A Digital Citizen Knows How to Handle Cyberbullying
A digital citizen understands what cyberbullying is, knows how to prevent it, and is equipped with strategies to respond should he or she be bullied, or observe someone else being bullied online.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is: the use of digital tools to bully. It is identifiable by four distinct characteristics. It is:
• ONLINE: It happens using digital tools.
• INTENTIONAL: It is done on purpose.
• REPEATED: It happens more than once.
• HARMFUL: It is intended to cause harm.
Some people confuse “digital drama” with “cyberbullying.” It is important to know what digital drama is too:
• Misunderstandings, arguments, or hurtful comments shared on digital devices.
Although digital drama may not be “harmful,” it can certainly feel just as hurtful to the target.
According to the PEW Internet Research Center, “90% of social media-using teens who have witnessed online cruelty say they have ignored mean behavior on social media, and more than a third (35%) have done this frequently.” This is unfortunate, because according to DoSomething.org, more than half the time bullying stops within ten seconds of someone intervening. This is why it is critical to teach young digital citizens how to be “upstanders” when and if they witness someone being bullied online. It’s easy! They can give comfort to the target, stand up to the bully (not always easy to do), ask a trusted adult to intervene, or report the incident to the platform where it took place.
Watch the following video with your children:
The most effective way to curb cyberbullying is to stop it before it starts.
Building empathy in young children is a delightfully simple cyberbullying-prevention strategy. How to do this? Find and tell your young children stories with strong characters and moral lessons built in. You can start with some age-old favorites, like Aesop’s fables: The Tortoise and the Hare (teaches persistence and humility), The Ant and the Grasshopper (teaches personal responsibility), or The Honest Woodcutter (teaches that honesty is the best policy).
You can tell these stories the old-fashioned way, by reading a book or from memory. Or you can read an ebook on a digital device. Any way you do it, don’t ask your children too many questions about the stories you tell. Don’t ask for their analysis or judgment either. Instead, let the moral lessons sink in.
Even as children move through elementary school and beyond, they will still love a good story and will learn a lot more from a captivating tale than a boring lecture. Share rich stories about heroes, honorable people, role models, and other real-life upstanders.
In the book “Raising Humans in a Digital World,” Sameer Hinduja of the Cyberbullying Research Center tells Graber that he and his partner Justin Patchin are fans of stories, because they “cultivate empathy among youth to make sure they can emotionally understand the harm they can inflict with some of their actions online.” Here are some of the books they recommend: El Deafo, Wonder, Same Sun Here, Inside Out and Back Again, Night (by Elie Wiesel), Where the Red Fern Grows, and Out of My Mind.