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