Muddling through the blogosphere

Teaching Resilience – How parents & teachers can help stop cyberbullying


The most painful parts of watching Netsmartz‘s powerful video Your Photo Fate are the last three clips, where we watch the facial expressions change on the boy who is a target of cyberbullying, followed by the his mother’s fallen expression, and his father’s heart-sick look.

In my job as a district technology integration specialists, I am often invited to give parent workshops on digital citizenship, with cyberbullying being the topic parents most want to discuss. I’m grateful to be able to direct parents to excellent free online resources, such as Common Sense Media’s Standing Up, Not Standing By – Cyberbullying Kit for PTA leaders. The kit includes one of my favorite tip sheets for parents, providing  both background on cyberbullying and boiling it down to five essential tips to prevent cyberbullying before it happens:

Teach your kids empathy. Nothing drives home a point faster than walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. If your kids truly understand what someone else is going through, they’re less likely to bully someone — or passively witness others being bullied.

Help kids understand the line between funny and cruel. Kids’ online communication is often purposely ambiguous or accidentally cruel — both of which can lead to misunderstandings. If drama starts brewing, ask your kid to call or speak face to face with their friend to clear it up.

Make sure they talk to someone (even if it’s not you). As kids enter the middle school years, their circle of friends and trusted adults widens. Kids need a responsible adult to confide in — their school counselor, their music teacher, even the parent of a friend.Talk to your kid about who they can go to if trouble is brewing.

Help your kid be an upstander — not a bystander. Kids are hesitant to get involved, in case the bully turns their sights on them. But there are ways to allow your kid to work behind the scenes to reach out to the victim, get an adult involved, and prevent more cruel behavior.

Show your kid how to stop it. Tell kids not to respond or retaliate. Not feeding the bully can stop the cycle. And — if anything does happen — save the evidence.”

This morning, thanks to an email from Natalie Bernasconi  (Digital-ID co-curator), I read Esther Cepeda’s Defining ‘bullying’ Down article.  Just as Common Sense Media has articulated the importance of teaching empathy, Cepeda identifies an equally key concept parents – and educators – should be promoting: resilience.

More and more scientific evidence is pointing to resiliency — the ability to overcome adversity by using learned personal strengths such as independence, initiative, creativity and humor — as a key factor in reducing risky behaviors and increasing academic achievement in adolescents.

But we don’t teach resiliency in schools. Instead, society consistently reinforces the notion that every slight, every discomfort, every put-down or rejection is worthy of an outpouring of sympathy for a wronged victim. We’re teaching that mantra in schools and in workplace harassment seminars, and it encourages people who feel uncomfortable to turn on a perceived oppressor.

Guess who this harms? Not those who crave attention, sympathy or the spotlight, but the quiet among us who haven’t yet found a way to stand up to the honest-to-goodness bullies in their lives”

In looking over the Digital ID project’s Digital Citizenship Glossary, we have defined empathy (Common Sense Media’s first tip), but not resilience. My goal this week is to add not only the definition (text and audio file), but also find a short video or two to make this abstract concept more tangible.

Natalie and I came together as co-creators and curators of the Digital ID project through as long-time affiliation with the National Writing Project and our 2011 participation in the Krause Center for Innovation’s MERIT program.  As educators, we are both committed to teaching for social justice, and, therefore, frequently ask ourselves and colleagues, “How do you teach resilience?”  If you visit the Curriculum Collaborations page on the Digital ID wiki, you will see that we believe one important step is to provide our students with many samples, both fiction and non-fiction, of heroism and survival.  And from there, the next step is help students see how the ability of real-life or fictional characters to actively take steps to overcome often insurmountable challenges might help them deal with the very real challenges so many of them face before, during, and after school hours.

Any suggestions for short videos or other resources for teaching about resilience would be much appreciated!

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