying than those who hadn’t.

We have continued to regularly survey traditional officers, and in our latest paper found that a still small, but increasing, number of officers had investigated a cyberbullying case (up to 26% in 2019). We also found that, over time, officers increased their ratings of the extent to which law enforcement should be involved in educating about, and responding to, cyberbullying incidents. And as we suspected, officers who had personally handled a cyberbullying case previously, or who had worked in a school in the past, were more likely to see a significant law enforcement role in dealing with cyberbullying than those who hadn’t.

Conclusion: Allocate More Resources for Recruitment and Training

I personally believe that the vast majority of law enforcement officers are good, decent, well-intentioned, and not racist. There definitely are bad actors, bad supervisors, and systemic problems in some departments. These need to be rooted out – whether the officers are in schools or on the streets. Thoughtless removal of funding will not solve these deep-seated problems and may actually serve to exacerbate them. Recruitment, retention, and thorough training of good officers is expensive and blindly pulling resources without consideration of the consequences is dangerous. Most of the officers I know—many of them former students—would welcome additional training and support to do their jobs more safely and effectively.

Our research shows that officers assigned to schools who have experience dealing with cyberbullying cases are more willing to get involved to help resolve the situation. That doesn’t usually mean issuing a citation or making an arrest. Rarely do police officers need to invoke their formal law enforcement role when dealing with cyberbullying or other incidents involving students at school or online. But they understand the negative impact of these behaviors on the wellbeing of students and know it is necessary to assist.

A law and order or “warrior” mentality will not work in a school setting. It will create fear and turn students and staff against the officer who will be viewed as an occupying force, not a servant to assist in solving problems. The much-heralded community policing approach does hold some promise, however. A well-trained and intentionally recruited SRO would be available on the rare occasion that a serious incident requiring law enforcement occurred, but would also be present day in and day out on campus to develop positive relationships with students and assist in various educational and support efforts. Officers with an educator/counselor mindset could contribute meaningfully to a positive school climate and school safety.

I often think about a comment an SRO made to me back in 2010 when we were talking about cyberbullying: “We need more training to deal with these pain-in-the-ass cases!” This sentiment illustrates so much. This officer was acknowledging the challenges in handling cyberbullying incidents and was desperate for help. He didn’t feel he had the tools to manage them. While he was probably most concerned about policies and procedures, he also likely lacked conflict resolution and de-escalation strategies that work with youth, along with information on adolescent mental health and special needs populations. It is doubtful that he knew much about the benefits of social and emotional learning or how to support students in a way that cultivates resilience. We need to make sure school-based officers are well-equipped to work with adolescents, and I’m not referring to the items hanging off their duty belts.

Photo credit: Flickr (northcharleston)

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Social Media, Cyberbullying, and Online Safety Glossary https://cyberbullying.org/social-media-cyberbullying-and-online-safety-glossary https://cyberbullying.org/social-media-cyberbullying-and-online-safety-glossary#respond Tue, 09 Jun 2020 06:45:00 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=24370 In our Glossary below, we define the terms you need to know in the realm of social media, cyberbullying, and online safety, so that you are increasingly informed about technological jargon as you work with the youth under your care. (Apart from the list below, you can also download a distributable PDF of our Social…

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In our Glossary below, we define the terms you need to know in the realm of social media, cyberbullying, and online safety, so that you are increasingly informed about technological jargon as you work with the youth under your care.

(Apart from the list below, you can also download a distributable PDF of our Social Media, Cyberbullying, and Technology Terms Glossary).

Acceptable Use Policy (AUP): A policy that schools and other organizations create to define the responsibilities and appropriate behaviors of computer and network users.

Android: Operating system created by Google. Android powers smartphones and tablets.

Anonymizer: An intermediary website that hides or disguises the IP address associated with the Internet user. Generally, these sites allow a person to engage in various Internet activities without leaving an easily traceable digital footprint.

App: Abbreviation for “application,” it is a piece of software, primarily referring to those used on smartphones, tablets, and other touch-based devices.

Ask.fm (app): An app (and web site) where users can ask and answer others’ questions with the option of doing so anonymously.

Bash Board: An online bulletin board on which individuals can post anything they want. Often, posts are malicious and hateful statements directed against another person.

Blocking: The denial of access to particular parts of the Internet. Usually a message will be shown on screen to say that access has been denied. For example, Facebook users can block other users from sending them messages or seeing their posts.

Blog: Interactive Web journal or diary, the contents of which are posted online where they are viewable by some or all individuals. The act of updating a blog is called “blogging.” A person who keeps a blog is referred to as a “blogger.” The term was created by combining “web” and “log.”

Buddy List: A collection of names or handles (also known as screen names) that represent friends or “buddies” within an instant messaging or chat program. They are useful in informing a user when that person’s friends are online and available to chat.

Bullicide: Suicide that results directly or indirectly from bullying victimization. The relationship between bullying and suicide is complex and for that and other reasons, many researchers have concerns with the utilization of this term.

Bullying: Repeated and deliberate harassment directed by one in a position of power toward one or more. Can involve physical threats or behaviors, including assault, or indirect and subtle forms of aggression, including gossip and rumor spreading. The term bullying is usually reserved for young people and most often refers to these behaviors as they occur at or near school.

Catfishing: In the online world, catfishing refers to the practice of setting up a fictitious online profile, most often for the purpose of luring another into a fraudulent romantic relationship.

Chat: An online real-time conversation, typically carried out by people who use nicknames instead of their real names. A person can continually read messages from others in the “chat room” and then type and send a message reply.

Chat Room: A virtual online room where groups of people send and receive messages on one screen. Popular chat rooms can have hundreds of people all communicating at the same time. Typed messages appears instantly as real-time conversation. All of the people in the room are listed on the side of the screen with their screen names.

Cookie: A file on a computer or other electronic device that records user information when visiting a website. Cookies are often used to identify the websites that the device has visited, save login information and customization preferences, and enable the presentation of more personalized information or content.

Cyberbullicide: Suicide resulting directly or indirectly from cyberbullying victimization. The relationship between cyberbullying and suicide is complex and for that and other reasons, many researchers have concerns with the utilization of this term.

Cyberbullying: Intentional and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.

Cyberspace: The electronic “universe” created by computer networks in which individuals interact.

Cyberstalking: Repeated harassment using electronic devices and networked technology that includes threats of harm, or that is highly intimidating and intrusive upon one’s personal privacy.

Cyberthreats: Electronic material that either generally or specifically raises concerns that the creator may intend to inflict harm or violence to others, or to himself or herself.

Dashboarding: When online users (usually on gaming consoles) rapidly switch from online in-game play to the home screen for their console or other devices. Gamers do this when they are losing badly, and don’t want the game to register their demise, or lack of kills, or another metric that demonstrates poor performance.

Decoy Apps: Apps used to store private information, such as photos, videos, voice recordings, or texts. They look like everyday apps such as a calculator so offer a secure way to hide certain information. They also are called vault, secret, or ghost apps. A teen may use this on their phone to secretly store sexual pictures and videos that they don’t want their parents seeing.

Digital evidence: Tangible signs, proof, information, or data that demonstrate some behavior. This could be a screenshot, a record of Internet activity, a saved piece of content, etc.

Digital Footprint: Evidence of a person’s use of the Internet, typically focusing on dates and times of specific websites visited. This includes anything that can be linked to a user’s existence, presence, or identity. See also, “cookie.”

Digital Immigrant: A person who has not grown up with digital technology, such as smartphones, social media, and the Internet, but has adopted it later. Many adults are referred to as digital immigrants, because they have known a time when these technologies didn’t exist.

Digital Native: A person who has grown up with digital technology, such as smart phones, social media, and the Internet. Many adolescents or young adults would be classified as digital natives, because they have not known a time without these technologies.

Discord (app): Discord is an app and website that allows individuals who share an interest (e.g., a specific video game, hobby, or topic) to communicate via video, voice, text chat, and screensharing. You can even integrate it with your gaming console and join others’ servers, set up your own, and create channels/categories. While mostly used for gaming, it has communities for tons of other uses such as Netflix shows, anime, schoolwork, dance, books, and more.

E-mail: Electronic mail. Allows Internet users to send and receive electronic messages to and from other Internet users.

Fabotage: slang for ‘Facebook Sabotage’ and used to describe hijacking, and meddling with, someone’s Facebook account while it is unattended.

Facebook (app): The most popular social media site with over 2.4 billion active monthly users (as of June 2019). Users create personal “profiles” to represent themselves, listing interests and posting photos and communicating with others through private or public posts and messages.

Filtering: The act of restricting access to certain websites or social media platforms. For example, a filter might compare the text on a web page against a list of forbidden words. If a match is found, that web page may be blocked or reported through a monitoring process. Generally speaking, a filter allows or denies access based on previously specified rules.

Finsta: combining the words Fake and Instagram, a finsta is a secondary Instagram account which is usually meant for a smaller, private audience, and allows the user to share pictures and videos in an unfiltered and more natural way without having to make each shot perfect or socially acceptable.

Firewall: Hardware or software that restricts and regulates incoming and outgoing data to or from computer systems. Firewalls allow or disallow accessing certain websites or social media platforms.

Flaming: Sending angry, rude, or obscene messages directed at a person or persons privately or an online group. A “flamewar” erupts when “flames” are sent back and forth between individuals repeatedly.

Following: The act of requesting another person to connect with your online social network (on Twitter, Instagram and similar sites).

Friending: The act of requesting another person to connect with your online social network (on Facebook).

Gamergate: Controversy involving issues of sexism and progressivism in video game culture, stemming from a harassment campaign conducted primarily through the use of Twitter (and other platforms).

Gaming: Participation in video (often online) games, which involve individuals adopting roles of fictional characters, thereby directing the outcome.

Gaming Console: A device designed for users to run video games on a television. Popular consoles include the Sony Playstation, Microsoft xBox, and Nintendo Wii.

Geolocation: The process or technique of identifying the geographical location of a person or device by means of digital information processed via the Internet.

Geotagging: the process of adding geographical information to various pieces of digital content in the form of metadata. The data usually consists of coordinates like latitude and longitude, but may even include bearing, altitude, distance and place names. Geotagging is most commonly used for photos and videos and can help people get a lot of specific information about where the shot was taken, or the exact location of a friend who logged on to make a post.

Griefing: when a player in an online game deliberately irritates and harasses other players within the game.

Grooming: Some people use online mediums across the Internet to connect with children so that they can exploit them or even blackmail them for sexual purposes. Befriending a child in this way is called grooming.

GroupMe (app): A group chat app that allows you to create groups (such as family, relatives, friends, team members, whatever you want) and send text, memes, hyperlinks, images, and video. It works on every smartphone and even on the Web, and it allows you to quickly send messages without having to compile a list of addressees.

Hacking: The act of circumventing security and breaking into an authorized location (a network, computer, file, etc.), usually with malicious intent.

Happy Slapping: An extreme form of bullying where physical assaults are recorded on electronic devices like phones, and then sent to others or posted online. This term is more commonly used in the United Kingdom.

Harassment: Unsolicited words or actions intended to annoy, alarm, or abuse another individual. Often based on a protected status (e.g., sex, race, disability, or sexual orientation).

Harm: Physical, psychological, or emotional injury to someone.

Hashtag: A descriptor or label preceded by the pound (#) sign that helps others easily find content related to that word or phrase. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, for example, allow users to look up and click through hashtags to find other users’ content that are also listed (tagged) with that hashtag.

Houseparty (app): A video chat app quite popular among teens. You can add friends based on the phone numbers you have stored in your contacts list, or search for their usernames. Once you open the app, you can join “rooms” (chats) with other friends who are currently using the app.

Influencer: an individual who can sway an audience through a digital platform. This term is often used in relation to social media marketing, promotion, and other related efforts.

Instagram (app): An app where users can apply filters to photos and videos before posting them for others to like and comment on. User can also share their content on other social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Instant Messaging: The act of real-time messages sent and received between two or more people over a network such as the Internet. This can occur through software such as WeChat, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Viber, and Facebook Messenger.

Internet: A worldwide network of computers communicating with each other via phone lines, satellite links, wireless networks, and cable systems.

iOS: Operating system created by Apple Inc. iOS powers iPods, iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs.

IP Address: “Internet Protocol” address. A unique address assigned to a computing device that allows it to send and receive data with other computing devices that have their own unique addresses.

IRC: “Internet Relay Chat.” A network over which real-time conversations take place among two or more people in a “channel” devoted to a specific area of interest. See also “chat” or “chat room.”

ISP: “Internet Service Provider.” The company that provides an Internet connection to individuals or companies. ISPs can help with identifying an individual who posts or sends harassing or threatening words.

Kik (app): A service which facilitates cross platform (iOS and Android) instant messaging across phones or tablets in an attractive interface. Users can send links, pictures, videos, group messages, etc.

Meme: a virally-transmitted cultural symbol or social idea. Most modern memes are captioned photos or videos that are intended to be funny, often to publicly ridicule human behavior. Others are popular for depicting traits or experiences that many others can totally relate to.

MMORPG: Acronym that stands for: “Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game.” A game in which large numbers of individuals from various locations connect and interact with each other in a virtual world over the Internet.

Monitoring: The recording and reporting of online activity, usually through software, which may log a history of all Internet use, or just of inappropriate use.

Mydol: a chatbot app that is gaining in popularity. It simulates chatting with your favorite k-pop (Korean pop star musician) star. A chatbot is a computer program designed to mimic a conversation with human users. They can sometimes be very natural in their responses, fooling people into believing they are talking to a real person. Some users have mentioned that the conversations can quickly turn to sexual in nature.

Netiquette: “Network etiquette.” The unofficial rules of accepted, proper online social conduct.

Network: Two or more computers connected so that they can communicate with each other.

Newbie: Someone who is new to, and inexperienced with, an Internet activity or technology. Also referred to as a newb, n00b, nob, noob, or nub.

Offender: The one who instigates online social cruelty. Also known as the “aggressor.”

Periscope: An application (owned by Twitter) that allows user to broadcast live streaming video, and thereby lets other people see what the broadcaster is doing or seeing in real time.

Pharming: pronounced ‘farming’, this is a method by which scammers try to get personal/private information from users by directing them to false, bogus, – or ‘spoof’ – websites which look legitimate in their web browser.

Phishing: a technique used to gain personal information, usually by means of fraudulent e-mails.

Photoshopping: the process of altering digital images so that the main subject is placed in compromising or embarrassing situation. For example, a person might photoshop a picture to append an animal’s face to a human’s body (or vice versa), or something much worse.

Pinterest (app): is an online pinboard and visual discovery engine for finding ideas like recipes, home and style inspiration, and more. Users create, share, and link to boards and “pins” of visual content (largely pictures, memes, and related creations) from across the Web.

Profile: When considered in the context of online social networking, this is a user-customized page that represents that person. Here, a person’s background, interests, and friends are listed to reflect who that person is or how that person would like to be seen. Pictures, biographical and contact information, and other interesting facts about the user are often included as well.

Proxy: Software or a website that allows one’s Internet connection to be routed or tunneled through a different connection or site. If a user’s computer is blocked from accessing certain websites or programs, the user could employ a proxy to redirect the connection to that site or program. For example, if a software filter prohibits a user from directly visiting Facbook, a proxy website could be used to circumvent the filter and provide access.

Rage quitting: A condition in which gamers, through steady provoking, simply cannot take being killed (cheaply or otherwise) anymore and leave a online game game mid-match.

Revenge Porn: Sometimes known as nonconsensual porn – defined as the act of distributing intimate photography through different means without the individual’s consent

School Climate: The quality, character, social atmosphere, and ‘feel’ of the school, mostly exhibited by patterns of behavior and interactions among and between students and school personnel.

Screenshot: An image that is captured of what is shown on a phone, tablet, or computer screen.

Secret: An app that gives users the ability to share what they are thinking and feeling with friends from their phone’s contact list, while remaining anonymous.

Sexting: The sending or receiving of sexually-explicit or sexually-suggestive images or video via phone or the Internet.

Sextortion: Threats to expose a sexual image in order to make a person do something or for other reasons, such as revenge or humiliation.

Shoulder Surfing: Peering over the shoulder of someone to see the contents on that person’s computer, tablet, or phone screen.

Skype (app): a popular application that enables users to set up profiles, make free phone calls, text chat, and video chat through their computer or mobile device from any point around the world.

SMS: Acronym that stands for: “Short Message Service.” A communications protocol that allows short (160 characters or less) text messages over cell phone.

Snapchat (app): Very popular with youth and young adults, users of this app share text messages, pictures, and videos with friends from their contact list, which generally can be viewed for a period of between 1 to 10 seconds (unless set to “infinity”) before disappearing. See also, “snaps.”

Snapchat Premium (or Premium Snapchat): This expression simply means that the user of the account is willing to share with you snaps that are sexual in nature in return for payment. These users often share their Cash App or Venmo details so you can directly send them money, and they will “subscribe” you to their informal service of sending you their nudes.

Snapchat Filters: When users of Snapchat are in particular places, specialized “filters” are available to superimpose onto their “Snap,” providing fun, artsy backgrounds, pictures, and word art highlighting that location.

Snaps: Pictures or videos sent between users on Snapchat.

Social Media Sites (or Social Networking Sites): Online services that bring together people by organizing them around a common interest and providing an interactive environment of photos, blogs, user profiles, and messaging systems. Examples include Facebook and Instagram.

Spam: Unsolicited electronic mail—usually commercial in nature—sent from someone unknown to the recipient.

Tablet: A mobile computing device growing in adoption and popularity. They are smaller than a laptop and bigger than a smartphone, and provide much of the same functionality as both.

Texting: Sending short messages via phone.

Text Bombing: When someone sends large numbers of texts to another, not allowing that person to use their phones because of the annoyance, or because the phone gets overloaded with constant incoming messages.

TikTok (app): Previously known as Musical.ly, this app allows users to create and share their own engaging and creative video clips up to 15 seconds long (e.g., lip-syncing to a popular song and dancing around, restating comedic lines from a favorite movie).

Threat: Making a statement of taking an action that implies or suggests harm to someone else.

Tinder (app): An online dating app that allows people to be matched based on physical attraction. It initially finds potential matches based on filters like gender and location. If two users like each other’s pictures, they are able to chat.

Trolling: Deliberately and disingenuously posting information to entice genuinely helpful people to respond (often emotionally). Often done to inflame or provoke others.

Tumblr (app): a social networking site where users can post blogs and follow other people’s blogs. The blogs are largely filled with artistic media, content, poetry, creative writing, and multimedia based on user interests (as well as the latest in memes and pop culture). Tumblr makes it easy to share images, GIFs, videos, music, text, links, and more in a very aesthetically-pleasing and customizable way.

Tweet: A short (280 character [or less]) message posted on Twitter.

Twitch (app): An app and website that allows anyone to live-stream (or upload and share previously-broadcasted videos) themselves doing anything – sharing stories and news, playing a video game, providing commentary on other content they are watching, or whatever else they might be interested in broadcasting – all while interacting with viewers in a text chat on the screen at the same time). Popular Twitchers (live-streamers) build and cultivate devoted communities of fans where hundreds and even thousands log on to watch their broadcasts of whatever it is they want to share with the world.

Twitter (app): Social networking and “microblogging” service that allows users to post what they are doing using up to 280 characters per tweet. It is often used to share images, videos, memes, and links; tweet images can be “tagged” with up to 10 other Twitter users so they can be alerted that they are mentioned or referenced in the post. The service had 321 million monthly active users as of February 2019. See also, “tweet.”

Twitterstorm: a sudden spike in activity surrounding a certain topic on the Twitter social media site. A Twitterstorm is often started by a single person who sends his or her followers a message often related to breaking news. Using a certain and often original hashtags, the tweet quickly spreads as people are notified of the message and then reuse the hashtag with subsequent retweets and tweets.

Unfriend (or unfollow): the act of removing a friend from a social circle found on your social media site so they can’t see and don’t have access to your posts, captions, comments or anything else you’d like to restrict to a certain audience. Although unfriending has similarities with blocking a friend, it is different in the context of social media. Blocking a person prevents that person’s name from appearing in search results as well as prevents that person from contacting the person who has blocked him/her, whereas unfriending would not result in any of these and would just show that the person is no longer in the other person’s social circle.

Viber (app): An instant messaging and VoIP app (similar to Skype). Users can also exchange images, video and audio media messages. As of January 2019, it had 260 million monthly active users.

Victim: The person who is on the receiving end of online social cruelty. Also known as the “target.”

Vimeo (app): a video-based social network very much like YouTube, but with a different range of features and functions, and geared towards creatives rather than general users making random videos. For example, paid users can share their videos without ads.

Vine (app): A video app owned by Twitter (and that is now defunct) which allowed users to capture moments in six seconds and share them with others.

VoIP: Acronym that stands for: “Voice over Internet Protocol.” The transmission of voice over an Internet connection. Allows users to make phone calls using the Internet instead of a phone line.

Web: Short for “World Wide Web” and representing the sites and pages linked together via the Internet.

Webcast: A live or pre-recorded audio and/or video session that uses the Internet to broadcast.

Webcrastinate: To waste time by browsing around the world wide web instead of getting on with the things one should be doing.

Webdrawls: The act or process of going without the use of the internet which one has become addicted.

WhatsApp (app): A cross platform messaging application that allows users to send texts, pictures, videos, links, user locations, documents, and more. It allows for connections based on one’s phone number. It has at least 1.6 billion monthly active users as of Spring 2019.

Whisper (app): An app that allows users to share their secrets anonymously with other users using text and images. Individuals input their secret (or another self-disclosing message) into the app, select a relevant picture as a background, and then post it for others to like, comment on, and share with others.

Wireless: Communications in which electromagnetic waves carry a signal through space rather than along a wire. Refers primarily to wireless Internet access (Wi-Fi) available in an increasing number of places.

Wireless Device: Electronic devices that can access the Internet without being physically attached by a cable or data line.

YouTube (app): is a wildly popular video sharing app and site owned by Google where registered users can upload and share videos with anyone able to access the site. It has over 2 billion average monthly users and over 30 billion average daily users, with 300 hours of video uploaded every minute.

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Digital Citizenship in 2020 and Beyond https://cyberbullying.org/digital-citizenship-research https://cyberbullying.org/digital-citizenship-research#respond Thu, 28 May 2020 13:43:09 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=28724 Digital citizenship has been defined as helping youth “practice respectful and tolerant behaviors toward others” online. With the ubiquitous growth in personal device and social media use among youth – coupled with the adoption of more web-based technologies for education – many schools in the US and abroad have sought to teach digital citizenship practices…

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Digital citizenship has been defined as helping youth “practice respectful and tolerant behaviors toward others” online. With the ubiquitous growth in personal device and social media use among youth – coupled with the adoption of more web-based technologies for education – many schools in the US and abroad have sought to teach digital citizenship practices to youth of all ages. This is conveyed by teachers, counselors, librarians, IT staff, and professionals at school, and hopefully is supported by similar instruction at home given the amount of time that kids outside of school are on their devices and connecting with others.

Recently, the concept has garnered an increased amount of attention as educators and other youth-serving professionals are reminded about the importance of appropriate attitudes, actions, and interactions online with so many students doing distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, Justin and I dove into our sample of 2,500 US middle and high school students (12 to 17 years old) from last year to assess these behaviors based on 12 items we came up with. Still, it can help us understand the prevalence of some digital citizenship-related behaviors among youth in recent times and can serve as a reference point for any studies that come out in the near future with COVID-19 data.

Our original response set for each item allowed respondents to choose Never, Once, A few times, or Many Times, but we’ve collapsed the last three to portray those who have – and those who haven’t – engaged in each behavior in the previous year. Please see below for a breakdown of the raw percentages:

Let’s talk through the main takeaways.

Most youth are making ethical choices online, as less than a quarter admit to pirating content illegally, only 13% admitted to copying and submitting essays or test answers (a form of plagiarism), 30.6% have lost their temper, 16% have trolled someone else, and less than 1 out of 10 (9.1%) have impersonated someone online. When we focus on teaching digital citizenship, sometimes well-meaning adults convey that the vast majority of kids are doing the wrong things on social media and the Internet, but our data suggests that is absolutely not true. We need continually (and emphatically) to highlight that most, in fact, are doing the right thing – and we want the rest of students to come on board and do the same!

When we focus on teaching digital citizenship, sometimes well-meaning adults convey that the vast majority of kids are doing the wrong things on social media and the Internet, but our data suggests that is absolutely not true.

It also seems that our kids do think meaningfully about their (and their peers’) online actions and are not unaware of the implications. Almost 3/4ths (71.1% of youth) do their best to make sure they don’t accidentally hurt someone’s feelings by what they post online, and almost 2/3rds (64.1%) think about their digital reputation and try to make sure that every decision they make reflects positively on them. Relatedly, the majority have stood up for not only their friends who were harassed or picked on online (60.4%) but also for individuals who were not their friends (51%). That’s awesome. I love to see that. I wish I had some comparison numbers from past years to see if these percentages are trending up, but this is the first year we asked these questions.

I would like to believe that regular conversations with students over recent years about being upstanders instead of bystanders are actually making a difference.

I would like to believe that regular conversations with students over recent years about being upstanders instead of bystanders are actually making a difference. I also hope that this conveys a student population that cares about injustice and wants to put a stop to it when they see it, regardless of who is being targeted. To be sure, it would be amazing if the numbers indicated more students were doing the right thing online, but they do give me a lot of hope. Some students are making wise decisions, demonstrating empathy, and being respectful instead of rude. Some are speaking up and intervening, instead of just staying silent and minding their own business.

These numbers are encouraging. But recently I realized that they are also incomplete.

About a week ago, some of my colleagues from Harvard – Sandra Cortesi, Alexa Haase, Andres Lombana-Bermudez, Sonia Kim, and Urs Gasser – released a new 93-page thought piece on what they have termed “Digital Citizenship+” (plus) – which they define as “the skills needed for youth to fully participate academically, socially, ethically, politically, and economically in our rapidly evolving digital world.” In their deep dive, they mapped a set of 35 frameworks that have previously tackled digital citizenship or related concepts (like Internet safety or media literacy) and then discuss how these can be grouped into 17 areas to make up their new conceptualization: artificial intelligence, civic and political engagement, computational thinking, content production, context, data, digital access, digital economy, digital literacy, identify exploration and formation, information quality, laws, media literacy, positive and respectful behavior, privacy and reputation, safety and well-being, and security.

Digital Citizenship+ is defined as “the skills needed for youth to fully participate academically, socially, ethically, politically, and economically in our rapidly evolving digital world.”

From my experience, most professionals disproportionately focus on only a few. The ones that stick out to me – and seem to comprise the basis of what I see in schools around the nation – involve Positive/Respectful Behavior (being kind, empathetic and responsible), Safety and Well-being (keeping at bay various forms of victimization), Privacy and Reputation (digital footprints, etc.) and Security (passwords, personal information, etc.).

Since Justin and I work to prevent cyberbullying, sexting, digital dating abuse, sextortion, and related forms of wrongdoing online, we also focused narrowly on certain elements when attempting to measure digital citizenship behaviors (or, in many cases, examples of a lack of digital citizenship). In the Chart above, you can see that: the area of Law is partially measured by our items 8, 10, and 12; the area of Privacy and Reputation is partially measured by our item 2, Civic and Political Engagement are partially measured by our items 3 and 4; and the lion’s share of our items (1, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 11) partially measure Positive/Respectful Behavior.

It is arguable that focusing only on the development of these skills will not do enough to prepare our students to succeed in a much broader digital landscape. They will help, but they are not enough. We used to say that “content is king” but now it’s accurate to also say that “data” and “information” are equally as important. As such, we do a disservice to our students if we focus only on the aforementioned, limited components of digital citizenship and neglect the following others:

Artificial Intelligence: having a general understanding of how this works, and the issues of bias and ethics surrounding the creation of algorithms. It can’t just be a buzzword we throw around. Shouldn’t all of our students be able to talk in general terms about this?

Civic and Political Engagement: being able to participate in social justice causes and other matters that affect communities, particularly ones that do not receive as much attention. We tell our students to “be the change” – but are we equipping them to actually do so using the most powerful tool ever created (the Internet)?

Computational Thinking: obtaining a basic understanding of how terms involved in computation can positively affect all of the work we do (“iterating,” “looping,” etc.).

Content Production: it seems like many of our students are learning skills like video-editing, digital photography, live-streaming, podcasting, and blogging on their own. That’s wonderful, but they could use some more guidance on how to do this as well as possible, thereby saving them time and frustration in making mistakes that could have been prevented with some education from those who have gone before.

Context: Being intentionally aware of contextual factors that matter – perhaps race, sexual orientation, religion, location, political leaning, etc. Are our youth growing in the ability to identify sensitive issues or other relevant aspects in their online interactions, or are they generally just focused on themselves?

Data: Our students should have some kind of skillset in working with data – creating it, collecting it, analyzing it, and evaluating it. Data is everything these days and developing an expertise in data science and analytics will likely increase one’s employment potential in the future. At the very least, some familiarity is necessary.

Digital Access: Being able to access the Internet and all related tools. This is a human right, in my opinion.

Digital Economy: Understanding how economic, social, and cultural capital can be extracted and earned from online/offline interactions. We know about the gig economy, but I am a person who believes that the Internet will be so much more inextricably intertwined with our lives and ability to make a living not just in the next twenty years, but in the next five.

Digital Literacy: Being able to use all that the Internet has to offer to create, share, and connect/interact. We cannot assume that kids are naturally going to develop this skill simply by spending time online. To become fully literate, they need to be specifically educated on so many tools, resources, repositories, and apps that they’d never naturally stumble across.

Identity Exploration and Formation: Rather than simply happening organically and without guidance, we want our youth to understand how they can use digital tools to explore their own identity.

Information Quality: Using the Internet to access and benefit from the information it has to offer. Do you know where to go for the most reliable information related to health and exercise? What about the upcoming election? What about religious beliefs? What about investing? We need to help our students understand what is quality information, and what is not.

Law: Understanding various important laws associated with the Internet (e.g., copyright infringement, privacy invasions, defamation, unauthorized recordings, harassment, etc.) and applying them to guide and constrain one’s own behavior. Ignorance is no excuse for not complying with the laws we have in place, and we want students to respect the rights of others, and in turn have their own rights respected.

Media Literacy: Being able to create, circulate, evaluate, and analyze content in any media type, form, community, or network. This is obviously a key skill which we’d hope that every student develops during their schooling because they’ll likely be doing this in some fashion throughout their life, regardless of their work.

That’s 17 areas in total. You can learn more about each here – and also access a compendium of over 100 educational tools to help you provide instruction and guidance in each of these areas in classrooms, households, and community organizations. Educators, check them out and put them into practice when the new school year begins! Do this not because of any possible mandate or directive from your supervisor, but because it matters so much for our increasingly connected students!

To be sure, this list may not be complete. My friend Anne Collier has recently suggested that three other areas are missing – explicit reference to social and emotional learning (SEL), the historical context (the history of the Internet!), and rights (what participatory rights do Internet users have?). I agree that each of these merit further examination and inclusion. We need our youth to develop their SEL skills to become the best versions of themselves regardless of where they interact. And if we neglect teaching (and learning from) the history of the Internet, we may be doomed to make avoidable mistakes. Finally, youth especially have had some of their digital rights curtailed because of fear and moral panics, and this must be addressed to best empower them to make a positive difference in their spheres of influence.

If we neglect teaching (and learning from) the history of the Internet, we may be doomed to make avoidable mistakes.

Future research endeavors would do well to create specific measures and scales to approximate competency in each of these areas. To be sure, this is the hard part – and scholars will likely stumble a bit as they figure out the best ways to measure these skills and behaviors. However, just like we (the entire field) have made solid progress when it comes to measuring cyberbullying, sexting, and digital dating abuse, we’ll eventually get there when it comes to measuring, studying, and evaluating the value of Digital Citizenship+ individually and collectively. That will greatly help inform our educational efforts in the trenches to best meet the needs of current-day youth on their way to becoming adults who can positively contribute to our digital-based economy, society, and community.

Facebook Research provided support to collect the data presented in this post.

Image sources: @ballalatmar (https://bit.ly/2M4G6T2), Gene Walsh, Digital First Media (https://bit.ly/2X9Ztk3)

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Pandetiquette: Countering Misinformation in the Information Age through Media Literacy https://cyberbullying.org/pandetiquette-countering-misinformation-through-media-literacy https://cyberbullying.org/pandetiquette-countering-misinformation-through-media-literacy#comments Thu, 14 May 2020 15:07:20 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=28574 In Part 2 of this series I call “Pandetiquette,” where I offer my thoughts on how to put the social back in social media (Part 1 here), I want to address the issue of misinformation. When I first thought to write about encouraging civility online several weeks ago, I had a short section on misinformation.…

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In Part 2 of this series I call “Pandetiquette,” where I offer my thoughts on how to put the social back in social media (Part 1 here), I want to address the issue of misinformation. When I first thought to write about encouraging civility online several weeks ago, I had a short section on misinformation. Bickering about what is true or not has certainly contributed to bad behavior online. Then my Facebook feed blew up with people sharing a viral video featuring a former researcher who made some shocking claims about the current COVID-19 pandemic. As I watched the video, I wasn’t immediately alarmed, but quickly realized there was more to the story than what was being shared. It was indeed a compelling and well-produced video. It has since been removed from both YouTube and Facebook (for copyright violations and blatant misinformation), but I am sure it is still widely available if you know where to look.

This isn’t the first time a conspiracy-laden video has received widespread attention. But this video was just so influential in such a short amount of time that it was scary. I saw many typically sensible friends sharing it online, wondering aloud if others thought it could be true. I grew increasingly frustrated and felt compelled to respond. Then I found this Forbes article by Tara Haelle which addressed all of my specific concerns about the video in a concise and thoughtful way. So while I no longer feel the need to address the falsities in that particular video, I thought it would be useful to provide general guidance for how to assess the legitimacy of sources on social media more broadly.

There is a fire hose of information online aimed right at our foreheads and without critical evaluation tools we could easily become overwhelmed or deceived.

The ideas discussed below center on the concept of media literacy, which is our ability to assess the accuracy and validity of the media we consume. Media literacy skills are important now more than ever before. There is a fire hose of information online aimed right at our foreheads and without critical evaluation tools we could easily become overwhelmed or deceived. Anyone can post nearly anything online at any time. There are very few restrictions or quality control checks applied to what appears online. To make matters worse, “deepfake” media (photos, videos, and audio recordings that have been manipulated) is becoming more sophisticated and less easily discernible. It is imperative as responsible citizens that we use our critical thinking and analytical skills to evaluate the authenticity of content we consume, especially if we intend to share it with others.

Separate Fact from Fiction

Most people are aware of Snopes, the website made famous for evaluating urban legends and online hoaxes. The site has been around for more than 25 years, and in many ways has become the name-brand-verb of fact-checking sources: “Have you Snopes’d that yet?” Snopes isn’t necessarily infallible. But you can start there because they are often quick to update information about emerging online claims.

Recently I’ve been confronted by a couple of people who refuse to believe Snopes. I’m not precisely sure why, but their protestations usually include some variation of “You know who owns them, right?” It is important to know how a source is funded, but I am more interested in their track record of accuracy and whether they sufficiently cite primary sources (more on this later). Snopes does a good job of “showing their work” and they aren’t often proven wrong. If you still have a concern about that particular site, no problem, there are a number of other fact-checking websites that review assertions made online. Consulting one of these can be a quick and easy way to determine if an online story is true, or at the very least it can let you know if there are any obvious discrepancies.

Do Your Own Research

If questions remain about what you are seeing on fact-checking websites, do your own research. Focus on primary sources. An example of a primary source is a researcher who collects data and publishes the results in an academic journal. If the journal is peer-reviewed, then other researchers have scrutinized the work and deemed it acceptable. The higher the “impact factor” of a scholarly journal, the better it is, generally speaking.

Another example of a primary source might be a person who has experienced something for themselves. This could be an emergency room doctor who works on a particular type of case every day. We often put too much stock in secondary sources, that is, someone reporting the experiences of others or posting the results of research someone else did. They might accurately convey those experiences and results, but they also might not. And the greater distance between the primary and secondary source, the greater the likelihood of misinterpretation. Remember the childhood game “telephone” where you whispered something into someone’s ear, and that person whispered it into another person’s ear, and within a few people the original statement was completely lost? Be skeptical of people who say they “have a friend who knows X” or “a cousin who experienced Y.” When evaluating a particular piece of information, first try to identify the primary source.

Sometimes you’ll find primary sources that disagree with each other. Certainly one doctor’s experience in an emergency room isn’t going to be exactly the same as all others. This is why a sample of a wide range of experiences is necessary to obtain a better picture of what is really happening. In other words, research! Even still there can be studies that return competing findings. In these situations you need to evaluate the quality of the study. In formal science research that might entail looking at the sample size, how the sample was recruited (randomly or by convenience), and how key variables were measured. When it comes to evaluating online sources, find the primary source of the information (a study, a statistic, or a personal anecdote) and ask yourself if you are comfortable with its credibility. Is it consistent with your personal experiences? Does the person have a particular expertise that makes him or her an authority on the topic being discussed? Are the majority of scientists in agreement about the issue? Ask yourself some simple questions about the nature of the source and whether it deserves to be believed.

When it comes to evaluating online sources, find the primary source of the information (a study, a statistic, or a personal anecdote) and ask yourself if you are comfortable with its credibility.

It is also important to distinguish between reporting and editorializing. “Reporting” involves stating the facts as they are known, without additional commentary. “Editorializing,” on the other hand, introduces analysis and opinion into the presentation of facts. There is nothing wrong with this – it can help us better understand context and complicated information. We just need to know it when we see it. A report might state something like: “as of May 13, 2020, more than 82,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the United States” (a good report would provide a citation to the primary source of the data – perhaps the CDC). One editorial might suggest that number is overinflated because hospitals get reimbursed more from the federal government for COVID-19 cases, while another might say that it is underestimated because we aren’t testing enough. Examine the information and the authority of the person that is editorializing and decide what is more believable. What is the history of the accuracy of that person? Has evidence proven they were wrong in the past? If so, how did they respond? What does the person/source have to lose or gain by saying what they are saying?

Sometimes facts change, particularly now when there is a race to be the first to break a story. Long gone are the measured efforts of newsroom editors triple checking information and sources. These days many outlets often post first and ask questions later. The question is how the outlet handles the mistake. Do they publicly acknowledge the error and offer a clear explanation for how it was made and rectified?

Many researchers are now working to quantify the reliability of—and political bias within—certain media sources. This example, created by Ad Fontes Media, is one of my favorites. It provides a very detailed description of the methodology used to categorize articles. If you have a question about a certain source that you don’t know much about, see where it stands on their chart.

Be Mindful of Mind Tricks

Understand that we are all subject to strong, often hidden inclinations to believe certain things over others. These are known as cognitive biases. Psychological research demonstrates, for example, that people are predisposed to believe the first piece of information they see on a particular topic (this is called “anchoring” or “focalism”). This makes it more difficult to change our minds when confronted with new information. We also tend to place more value in sources that align with or reaffirm our pre-existing beliefs. This is known as confirmation (or confirmatory) bias. The consequence is that we often stop searching for evidence once we’ve found what we believe—no, what we know—to be true. Part of a thorough research process is to look not just for evidence that supports your view, but to be aware of contrary evidence. In that way you can be prepared to challenge it based on logical or methodological grounds.

Even a well-meaning social media citizen who actively seeks out additional information on a topic of concern may ultimately succumb to another common cognitive bias: information overload. Our brains can only process so much data, and overwhelming it can result in the effect opposite of what we desired. Namely, we have trouble sifting through it all to settle on a side. If you spend too much time reading Amazon reviews of TVs, for example, you might never click the “Buy Now” button. I have heard thoughtful people default to the old adage “I don’t know what to believe anymore.” And where does that leave us? Take a break and come back to it with a clear head later.

100% Certainty Isn’t the Goal

Could there be a big cover-up or conspiracy? Sure. Maybe Snopes is in on it! That is possible, though not likely. The point is that holding fast to a conspiratorial perspective could result in some serious mental health consequences. “You can’t trust anyone!” At some point we need to take a stand on who and what we believe, based on all available information. What does the preponderance of the evidence show in a particular case? We have to use our judgement and make an informed determination.

When it comes to making a choice about our health, we have to remember that every medication and medical procedure has risks. It is important to evaluate the benefits against the dangers, along with possible complications and consequences of different decisions when it comes to our well-being. When my appendix burst a few years ago, I had to get it surgically removed. Was there a risk associated with this operation? Of course. But the potential for harm was much greater had I not undergone surgery.

At some point we need to take a stand on who and what we believe, based on all available information.

Several years ago, I inquired with my optometrist about LASIK eye surgery. She discussed the benefits and carefully outlined the potential risks. “So the risks are rare,” I inquired? “They’re not rare, when you’re the one in the chair,” she replied poetically. Since this was an elective procedure and my contact lenses have served me well for more than two decades, I decided against LASIK (at least for now). It is unlikely that you have personally experienced a complication from a surgery, or a rare but serious reaction to a vaccine. But you might know someone who knows someone who has, and it may therefore appear on your social media feed, making it seem all that much more likely. If you’ve personally had a distressing experience with a medical procedure, you likely have a strong opinion. It is important that you share this, as a first-hand account of what could happen. That doesn’t mean these outcomes are likely. Lots of people die every day on America’s highways. You probably know someone who has. And yet most of us still use them without much worry.

When it comes to the current situation, one fact is certain: people are dying. As of this writing more than 82,000 Americans have died from complications related to COVID-19, with hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and well over a million positive or probable infections. Whether you feel these numbers are precisely accurate or not is irrelevant to the family who has experienced a loss. Calling this a manufactured pandemic or suggesting COVID-19 is somehow less serious than the common flu does not make you or your family members any safer. Please thoughtfully consider the comments you make, and the content you share, online. There is more at stake than your reputation.

Cover image: edenpictures (Flickr)

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Pandetiquette: Keeping the “Social” in Social Media During Times of Profound Polarization https://cyberbullying.org/pandetiquette-civility-amid-polarization https://cyberbullying.org/pandetiquette-civility-amid-polarization#comments Tue, 12 May 2020 13:03:04 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=28543 I’ve found myself unfriending, unfollowing, and muting more and more people on social media lately. Given the political situation in the United States (and in my home state of Wisconsin) over the last decade, the fact that animosity online has only increased as my patience dwindles says something about the current state of things on…

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I’ve found myself unfriending, unfollowing, and muting more and more people on social media lately. Given the political situation in the United States (and in my home state of Wisconsin) over the last decade, the fact that animosity online has only increased as my patience dwindles says something about the current state of things on “social” media.

For better and worse, I pride myself in curating a diverse representation of perspectives in my newsfeeds. I’m connected to diehards on both ends of the political spectrum. On any given day I see competing commentaries about certain elected officials or hot button contemporary issues. I am fine with disagreement. In fact, I appreciate a good debate, if it is argued respectfully and in good faith. I yearn to learn, and while bold-lettered bumper stickers and excessive exclamation points aren’t likely to change my mind, thoughtful evidence-based discourse just might have me considering an issue more comprehensively.

But is that even possible on social media?

Are minds these days even open to contemplation or analysis, let alone change?

Maybe not.

Bold-lettered bumper stickers and excessive exclamation points aren’t likely to change my mind, but thoughtful evidence-based discourse just might.

I don’t think that means we should give up. It’s a mistake to isolate ourselves from those who think differently than us. Pretending they don’t exist, or that their perspectives don’t matter, creates the kind of intractableness that leads to situations like what we currently find ourselves in. Communication and empathy are foundational pillars of understanding. Without both it’s easier to devolve into bellicosity.

This is the first of two posts where I discuss my thoughts on what I am sheepishly calling pandetiquette: the capacity to interact civilly when disagreeing with people online during this particularly divisive time (see Part 2, about misinformation, here). It isn’t easy managing disparate relationships while keeping sane on social media – especially now while everyone is understandably more anxious and irascible. I want to offer some perspective on how we can keep the social in social media at a time of seemingly insurmountable opposition.

When to Engage

The instinct for many of us when confronted with an unpopular viewpoint online is to keep scrolling. And honestly, in many cases, that is the best course of action. It might not be worth your time, energy, or mental health to get involved in a lengthy acrimonious debate. But when it comes to inaccuracies or misinformation, I think it’s ok–even necessary–to engage. I’ll go into the issue of misinformation in much more detail in Part 2 of this series, but for now, below are a couple of thoughts to keep in mind when deciding if you should respond.

First, consider the source.

What is the nature of your relationship with the person posting the information? Is this a close friend or family member, or a friend-of-a-friend whom you’ve only met one time? Is it someone you have never met who posted a comment to a public news article? Is this person generally reasonable and respectful to others online? Before getting involved, think about how that person might respond. The closer you are to the other person, the more appropriate it is to weigh in. Presumably, close friends and family members know you well and will appreciate your reasoned thoughts. At the very least, they will understand that you are not intentionally trying to be hurtful or irrational (assuming that you are not). When dealing with people you are close to, though, tread lightly, and interact as if you were speaking with them face to face . If you truly value your relationship with them (and they you), then you should be able to have a respectful conversation, even when discussing issues about which you vehemently disagree. How would you feel if the relationship were irreparably damaged as a result of something you said?

Do yourself a favor and resist entering the online octagon with a bunch of strangers. There might not be anyone in your corner to throw in the towel should things get really bad.

When it comes to complete strangers, it is almost always best to just walk away. Whenever I violate this rule, I invariably regret it. It is very difficult to change the mind of someone with whom you don’t have some kind of connection. It is just too easy to resort to personal attack. Most well-adjusted adults are able to control the most extreme of their emotions when conversing face-to-face with friends. When interacting with strangers from a distance, however, we are disinhibited, often behaving in ways we normally never would. We don’t have to look the person in the eye, or think about the next time we run into him at the family reunion. Emotions can easily overwhelm reason in these circumstances. Why do you think road rage is such a problem? Do yourself a favor and resist entering the online octagon with a bunch of strangers. There might not be anyone in your corner to throw in the towel should things get really bad.

Next, consider the issue.

Is the content posted patently false? Can it be easily debunked with a quick link to a reputable source? (More on this in my next post.) Is this something that could be harmful to others? Ignorance may be bliss, but it can also dangerous. Rage-fueled sophistry leads to situations like “pizza-gate,” where a 28-year-old man, armed with an AR-15 rifle and a handgun, opened fire in a pizza restaurant in Washington in 2016 because of online posts he had seen suggesting the place was trafficking children at the direction of then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. There was never any real evidence of criminal behavior at the pizzeria, just online conspiracies. Some of which remain to this day. Making outrageous claims about misconduct cold inspire vigilantism, and provocateurs need to be quelled (and their behavior could be illegal).

Also consider whether you have a particular expertise in the issue being discussed. Do you have knowledge, training, or experience that makes you an authority on that very thing? The more specific, the better. I have a doctorate in criminal justice, but that doesn’t mean I am an expert on all aspects of the criminal justice system. In fact, my areas of study—cyberbullying, sexting, and other online issues that affect adolescents—often fall outside of traditional criminal justice. I couldn’t tell you the effect of body-worn cameras on police officer use of force, but I can evaluate social science research methods and know enough about basic criminal justice concepts and the law that I can point out blatant inaccuracies (I’ve taught university students for almost 20 years). My education and experience gives me the ability to discuss certain issues from the perspective of an expert. Will everyone accept that expertise and defer to me? Sadly, no. Can I still be wrong sometimes? Absolutely. But expertise can give a person more leverage in a disagreement. At least when the combatants are being reasonable.

And while your personal experiences necessarily color your opinion about a particular issue, it doesn’t mean everyone in that same situation had (or will have) the same result. One person’s experience is data—or more accurately datum, because it is a sample size of 1. Would you put much stock in a study with a sample size of 1? It shouldn’t be ignored, of course, but it also shouldn’t dominate public policy discourse (especially when referring to a relatively rare event). I may have won the lottery, but that doesn’t mean it is a good idea to follow any advice I give to invest your retirement savings in scratch-off tickets.

In the End, Be Kind

It is possible to disagree with someone online without being disagreeable. While you should embrace thoughtful debate, you shouldn’t stoop to—or tolerate—name calling, threats, or cyberbullying. Usually this means you have lost the argument, or at least have given up the moral high ground. Believe me, it’s hard to be convincing while cursing incoherently. If someone does threaten you online, be sure to report the content to the site or app. Even though social media companies are predisposed to allow just about anything on their sites, most Terms of Service prohibit cyberbullying and content that implies a legitimate threat of physical harm.

Also remember that others–including our children–are watching how we interact with others in person and online. Can we show them how to disagree with someone, even passionately, without resorting to an assault on their character? When I find myself getting worked up when interacting with someone online, I just imagine I am conversing with a family member. They may be wrong in my mind, but I still care about them as a person and will therefore tend to be more patient and understanding.

When I find myself getting worked up when interacting with someone online, I just imagine I am conversing with a family member.

If I have engaged in an online debate with you, it is only because I respect and care about you. There are good people on my friend lists with whom I emphatically disagree about important topics. I’m not looking to sanitize my newsfeed to include only information that conforms to my ideas. But I am looking for an honest and respectful discussion when something you’ve posted is inconsistent with what I know. I pledge not to resort to ad hominem attacks against you personally should you question something I post, and all I ask is the same in return.

I’m not going to unfriend you for disagreeing with me. I will, however, sever our social media tie if I believe you are being unreasonable or illogical, or if you are stubbornly holding fast to a particular perspective in the face of obviously reliable evidence to the contrary. I literally experience physical anxiety when I see people post ridiculously outrageous claims. This is a regrettable autonomic response that I simply cannot control. But I can control what I see over and over on social media and may need to remove it if it’s affecting my mental health. So instead of fighting with you and suffering emotionally and physically, I might need to step back. That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped caring about you, it just means I know that if I keep banging my head against a brick wall, I will get a headache. And it’s hard to contemplate the thoughtful arguments of others with a throbbing head.

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What the Best Bullying and Cyberbullying Assembly Speakers Do https://cyberbullying.org/best-bullying-cyberbullying-assembly-speakers https://cyberbullying.org/best-bullying-cyberbullying-assembly-speakers#comments Sun, 03 May 2020 13:21:24 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=4564 I have recently shared the most important considerations for schools planning to host bullying assembly programs according to research. Now, I wanted to turn your attention to bullying and cyberbullying speakers themselves. As you may know from your own experiences, there are fantastic ones out there, but there are also many who leave a lot…

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I have recently shared the most important considerations for schools planning to host bullying assembly programs according to research. Now, I wanted to turn your attention to bullying and cyberbullying speakers themselves. As you may know from your own experiences, there are fantastic ones out there, but there are also many who leave a lot to be desired. Justin and I regularly do assemblies all across the United States (and abroad), and truly enjoy visiting and working with students, staff, and parents in this capacity. However, we simply cannot do them for everyone, as much as we would love to. As such, here are my thoughts on what the best bullying and cyberbullying assembly speakers do.

Speakers need to be relatable.
You may have heard that you win or lose your audience in the first few minutes of your talk. That is a short amount of time, and a lot of pressure to grab and hold their attention. Relatable speakers will deeply connect with the audience by demonstrating complete familiarity of, and appreciation with, the offline and online world of teens (but not in a way that seems contrived or fake). In addition, they must immediately engage students – not with scare tactics – but by clarifying at the onset why what they have to say matters to the students’ very lives. And how their message is different than all of the other anti-bullying messages the students have heard before. And that ultimately, the speaker is on their side. This is usually conveyed differently for elementary, middle, and high schoolers, and is a critically important skill to master. If the presentation somehow betrays that the speaker (and, by extension, the school) just doesn’t “get” kids and teens these days, and doesn’t really understand fully what is going on, its impact will be greatly stunted.

Speakers need to be uplifting.
The overall message, on its whole, should be hopeful and empowering. No one wants to be completely bummed out and depressed after listening to a speaker. That totally and completely drains away the audience’s desire and motivation to try and make a difference. Yes, kids need to understand the weight of pain, regret, and potential consequences that surround bullying and cyberbullying, but they cannot flourish and meaningfully contribute to a better peer and school environment under that burden. No one can. And no one will want to. Speakers must make sure the presentation is balanced, and leaves students feeling fired up and equipped to foster change.

Speakers need to focus on the positive.
Many adults are keen to focus on teen conflict, drama, harassment, and hate, and share those stories in an attempt to motivate youth to do the opposite instead. But we’ve found that those good intentions don’t lead to the desired effect. Instead, it can come across as condescending and preachy. Being subjected to those stories makes teens feel that adults expect the worst of them, and that they need to be managed and controlled instead of trusted and empowered. Justin and I strongly believe that speakers must point out all of the good that teens are doing as they embrace social media and electronic communications, instead of emphasizing all of the ways in which students have screwed up. Speakers should try to inspire them by showing them examples of teens just like them who are making a difference by standing up for what’s right. There are an increasing number of sites sharing meaningful stories of teens (and adults) doing kind things! Check out our Words Wound movement, Huffington Post’s Good News, Upworthy, One Good Thing, or A Platform for Good for ideas. Ideally, seeds will be planted in some of the youth. Then, they hopefully will be motivated to replicate the ideas discussed, or come up with their own (specific to their skills and situations) and work to contribute to widespread change on their campus.

Speakers need to have great content.
The data, stories, and examples they share must align with and reflect what the students have been observing and experiencing on their own, or else their message will be discredited and dismissed as irrelevant. The presentation should be interactive, fun, solemn at times (I mean, we are ultimately discussing a pretty serious topic here!), memorable, smooth, and somehow unique. It should also be updated with the latest research (when appropriate, don’t bore them with bar charts!), trends, headlines, stories, and screenshots. Many speakers want to do this, but honestly never really get around to updating their presentations. This will not win over the audience, and keep them locked in to what is being shared. Speakers should remember that students have heard this message before, and their default reaction will be to tune out because of the way this topic has been browbeaten into them. This is why content is – and always will be – king.

Speakers should include solutions.
Students want to know who they can trust and confide in if they are being mistreated. They want to know how to really, truly get someone to stop being mean, and how to anonymously report problems, and how to block mean people on specific networks or apps. They want clear direction as to how to intervene so that it doesn’t backfire on them, and how best to help others in a way that is safe for them as well. They need clear, specific strategies that are age-appropriate and will actually work. At the same time, schools need to know that a good number of presentations are high on inciting emotional responses but low on solutions. Just make sure you identify your goals at the outset, so you are not left feeling like something was missing after the presentation(s).

Speakers should have a plan for follow-up.
They should have books, materials, activities, resources – something they can distribute to the school so that faculty and staff can debrief with the kids and thereby continue the conversation after the assembly (and, ideally, on a regular basis throughout the year). And the resources should clearly mirror the messages conveyed in the assembly, so that everything builds upon itself. If the speaker doesn’t have content to share, he or she should be able to recommend the best out there. This simply demonstrates that they know the proverbial lay of the land, and have taken the time to figure out what can help the school on a long-term basis with their bullying prevention goals.

Ultimately, a great speaker with great content makes for a great presentation. I know that sounds intuitive, which is why I wanted to drill down into the essential components to show individuals what matters the most. I hope the preceding helps those of you who are out there on the front lines, working hard to raise awareness on this incredibly important issue. If we are spending our lives (and the time, attention, and resources of schools) trying to communicate a truly transformative message, we must give it our best – and do it right.

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Bullying Assembly Programs – What Schools Need to Know https://cyberbullying.org/bullying-assembly-programs-schools-need-know https://cyberbullying.org/bullying-assembly-programs-schools-need-know#comments Sun, 03 May 2020 10:26:41 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=4541 For decades now, schools have been organizing assemblies to address bullying, substance abuse, and a variety of other student issues. Perhaps like me, you remember sitting through them during middle or high school school and – unfortunately – tuning out because you just didn’t feel like you could connect with the speaker. When it came…

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For decades now, schools have been organizing assemblies to address bullying, substance abuse, and a variety of other student issues. Perhaps like me, you remember sitting through them during middle or high school school and – unfortunately – tuning out because you just didn’t feel like you could connect with the speaker. When it came to the assemblies about bullying, I remember thinking to myself: “yes, we all realize that it’s wrong to be mean to others, but nothing really is going to change at my school, and so why even bother?” I admit that was quite a defeatist mentality, but I’ll blame it in large part on my disillusioned, angst-ridden adolescent self 🙂 Ahhh, adolescence!

Anyway, I do clearly remember a couple of more inspirational speakers who gave presentations at my schools – and while they weren’t at all about bullying, I did find them compelling, hopeful, motivating, and even instructive. And I didn’t feel like I was being preached or lectured to. That showed me I could be reached – it just really seemed to depend on the quality of the content, the tone of the message, the level at which I was spoken to, and the relatability of what was conveyed. The bottom line is that there is value in assembly programs, but their selection and implementation requires significant consideration and forethought.

The Assembly as a Bullying Solution

Since schools know that bullying and cyberbullying is a problem on their campus and want to do something about it, scheduling an assembly is often the very first idea that comes to their mind. It makes sense, because they seem to be an easy-to-implement solution. Typically, a school has a budget, they find a speaker (or just have one of their staff members do it), they schedule the day and time, and they bring that person in to do his/her thing in the auditorium, gymnasium, or cafeteria. This takes a lot less time and effort than all that is actually needed to make a true difference. But at least it is something.

To be sure, there are a ton of options available for schools in this space. Just do a Google search for “bullying assembly” or “cyberbullying assembly,” and you’ll find pages and pages of people, many of whom are self-described “experts” (perhaps they are, I have no idea). Many educators also receive unsolicited emails from speakers, encouraging them to check out their web sites and skillsets, and consider hiring them to talk to their students. The speakers’ web sites describe what makes their particular talks engaging, interactive, and motivating, and most provide testimonials highlighting the benefit the assemblies provided to the school and attendant students. All of this is good. Really good. There is definitely a need to reach kids with a gripping and powerful message that cultivates empathy, induces intentional kindness and respect towards one’s peers, and equips them to know exactly what to do if they – or someone they know – is being targeted. And there is definitely a need for many speakers to be out there doing their part to help. However, there are three points which we want to make to help inform your implementation:

1. Assemblies must be used as a single piece of a much broader effort.

While a bullying assembly does have some value, we cannot emphasize strongly enough that a “one and done” strategy will fall short and ring painfully hollow in time – even if it is the most heart-rending or entertaining or memorable or impressive or convicting talk your youth have ever heard in their entire lives. Students need more. Bullying prevention initiatives in schools can have assemblies as part of their programming, but according to the research need more substantive characteristics such as information sent home to parents, requests for parents to attend meetings (so as to get them on board to help educators with the message), instructive role-playing scenarios in the classroom, and efforts that lasted more than one day. Schools need more than a flash-in-the-pan event, even if it is really good. The speaker’s efforts can have great value as a launching pad from which other initiatives can take off. These can include a comprehensive anti-bullying curriculum, peer-to-peer programming, specifically training faculty/staff on how to teach digital civility and how to handle problems that arise, modules on socio-emotional learning, stress management, and conflict resolution, social norming, and building a positive school climate.

2. Consider the impact of the specific content

A school’s good intentions to impact, influence, and inspire their student body may backfire if the speaker or organization is not carefully vetted, and if the message is not carefully designed – with every word measured and every aspect planned and prepped for. For example, in just the last six months one school district has had significant reputational fallout in the community because they brought in a speaker whose interactive exercises may have contributed to excessive vulnerability (and even emotional and psychological pain) by students, and consequently further targeting by bullies, and at least one school district has been sued for indirectly contributing to a teen suicide by hiring a speaker who gave a presentation that may have planted ideas of self-harm as a viable option out of the pain one is experiencing.

3. Take the time to find a great speaker to optimize chances for success

Schools interested in bringing out speakers to conduct student assemblies must demonstrate due diligence and do their background research. This is one of the primary ways to find out if they actually are relatable and uplifting, and if they actually have great content that focuses on the positive, provides real solutions, and can lead to specific follow-up by the school. We suggest that educators reach out to colleagues at other schools for specific recommendations. Feel free to even cold call those you don’t know but who work at schools similar to your own. Feel free to review testimonials, but also know that a speaker’s testimonials may not paint a full picture. As such, we also recommend that you take the time to schedule a call with potential speakers so you can get to know their style, passion, convictions, content areas, and exactly how they will connect with your students.

My next blog will detail what the best bullying and cyberbullying assembly speakers do, in order to illuminate what makes a great quality presentation to youth. In addition, Justin and I would love to hear your own thoughts, observations, and experiences in this area, and so feel free to weigh in!

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