Peer Mentoring as a Strategy to Address Cyberbullying

default_cyberbullying

The concept of peer mentoring generally involves older students advising and counseling younger students about issues affecting them. Since younger adolescents tend to look up to (and seek to emulate) older adolescents, this dynamic can be exploited to teach important lessons about the use of computers and communications technology. Peer mentoring has been fruitful in reducing traditional bullying and interpersonal conflict within schools and, as such, should be considered in a comprehensive approach to preventing cyberbullying as well. Accordingly, newer cohorts of students can learn from the wisdom of adolescents who have already experienced online aggression and have figured out effective ways to deal with it. This wisdom may sink in more quickly and deeply since it comes from peers rather than adults, as kids have the tendency to tune out adults when being taught certain life lessons (can you relate to that?).  As we’ve heard from a mother in California: “Parents and teachers can get up and preach, but if they hear it from another kid, they will remember it.”  On a larger scale, these efforts can significantly and positively affect the social climate within the school community, benefitting youth and their families, teachers and staff, and the community as a whole.

As Mike Tully, a noted school law attorney points out: “Never overlook the possibility of using students themselves as agents of change.”

The basic purpose of peer mentoring is to employ older students to change the way younger students think about the harassment or mistreatment of others in certain situations. Mentors can also be utilized to help younger students appreciate the responsibility and risks associated with the use of computers, cell phones, and the Internet. To illustrate, one student mentor states, “I have started to talk to other children who have had a similar experience and try and help them because they are going through the same thing that I went through and it helps to talk to people who understand. I tell them to be brave and not to worry because everything will be okay.”

Overall, the goal is to encourage youth to take responsibility for the problem and to work together in coming up with a solution. It also seeks to foster respect and acceptance of others—no matter what—and to get kids to see how their actions affect others and how they can purposefully choose behaviors that promote positive peer relations.  This, then, can drastically affect the quality of the school environment by shaping the climate in which students and educators work, learn, and act.

Highly adaptable, depending on individualized needs, peer mentoring can be accomplished in a number of ways. For example, one-on-one sessions might take place where a high schooler is called in to meet with a middle school victim to offer support and help. Or high school students could regularly talk to groups of middle schoolers in the cafeteria during lunch. A few high school students could also organize a presentation for small classroom-sized (20+) middle school groups. Finally, skits can be presented in auditoriums or cafeterias by high schoolers for assemblies of younger students. All of these interactions can be comprised of one or more activities. Schools can utilize older students to convey a number of important messages of Internet safety and responsibility to younger students, including:

– Reiterating that they are not alone in experiencing victimization and the resultant pain, rejection, humiliation, and loneliness

– Encouraging them to speak up and not remain silent when confronted with cyberbullying

– Sharing one or more highly relatable vignettes or stories about cyberbullying

– Explaining the “language” of cyberbullying, including the relevant terms and technology

– Describing positive ways in which conflict between peers can be de-escalated or resolved

– Using role-playing examples to get students thinking about the various ways to address a cyberbullying situation

– Providing an opportunity to discuss and answer any questions, clarify any confusion, and reinforce how to deal with cyberbullying problems

Over time and as needed, additional formal and informal lessons—as well as continued interaction between the high school mentors and the middle school mentees—can occur.

The Cyberbullying Research Center has created a comprehensive peer mentoring program involving adult facilitators, high-school mentors, and middle-school participants (known as “Torchbearers”).  A specific and detailed manual has been written for these roles, and involves ten unique lessons and step-by-step directions as to how best to successfully administer the curriculum.  Incrementally and cumulatively, this program will allow schools to mobilize motivated older students to change the way younger students think about the harassment or mistreatment of others online. It will also help younger students appreciate the responsibilities and risks associated with the use of computers, cell phones, and the Internet.

Our Anti-Cyberbullying Peer Mentoring Program has been designed to encourage youth to take responsibility for the problem and to work together in coming up with a solution – so that they themselves can be agents of change. The program also fosters respect and acceptance of others – no matter their differences.  Finally, it enables kids to see how their individual and group actions affect the emotions and lives of others, and how they can purposefully choose behaviors that promote positive peer relations.

13 Comments

  1. Where can I find your Anti-Cyberbullying Peer Mentoring Program curriculum? I’m interested but don’t see it.

    Amy B

    (sorry–forgot email in last post0

  2. I had the opportunity to attend the Girl Bullying conference in San Antonio and I it was an eye opener. I am a parent of four girls now ages 25, 23, 22 and 16 and was totally unaware of what happens while they are in school I am embarrassed to admit that I was not there for my older daughters. That will not the case with my 16 yr old. Thank you.

    Also, I am Advocate Coordinator for the local rape crisis center, recuiting and training adults to respond to the hospital when a rape vicitms seek medical attention. We are in the process of recruiting and training junior advocates for prevention outreach, Specifically High School students will provide presentations and training to Middle school students and middle school students will do the same for 4th and 5th graders. In addition to sexual assault, teen dating violence I would like to include bullying and specifically cyberbullying. Is is possible to e-mail me the slides used at the training with the latest stats?

    Thank you.

  3. The idea of utilizing the expertise of students through peer mentoring is an excellent suggestion. Although, we might have the idea that parents should be the only influence in their children’s lives, we should think of the advantages of having youngsters learn from their peers. The textbook mentions that older student can reiterate to youngster that they are not alone in experiencing victimization and ensuing pain, rejection, humiliation, and loneliness; explain positive ways in which conflict between peers can be de-escalated or resolved. Growing up I would always talk to my older brother about problems that I didn’t feel comfortable talking to my mom about, so I can understand the theory behind peer mentoring. Most kids will feel more comfortable talking to an older teen because they feel that person has been through the same thing or that they won’t get in trouble for what might’ve happened.

  4. The idea of utilizing the expertise of students through peer mentoring is an excellent suggestion. Although, we might have the idea that parents should be the only influence in their children’s lives, we should think of the advantages of having youngsters learn from their peers. The textbook mentions that older student can reiterate to youngster that they are not alone in experiencing victimization and ensuing pain, rejection, humiliation, and loneliness; explain positive ways in which conflict between peers can be de-escalated or resolved. Growing up I would always talk to my older brother about problems that I didn’t feel comfortable talking to my mom about, so I can understand the theory behind peer mentoring. Most kids will feel more comfortable talking to an older teen because they feel that person has been through the same thing or that they won’t get in trouble for what might’ve happened.

  5. The internet is a double-edged sword, containing an immense wealth of information on one end of the spectrum and on the other end, horrid things that we would never in a million years want our children to see. It is not up to just one figure in our society to prevent cyber bullying; it requires a combined effort on the parts of parents, educators and the children themselves. Educators must assess the problem within their school and set clear rules on the extent of what will and will not be tolerated. Peer mentoring is a fantastic way to set a hands-on example for our youth, as kids tend to look up to their older counterparts. Children need to know to keep their personal information, like passwords, addresses and other private things to themselves and who better to teach them, than older teens who have already been in their positions?

  6. http://www.centraljersey.com/articles/2011/02/24/
    “MONTGOMERY: Cyberbullying play hopes to hit home and at school”

    This article is on a play that is being performed at Upper Middle school in Montgomery, NJ. The play is called “Cyberbullying: IRL (In Real Life). It is funded by their PTA. I found this article interesting because we always hear or read that schools lecture their students by discussion or even a “Q &A” but I think the middle school’s approach in acting out scenarios is a entertaining way in delivering the message of anti-cyberbullying. It’s good to see everyone play their own role in bringing awareness to this issue. Parents are helping fund this, students are acting and participating, and faculty and staff are behind the message. Mr.Violette said it best when he said, “The middle school years are about making choices and exploring possibilities. Part of this process is to consider the consequences of choices — good or not so good.”

  7. http://www.centraljersey.com/articles/2011/02/24/
    “MONTGOMERY: Cyberbullying play hopes to hit home and at school”

    This article is on a play that is being performed at Upper Middle school in Montgomery, NJ. The play is called “Cyberbullying: IRL (In Real Life). It is funded by their PTA. I found this article interesting because we always hear or read that schools lecture their students by discussion or even a “Q &A” but I think the middle school’s approach in acting out scenarios is a entertaining way in delivering the message of anti-cyberbullying. It’s good to see everyone play their own role in bringing awareness to this issue. Parents are helping fund this, students are acting and participating, and faculty and staff are behind the message. Mr.Violette said it best when he said, “The middle school years are about making choices and exploring possibilities. Part of this process is to consider the consequences of choices — good or not so good.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *