Cyberbullying: A Nanny’s Guide

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A Nanny's Guide to CyberbullyingOriginally posted here.

Cyberbullying is the intentional and repetitive mistreatment of others perpetrated through the use of technology.

Cyberbullying can cause tremendous emotional stress because it can be ubiquitous, far-reaching and is often committed anonymously. In a 2013 survey of 12-18 year olds, 24% of youth reported being cyberbullied in their lifetime[1], and 88% percent reported seeing someone else be mean or cruel on social media[2].

A nanny and other adult caregivers have a responsibility to support not only targets of cyberbullying but to help foster a sense of cyber-civility and kindness online. An important start is to have conversations with youth about the topic, which can be difficult because the majority of youth report that they don’t tell adults in their life about their experiences with cyberbullying[3].

Many youth believe there will be negative repercussions if they tell an adult about what is happening to them, especially if that adult holds power in their life. Among the range of negative repercussions youth fear are ineffective adult intervention as well as limiting or taking away their technology, which for many youth means taking away their social life.

Tapping into one’s own experiences with bullying can be useful in showing empathy and starting a conversation about addressing hurtful behavior.   From there, here are some suggestions about what adults can do to intervene effectively and positively in incidents of cyberbullying— and some things not to do.

  • Don’t tell the child to ignore the bullying. Cyberbullying can happen at any time of day with or without the actual presence of the target. Ignoring it does not stop aggressors from posting or sending mean or bias related comments. They shouldn’t reply to the messages, but rather work with them to strategize ways to address the situation.
  • Resist trying to provide a rationale for why it is happening by oversimplifying the issue or rely on false information or myths. For example, one myth is that all aggressors in bullying suffer from low self-esteem. In reality, there is data to support that people who bully actually have high opinions of themselves.
  • Provide support and encouragement, rather than blaming or shaming a young person.  Often targets are blamed for the bullying because they act in ways that are perceived as “different” or because they are unabashed about their identity.  Bullying based on differences is the result of the aggressor’s bias against that kind of difference, not because the target provoked it.
  • Don’t agree to untenable solutions.  Often youth will beg adults not to report the situation or do anything at all.  Listen to their needs and include their opinions in your process, but do not agree to solutions which do not work towards resolving this situation and ending the bullying. Threats and any exchange of nude photographs require contacting the proper authorities.
  • Be familiar with the variety of strategies available to address cyberbullying.  Confronting the aggressors is only one of the many possible solutions for addressing online cruelty. There are many ways to report and address cyberbullying, often anonymously.
  • Encourage the target to develop coping skills, but do not encourage them to retaliate physically or online. Most schools have policies that punish everyone involved in violence and retaliation usually only results in escalation.
  • Read these Internet Guidelines for more technical assistance on how to keep youth in your care safe online.

For more tips on how to prevent or intervene in incidents of bullying and to download some strategies for youth, please visit our bullying and cyberbullying resource page.

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