While we know that, unfortunately, there is nothing “easy” about reducing bullying and cyberbullying, Elizabeth Englander, Ph.D. (Director, Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center ["Marc"]) and Kristin Schank (Graduate Assistant, Marc) have put together a very helpful set of tips for educators to help prevent bullying in schools and online.
The full text of the 10 tips can be accessed at eschoolnews.com (you may need to register to view the entire article, but registering is quick and easy so don’t be put off!). Briefly, the 10 tips are:
- Keep “responding” and “reporting” separate in your mind: Even if it is not a “reportable” behavior, “respond” to it.
- Focus on the small stuff: “Gateway behaviors facilitate or reinforce bullying—they make disrespect seem normal (which facilitates bullying) or even rewarded (like laughing along with a bully).”
- The cyber stuff: Approach and Coach: “Although kids are comfortable with technology, they are not necessarily knowledgeable about it—don’t confuse the two. We all need to talk with kids about technology. Don’t worry about how much you know or don’t know.”
- The rumor mill is still the leader in social problems: “ In our research, bullies tell us that spreading rumors online is the by far the most common thing they do to others. So if we do anything to stop bullying, let’s be sure to focus on the rumors.”
- Talk to kids about how to handle things when they get mad at each other: “Kids today often vent electronically when they’re mad, instead of trying to resolve the problem. Faced with the choice between a difficult face-to-face conversation, versus the ease of venting online, they might often conclude that it makes more sense to go electronic. The problem is that by doing so, they usually escalate the conflict instead of resolving it. In bygone days, kids didn’t need to be coached on the benefits of talking face to face when they’re upset—but today they often do. In our research, girls particularly showed a tendency to do this.”
- Don’t neglect elementary school children: ” … the seeds of bullying are sown at a young age … The good news is that young elementary students are very willing and able to internalize rules about behavior. Thus, it is important to teach them that being a good person on the computer is just as important as being a good person on the playground.”
- To get the kids to report, you must connect with them emotionally on some level: ”We’re not saying you should be best friends with your students; only that your students need to know that you care about them and their welfare. Kids today are still reporting bullying to adults at very low levels. Boys particularly, in our research, are not reporting to educators. Why aren’t kids reporting? More than 80 percent of the boys and girls in our research revealed that when they did report, no action was taken as a result. They took a big risk in “telling,” but as far as they knew, nothing was done. Of course, confidentiality laws (both federal and, in many states, local) prohibit educators from telling a person specifics about any action taken against another student. But these laws don’t prohibit you from telling a student, “We’re not ignoring your report. We are working on it,” and that’s exactly what reporters need to hear.”
- Girls might need particular attention, socially: “In our research, male cyber bullies tended to attack strangers, acquaintances, or kids who were friends long ago. Girls, on the other hand, tended to attack their friends or those with whom they were recently friends. This is a finding of particular concern, because it means that girls are attacking the very foundations of their social support.”
- Take a moment to reinforce patient, kind, and friendly behaviors: “When you notice a child being particularly good-hearted—especially in a potentially difficult situation, like when helping a classmate understand something, or sticking up for another child—be sure to let them know that you personally appreciate and admire their behavior. Better yet, use a classroom recognition system for the students who behave so well.”
- Enlist the kids in your efforts: “Although adults can be key players, it’s the kids themselves who are the ultimate arbiters of their group’s social behavior. Ask your students what kinds of bullying problems they notice, and what rules they believe should address those problems. Then sit back and watch them enforce their own rules with enthusiasm!”
About Marc: “The Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center is an academic center at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. [It offers] K-12 schools in Massachusetts free programs and services by running a training program for graduate and undergraduate students in higher education. Everyone benefits: Future educators receive unique field training, and K-12 schools receive high-quality, no-cost programs and services. [The] web site (www.MARCcenter.org) offers many free downloads, games, tips, and curricula for all schools, and parent downloads that are available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese” (bold emphasis added).