Anne Collier helps us understand the statistics on bullying and cyberbullying. We talk about targets, those who bully and how to respond when helping those embroiled in this situation. October is the month we work to take a stand against bullying, so this is a topic of emphasis this month for many of us.
Cathy Rubin in her Global Search for Education has posed these questions in my inbox for this month’s global search for education column: How do we help instill a sense of global citizenship, of civic-mindedness, and respect on the internet? What are some of the best strategies you have seen in practice in your school communities?
As a result, I’ve recorded this episode and one next week with a teenager, Sarah Beeghley, to help bring this issue to the forefront.
Below is an enhanced transcript, modified for your reading pleasure. All comments in the shaded green box are my own. For guests and hyperlinks to resources, scroll down.
Bullying and Cyberbullying: The Things You Need to Know
From Audio File: 169 Anne Collier @annecollier
Thursday, October 12, 2017
Vicki: Today we’re talking with my friend, Anne Collier @annecollier, about how we can reduce cyberbullying.
So, Anne, how bad is cyberbullying now?
Current bullying and cyberbullying statistics
Ann: Well, I think that it’s really important to be clear that it’s far from the epidemic that we sometimes hear about in the news media.
There was a major update from the National Academy last year that looked at what’s really going on here. We do know that it’s still less of a problem than in-person bullying, that the range that the National Academy found for in-person school-based bullying is 18-31% of U.S. young people have experienced it or (been) affected by it. And for cyberbullying, it’s 7-15%.
So they looked at a whole range of research – lots of different studies – and that was the range of kids who were affected by it, in both cases.
Vicki: That’s still too many. I mean it’s… roughly 3 in 10 in face-to-face…
Vicki: And almost 2 in 10 cyberbullying.
How do we help kids who are targets?
Some educators tend to just flip out and say, “Take away the phone! Take away the phone! Turn it off!”
What do we do that’s rational – that works?
Ann: Yeah. Well, that’s such an important question!
And it really isn’t as much about technology as it is about humanity. Right?
It’s a behavioral thing, and what we see on devices and on screens is kind of just sort of the tip of the iceberg. It’s just a freeze frame of what’s going on in a peer relationship, right, or a peer group.
Ann: And usually it involves school, right, because most of kids’ waking hours and most of their social lives revolve around school.
So it’s really important for us to think about what’s going on with the kids. Taking away devices is – gosh – not even a band-aid, really. It doesn’t even really change the symptom. So we’ve got to work on the relationships instead.
The biggest mistakes educators can make when dealing with bullying
Vicki: You’ve worked with all kinds of organizations to combat this problem of bullying and cyberbullying.
When an educator is trusted enough by a kid or a parent to find out what’s happening, what is the worst thing that can we can do?
Ann: Overreact… Or try to take matter entirely into their own hands.
Because bullying and cyberbullying are about a loss of dignity and a loss of control from the child.
Ann: Adults can really aggravate the problem by just trying to fix things themselves.
Ann: So the most important thing we can do is know that every situation or case is as unique as the people involved. You’ve kind of got to get to the bottom of what’s going on among those people. There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Vicki: Right. You know, one of the things that you and I have talked about before is that they used to say, “Stop, Block, and Tell.”
But I always say, “Stop, Screenshot, Block, and Tell.” Getting those screenshots is so important!
And once you block, sometimes you lose all that data… so you can’t say and show what’s happening.
Ann: Yeah. It’s really important to have some evidence if a child needs a screenshot, or needs to take a picture of a screen with another device, or whatever. Yeah, it’s good to have evidence. And it is good to tell and help kids that that’s not tattling. It’s about seeking help. And that’s really important.
What really helps the targets of bullying
They also tell us in research done actually with victims of bullying is that what helps them the most is to be really heard, to be really listened to. Whether that’s a peer, like a bystander being an upstander, or just a friend being a friend, or it’s an adult that they turn to. (It’s) that we really listen and kind of understand that it’s a process, that there isn’t as I said before a “quick fix.”
Vicki: You know, I lived it for five years. I know this. I know it! I don’t know what I would have done if my parents hadn’t listened because sometimes you have to go through it to get to it. You have to go through it to get to the solution. It’s not something you can wave a magic wand and fix, you know?
Ann: Yeah, and really listening to them and going through the process with them – rather than taking matters into our own hands – helps them see that they matter. It helps them get to hope. They see that they’re not alone and that this will pass. If we can help them with that, that is really going far toward really resolving the situation.
Vicki: So you’ve talked about, “Let’s not overreact.”
Let’s not think we can have a cookie-cutter approach, that everything is the same.
And to really listen.
Do you think there are some challenges that educators have as we deal with cyberbullying – and even bullying?
Educators can deal with these issues because it isn’t as much about technology as most educators think
Ann: I do. I think that very often — those of us who didn’t grow up with these technologies and media — think that this is a technology issue.
So we think that we’re unfamiliar with what’s involved, we’re not trained for this. And that’s simply not true because it’s a human thing more than it’s a technological thing.
We are trained. We do know how to work with kids. We do understand child development. We can use those tools and skill and that knowledge that we have to help our children.
How do we help children in the middle of a mass attack?
Vicki: How can you help when a child is in the middle of the situation, and it really is a mass bullying type of attack going on, and it feels like it’s everywhere. Like it feels like it’s on every social media platform, everywhere they go at school, and they don’t feel like there is an escape. What can we do to kind of take a little bit of the pressure off in that circumstance so that we can get through it?
I’ve been there, and I know how hard it is. If I couldn’t have gone home and petted my dog and been away from it, I don’t know how I would have made it — with social media and not being able to get away from it.
Ann: Well, I think we do need to shut down the devices sometimes. I think we need to help children kind of cut through that FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). They don’t like the drama any more than we do. There are always kids… I run a social media helpline for schools now, and what we’ve found is that most of the cases that come to us through school administrators come to the school administrators through the students themselves.
So there are always students who get sick of this crap and want to fix it and want it to go away.
We need to work with our students to make that happen. We can do that by reporting abuse in apps and services, and we can use them as our allies. Especially student leaders. I think we need to remember that there’s a digital component now to leadership and citizenship. Those students want to help, and so we need to look at those resources that we have… and work with them.
Vicki: So here’s the flip side of the coin…
I understand the – I’m not going to say “victim”. Victim is not the right word to use. I like to say, “survivor.”
Vicki: You know, you made it through. You lived it.
Ann: Yep, you were a target.
OK, so Anne, let’s take a different approach for just a moment.
We’ve talked about the person who’s the target.
How do we help the parents of kids who are bullying understand?
Let’s talk about the kids who are doing this, and helping the parents of the children who are participating in this behavior to understand and handle it.
You know, a lot of times parents will make excuses and say, “Oh, kids are kids. This happened when I was (young). Bullying has been around forever. But they’re not really bullying. This is just what kids do.”
How do we help the children? The statistics of those who bully are actually scarier than being a target. If I had to pick, I would pick to be the target. Those who bully tend to really have some bad things happen in their lives.
But how do we help the parents of those who are participating in this behavior understand how to help their children not do this?
Ann: I don’t know if there’s a clear answer to that when the parents involved are determined to believe that their children are great, that their children don’t have a problem.
I think we see examples sometimes of parents who are bullying, themselves. They’re modeling that behavior for their kids. So they’re in denial about anybody victimizing anybody.
I don’t think there’s a clear answer or a blanket answer to that question. We’ve got to try to work with those parents as best we can, to the extent that they’re open to understanding what’s going on and the impacts on some of the kids – generalizing the situation a little bit, rather than blaming.
If we ourselves stay away from targeted blaming, then generally the conversation can open up a little bit. But we’ve got to test the waters, right? We have to understand where the parents are coming from, first, before we can have a calm, rational conversation.
Vicki: Yeah. And it’s tough.
So as we finish up, Anne, could you give us sort of a 30-second platform speech about the importance of actively working with this all year long?
We can’t just talk about bullying once a year: it is a year-long thing
I mean, October is Anti-Bullying Month. But we can’t pick up the mantle one month out of the year. It is something we have to live.
So could you kind of inspire us to help lead the charge with helping us focus on this topic all year long?
Ann: This really is something that we have to live. It’s about human relations. It is all year long and all life long, I think.
The research shows that the real solution — especially at the high school level when we really don’t know how to make bullying prevention work in grades 9-12 – that what the real solution really is positive school climate.
That’s a community-wide thing. That starts with helping teachers feel safe to keep classrooms safe places for students to learn and collaborate. So the whole school community has to be involved – not really just in bullying prevention, but in creating a school culture where everybody can thrive.
Vicki: And that’s so important.
So, educators, I do think it’s good for us to research this topic deeply, bring it back to the forefront of our mind – at least once a year so that we can read the latest research, read the latest information.
But we do also have to know that 3 in 10 kids? That’s unacceptable.
Almost 2 in 10? That’s unacceptable.
It is so many children in our schools. I just ask for you to please be part of the solution.
Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford
Bio as submitted
Anne Collier is the founder and executive director of The Net Safety Collaborative, the national nonprofit organization that runs iCanHelpline.org, the U.S.’s new social media helpline for schools.
A youth advocate with more than 20 years’ experience researching, writing and speaking about young digital media users, Anne has served on three national task forces on Internet safety and currently serves on the Trust & Safety advisory boards of Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. Based with her family in the Seattle area, she blogs at NetFamilyNews.org.
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