The American Academy of Pediatrics calls cyberbullying the “most common online risk for all teens”.  Take a peek at YPulse’s infograph:  Click Here

From the infograph, it is safe to conclude three things:

(1) Some of our students are being cyberbullied or know someone who is.

(2) Most students remain silent about the online bullying they experience or witness.

(3) Girls are more likely than guys to be bullied online.

So how does a SGL address the online bullying issue within their small group?

Identify the bullies and the bullied.  You know your few the best, so it shouldn’t be that difficult to figure out who are candidates to be the bullies and who are most likely to be bullied.  Spend some time assessing your student’s social media activity.  Thankfully all social media activity is public domain so it is fairly easy to identify what your few are doing online.

Clarify the forms of online bullying your few are engaged in.  Bullying online happens in all forms:  gossip, exclusion, harassment, stalking and threats.  Get clear on exactly how your students are being affected by online bullying so you can be prepared to talk about it together.

Create a safe place that encourages the bullies or bullied to share.  Students need a safe place to share, because they are hurting.  Remember only 18% of students affected by cyberbullying have actually told an adult about being involved in or a victim of cyberbullying.

In his book, Hurt, Chap Clark states:   “Adolescents have suffered the loss of safe relationships and intimate settings that served as the primary nurturing community for those traveling the path from child to adult…”

Today’s adolescents don’t have many trusted adults in their lives to help them navigate life, spiritual journeys and hurts.

You, the SGL, are most likely the only trusted, non-parental adult in the lives of your few who has enough relational capital to talk to them about cyberbullying. That’s why it is important to assure your few that if cyberbullying is happening to them, not only can they come to you, but you will do your best to find appropriate help.

Cyberbullying is a new and dangerous phenomenon. And while you may not have dealt with it as an adolescent, those you are leading see it and possibly experience it every day. So read up on the topic. Get in on the conversation. Identify those most affected. Clarify the situation. And be that safe place your few can come when cyberbullying happens to them.

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Jeremy holds a B.A. in Communication from University of Minnesota as well as a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary. He has a passion for connecting with and learning from student pastors, deliberatively researching, reading, and blogging about student ministry and family ministry, dabbling with online technology and experimenting in ministry lifestyle design and productivity in the church. Jeremy and his wife, Mikaela, live in Alpharetta, Georgia, where he serves as an Orange Specialist with the XP3 Student team.

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