October is National Bullying Prevention Month. What’s happening at your sites this month – and throughout the year – to help students “be the change” and stand up against bullying and cyberbullying?
If your district is like mine, then I’m guessing that cyberbullying is a huge issue, starting at the elementary level, escalating exponentially in middle school, and continuing on into high school as a colossally destructive force.
As part of my job (tech integration specialist), I do Internet safety workshops for parents. During a cyberbullying session last week at an elementary site, a parent confronted the principal with an incident that had happened during the school day. The parent was taking care of a 3rd grader (not her own child), who stayed home due to illness. The child received a mean-spirited text message, with extremely inappropriate language, sent from a classmate – during recess time. (And, yes, we do have a “no cell phones during the school day district policy.”) At our middle schools, a huge chunk of a counselor’s day is spent dealing with cyberbullying issues – with sexting increasingly the seed for incidents that can so quickly spiral out of control. Facebook “burn pages” at our high schools pop up just as quickly as an administrator is able to have one removed.
OK, so from primary grades through high school, we have a problem. Fortunately, the resources for educators to bring cyberbullying into the school day and right into the core curriculum are plentiful, excellent, and growing. Here are some of my current favorites:
Common Sense Media – Free, age-appropriate, thematically grouped, and updated almost weekly, an outstanding resource for teachers – and parents too. Let’s take the Connected Cultures lesson Group Think (for grades 4-5) for an example. The essential question for this lesson is “How can you be an upstander when you witness cyberbullying?” I truly believe every classroom in the universe should be having conversations around this question.
Common Sense makes it easy to include parents in the conversations and activities. Like all of their lessons, Group Think includes PDF printouts for the lesson – along with parent resources, such as Cyberbullying Parent Tips, Digital Citizeship Parent Letter, and a Connected Culture Parent Video.
NetSmartz – I value and appreciate all the resources provided by NetSmartz (sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children), especially the Teens Real-Life Stories collection of videos based on actual experiences. It’s the emotional impact of stories such as You Can’t Take It Back and Cyberbullying: A Broken Friendship that I’ve watched draw in middle schoolers – and their parents.
National Holocaust education organizations – In recognition that “It’s small things that set bigger things off” (Sam Edelman), the organizations below have created some wonderful anti-bullying classroom resources.
- Museum of Tolerance – Anti-Bullying PSA: The Price of Silence – A great snippet (cell-phone style) of a schoolyard fight scene. Students will easily pick out the obvious victim, the bully, the bystanders, and upstander(s). It’s a good piece for talking about when kids have that gut feeling something is not OK, that they’d like to step across the line – or at least step away – but haven’t the courage or skill set to do so (yet). Appropriate for elementary through middle school.
- Facing History and Ourselves – As a long-time fan of Facing History and Ourselves, a site and organization dedicated to “helping classrooms and communities worldwide link the past to moral choices today,” I was thrilled to discover their new resource: Ostracism and Bullying: An Online Case Study for Educators. If you’re not familiar with Facing History, here’s a quick window into their work:
- Anti-Defamation League – Like all ADL resources, their Cyberbullying: Understanding and Adressing Online Cruelty online toolkit is excellent resource for elementary (Building a Foundation for Safe and Kind Online Communication), middle (Dealing with Social Pressures that Promote Online Cruelty) and secondary (Cyberbullying and Online Cruelty: Challenging Social Norms) levels. “Each lesson introduces age appropriate information and skills that encourage youth to think critically about Internet communication, develop empathy for others, respond constructively to cyberbullying and online aggression and interact safely on the Internet.”
National research organizations:
- Cyberbullying Research Center – The site is ” dedicated to providing up-to-date information about the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of cyberbullying among adolescents.” But it’s more than just legal information. From the downloadable activity sheets, scenarios, and quizzes to videoclip presentations from researchers Sameer Hinduja and Justin W. Patchin that are perfect for sharing with staff and parents, this is an excellent resource for better understanding the causes and consequences of cyberbullying.
- Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use – CSRIU Dirctor Nancy Willard, a regular presenter at ISTE conferences, deserves a medal for the Cyberbullying Survey she has created and posted with an invitation for educators to copy and tweak as needed. The PDF even includes a parent letter. I truly believe the survey could have a significant positive impact at school sites. As she explained in a recent interview,
“The basic format I am now recommending is that you survey students at the school location about their standards and why they adhere to these standards. Schools will find that the vast majority of students are making positive choices. Then you tell students what the majority of their peers are saying – and this should result in a greater number of them choosing to make positive choices.”
I really like Nancy’s suggestion of sharing the results on posters placed visibly around a school site. The survey questions are geared for middle and high school, but could be adapted for upper elementary grades tool.
- Researchers danah boyd and Alice Marwick, both currently with Microsoft Research and Harvard University, recently posted an op-ed for the New York Times entitled “Why Cyberbullying Rhetoric Misses the Mark.” The article is based on a new white paper that they just released called “The Drama! Teen Conflict, Gossip, and Bullying in Networked Publics.” Based on six-years of interviewing teens, they found that teens do not use the same language as adults. What an adult might label “bullying,” teens refer to as “drama.” A fascinating read!
Do you have cyberbullying resources you recommend? If so, please jump in and leave a comment. With input from readers, I hope to add to this list throughout the month. I’d like to include a section with links to lessons from the core curriculum into which teachers are weaving cyberbullying connections. Getting students to see that they need to be the change means continuing conversations, lessons, activities, and campaigns across the school year and beyond the school day.