Crowd Sourcing Support

Often times, when we talk about bullying, we focus on the bully him/herself and the victim of the bullying.

Photo 1

I got this picture from one of the students in @tabletj‘s class. They were making anti-bullying posters. I saw this one, I laughed, loved it, photographed it, and enjoyed it more after I cropped it. Only if life were this simple. Someone bullies you, you just say “Stop” and it ends.

At my previous school, the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) department ran a program (I don’t know if they developed it or put together resources) called the “Bully Busters.” The idea was to train students to recognize bullying behaviors and standing up to them. (Great resource and definitions can be found here) However, this is not that different from most other bullying advice: Tell them to stop, if that doesn’t work walk away. Then, ask for help. What made this program different was the emphasis placed on the bystanders (which I agreed with). Not only did we have to train all students to stand up to bullies when they are being victimized, but as bystanders, they must also stand up against bullies. It becomes the responsibility of the class or community to voice that bullying behavior is not acceptable.

Some rights reserved by Terry Freedman

So, I thoughts around how now with social media and emails, bullies have extended their reach on how much and how often they can harass a victim. Often times, other students know about these incidents especially if it is happening in relatively public areas (facebook, group emails etc.). The first step is prevent students from inadvertently exhibiting bullying behavior. The way I try to talk to the students about this is through T.H.I.N.K. (read more about this in my previous post, “Looking Forward with Footprints“), with an emphasis on the “K: Is it kind?” I’ve discussed with the students about how tone and facial expressions is hard to communicate through written text (even with emoticons). What’s important is what is the kindest way you can share your thoughts, and do it.

Then, thinking about the victim of a bullying incident (cyber or not) is first to confront them and tell them that they need to stop. I teach my students to use “I statements” which are statements that start with “I” and outline exactly what behavior another person is doing and asking them to stop. For example, a strong “I statement” would be something like “I don’t like it when you tease my by repeating my name in a funny way. Please stop.” I think being specific is important so that the other person knows exactly what behavior needs correcting. If this does not work, the students should seek an adult for support.

I think the most powerful aspect, again, is the power of the bystanders. Even if a student comes for help from a teacher and a consequence is given to the bully, what about when the teacher or adult doesn’t see it? That’s when creating a supportive classroom community comes in really handy. Giving a students power and letting them know that they must stand up for what is right already creates a layer of protection and works as a preventative measure of being a bully. If one person stands up to support a victim, it makes it easier for others to join.

Some rights reserved by jdn
We can’t stand by and just watch.

So that’s easier to do when the bullying is happening in front of someone. But, how do we extend this support to cyber bullying?

I’m trying to think about how the bystander for cyber bullying can be fought against in the digital realm, but I can’t think of what to do. If everyone starts posting messages to the bully saying they need to stop, won’t the bully feel like he/she is being bullied? To a certain degree, I feel like the bully should get a taste of their own medicine, but is it right to fight fire with fire?

Anyone have any ideas?

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6 thoughts on “Crowd Sourcing Support

  1. Great post. I like how you focus on our responsibilities, even when we are simply bystanders.

    I wonder if a “support but don’t attack” approach might work to keep us from seeming like bullies ourselves.

    Robin

  2. I like Social Emotional Learning (SEL) idea. Is that common in a lot of schools these days? When I was teaching chemistry in Canada that did not exist. Go BullyBUSTERS

  3. Hi again, Akio!

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post. It’s interesting how all of our fellow COETAILers take different approaches and routes with this topic of cyberbullying.

    Yours is especially intriguing for me at the moment in the context of completing my Course 2 final project. My collaborators and I included a clause in our RUA that asks students to report other students who exhibit poor digital citizenship (in any way, including cyberbullying) to the leadership team at school. When I first read this statement in our RUA, my first reaction was that it might sort of empower a culture of tattlers, which I often feel isn’t exactly the right message to send to kids. On the other hand, however, I see the need in it, especially at the elementary and middle school levels (I teach HS) and in the context of cyberbullying especially, because there are so many fine lines and ambiguities…

    What do you think– Do you think that including something like this in an RUA dodges the actual problem by involving adults and turns kids into snitches? Or do you think that it’s a logical, necessary solution to problem-solving for kids?

    I’ll continue to think about more peer-to-peer solutions to your questions.

    Thanks,

    Jess

  4. I’m not sure continuing the dialogue in an online space would always be the most effective way to deal with cyberbullying. I have seen students take a screenshot of online behavior and bring it in to school to deal with it – this works out really well because we have the evidence that something happened, but it’s stopping the conversation – almost like walking away. That could be a strategy to try.

  5. @Robin – I do like the phrasing of “support but don’t attack.” We would probably have to define what support and attack can mean…
    @Dwayne – I’m not sure if there’s an explicit curriculum for SEL in all schools, but things like Responsive Classroom is making its way into classrooms in my school.
    @Jess – I do think including something about the responsibility of keeping the online community safe for everyone is an important piece to have in an RUP/AUP
    @Kim – I agree, I don’t think kids should be posting their responses to cyber bullying at school. I like the idea of students bringing in a screenshot. Pressing a pause button and using that as a teachable moment with evidence is a great idea. I’ll try it out.

    I’m also thinking about how we want to teach about cyber bullying as a preventative measure rather than a reactive measure… hmm…

  6. Hi
    I really like that simple poster of Stupid and Stop at the top of your post. It is actually very clever, although I am sure was innocently created. Around my school recently we have seen the sudden increase of T.H.I.N.K posters, which are effective and often make people stop and read them. Simple and true. I remember when I was at school we were always taught to ‘ignore the bullying and they will eventually stop’ which now seems absurd. To think young people should just ignore until the bully hopefully gets bored neither solves or prevents the underlying reason why it happens. Online cyber bullying is another outlet for individuals to attack another, the underlying reasons have not changed – just the format.

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