So here’s the deal. If you work with kids or students, or know a kid or student, or spend time online, or have ever been bullied (or have even been the bully yourself), then you know that bullying is very real. And with kids’ exposure to the internet and social media happening at younger and younger ages, the opportunities for cyberbullying are always increasing. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics calls cyberbullying the “most common online risk for all teens”.
If you’re looking for more information on cyberbullying so as to better understand what your students are facing, StopBullying is a great resource!
Based on the research on cyberbullying, it’s 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 (including sexual), 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 an estimated 18% of students affected by cyberbullying have actually told an adult about being involved in or a victim of cyberbullying.
In his book, Hurt, author Chap Clark says, “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.