It’s October already, so National Cyber Security Awareness Month (#NCSAM2014) and National Bullying Prevention Month have arrived – offering a good reminder that, in today’s increasingly user-driven digital environments, digital safety and security depend on all Net users of all ages. Care and respect for each other’s property, privacy, identity, emotional safety and digital security – just about every online representation of us and our lives – increases our own and those of our peers and communities. Today I’ll focus on the human side of security, marking the start of this high-awareness month with a sampler of all we’ve learned about bullying online and offline….
So much wisdom and sound practice has emerged since social media reignited concerns about social cruelty – by making it more visible, not more common, than ever. [In fact, research released by the US Centers for Disease Control this past June shows a small decrease in cyberbullying between 2011 and 2013. Last year it was down to 14.8% of students having experienced “electronic bullying” in the 12 months prior to the survey, which means a huge majority – 85.2% – had not been cyberbullied during that year.]
We know so much more now, from the prevention to the intervention parts of the solution spectrum. First and foremost, we know that all solution development needs input from students themselves.
It has been quoted before (including here), but I’ll quote it again: “We,” wrote the authors of the milestone Youth Voice Project that surveyed more than 13,000 US students in grades 5-12, “are concerned that too much work in this field has focused on adults telling youth what bullying is and what to do to address bullying behavior.
“In reality, youth are the primary experts on what is happening at school and on what works best to prevent peer maltreatment…. We see authentic youth involvement as key to success in bullying prevention.” This has been expressed in European and Australian research circles too.
Here’s just a sampler of other game-changing insights research has turned up since the advent of “cyberbullying”:
- Bullying’s not normative, but social rivalry is. A study involving 3,722 8th-to-10th-graders in three North Carolina counties looked at the social pecking-order aspect of the power imbalance involved in bullying, introducing a shift in focus from individual to social context. For another perspective on this, see psychologist Carl Pickhardt’s piece in PsychologyToday.com.
- One-time meanness more common than the repeated kind: For both offenders and targets, “experiencing one episode of bullying is more common than experiencing bullying repeatedly,” the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center reported, in the results of an important study of students in grades 3-5. One-time meanness could be many things we all experience, not just bullying: e.g., an expression of stress, anger or frustration, an outburst on one side an argument, a prank or act of misguided humor, etc. (and technically, it’s not even bullying). In a reference to resilience building, MARC added that, while “efforts to control bullying may often be successful, it is also possible that many children learn, from one episode, how to avoid future episodes.” And more on resilience…
- No resilience without risk: ” “Risk and resilience go hand in hand, as resilience can only develop through exposure to risks or stressful events,” reported EU Kids Online. “Consequently, as children learn how to adequately cope with (online) adversities, they develop (online) resilience.” More thoughts on how to grow resilience in this about a TED Talk by game designer Jane McGonigal and this one by her sister, Stanford University health psychologist Kelly McGonigal.