How Can We Protect Our Children from Cyberbullying?
A large part of the cyberbullying of children and youth is not due to exposure to strangers or visiting inappropriate websites. Rather, it occurs in apparently innocent, popular apps such as WhatsApp and TikTok whereas the bullies are mostly classmates, teammates, and even close friends.
Most of the children and teenagers who are bullied online are harassed by children they are familiar with in apparently innocent apps like WhatsApp. Online violence sometimes derives from a lack of awareness or insufficient social-emotional skills. Yet online bullying is often caused by the youth's desire to follow the norms of their peer group.
Further, cyberbullying is often perceived as a means of moving up the social ladder. A survey conducted in Israel shows that approximately 69% of the youths believe that those who are involved in cyberbullying are particularly popular.
Our groundbreaking sociological framework considers inappropriate social norms as the main cause of cyberbullying. We consider it as a type of 'reputational violence' used by children and youth, in order to improve their social status. Hence, cyberbullying can be reduced by using the influence of the classmates themselves, (rather than an authoritative figure). Our effort focuses, therefore, on reducing the aggressors' social motivation by empowering the silent majority and encouraging group pressure to resist against cyberbullying.
We do this by the following means:
Encouraging a social-emotional discourse of children's personal experiences in the Internet.
Using peer pressure to negatively brand violent acts online.
Using peer influence for promotion of prosocial norms in the Internet.
Empowering Bystanders to act against cyberbullying and report about these incidents. We offer practical solutions that will allow harnessing the power of the group to oppose such events collectively.
Activity and collaborations in the field of cyberbullying prevention:
Matzmichim Center has been operating for more than a decade in reducing and preventing cyberbullying among children and youth and advancing norms of positive behavior in Israel's social media.
As part of our center's activities, we conducted workshops, trainings, and lectures about preventing cyberbullying in front of tens of thousands of students, educators, and parents.
Mr. Yony Tsouna, Matzmichim's CEO, gave a lecture at a United Nations International Conference, held by the Human Rights Council about cyberbullying against children.
We have collaborated, over the years, with leading national organizations in this field (the Israel Center for a Safe Internet, and the Israel Police's National Task Force for Protection of Children Online) in the development of educational content, lectures, symposiums, and panels of peer learning.
We took part in a unique project of Israel's National Insurance Institute that aims at reducing cyberbullying among at-risk students.
We took part in the project #Me_toon (toning down the popular discourse) in which several Israeli organizations advanced positive, non-violent communication in Israel's social media. As part of this project, we have trained educational teams to tone down the online discourse.
In 2017, we initiated the first Israeli educational conference about dealing with cyberbullying and reducing online harassment among children and youths.
In 2018, Matzmichim Center has published Yony Tsouna’s (Matzmichim’s CEO) book Uplifters in Social Media. This book provides educators and parents with ways to handle and reduce cyberbullying among children and youths.
Workshops for Children
Our one-day workshop is designed to empower educators and students who fight online aggression. The workshop covers relates to diverse online aggression, including posting revealing photos, violent conversations in WhatsApp groups, etc. It discusses the impact of social media on students' personal and social lives while encouraging an open dialogue about these young people's emotional experiences in the digital world and providing practical strategies for reducing, preventing, and handling online aggression.
This workshop not only creates awareness but also teaches the children how to cooperate with each other opposing cyberbullying, how to intervene, and how to report the authorities about online aggression.
Through advanced guidance techniques, games, and emotional social discourse, our moderators encourage the group members to define and adopt appropriate behavioral norms, and to take upon themselves a moral responsibility for the protection of all group members who are involved in social media.
At Our Workshop...
We will create an emotional discourse in class that stimulates a sincere sharing of students' experiences in the virtual world.
We will talk about various kinds of online aggression, ways of coping with them, situations in which an intervention is required, and ways of reporting disturbing incidents.
We will comprehend the ways in which social media affects our social and personal lives.
We will provide the educators with practical tools for speaking and moderating a discussion with students about cyberbullying, even without knowing all apps in depth.
Student feedback: Following my participation in the workshop, I will…
Working with Educators
Social media and smartphones highly affect our classes. Various phenomena of cyberbullying such as shaming, offensive memes, inappropriate content, insults and even boycotting diffuse into daily life and affect the school climate.
As pedagogues, we have to deal with afterschool incidents as well and provide our students with tools for coping with these occurrences. These demands appear in a rapidly changing technological space that we don't always understand or are familiar with its latest developments.
Matzmichim Center offers training and lectures for educators about ways of creating positive norms among students who are involved in social media and preventing cyberbullying.
In our training, we will address the following questions:
How does social media affect behavioral norms in class and make them more aggressive?
How to lead an open dialogue with students and provide them with tools for coping with cyberbullying?
What are the particular factors that stimulate the escalation of conflicts and online brutality?
How to encourage our students to unite and collectively resist cyberbullying norms?
How to create a sense of personal responsibility and motivation to intervene on behalf of other youths who are cyberbullied?
Are you interested in training your educational staff?
Please contact us by email email@example.com
Information and Useful Advice for Educators and Parents
Things We Need to Know about Cyberbullying
Social media became the new social playground for children and youths, a playground without adults' presence and surveillance. Consequently, aggressive behavioral norms are generated in these media while the children do not always realize how problematic these norms are.
Picking on participants in WhatsApp groups, humiliating reactions to photos and videos uploaded to Instagram and TikTok, sending offensive memes, non-consensual distribution of intimate images, boycotting, and ignoring are various manifestations of cyberbullying.
As educators and parents, we fear of extreme incidents yet it is important to be aware of the influence of the Internet on children and youths, whether they are victims, aggressors, or bystanders.
A child who is involved in online interactions that include harassment and abusive statements, or watching a video that abuses her/his classmate, feels anxious and helpless.
Many children report that they do not intervene in shaming and online bullying situations, because they do not know what to do and how to act.
Cyberbullying is unlimited in terms of time and space. Children were abused by their peers before the digital age, of course, but nowadays, bullying often becomes a 24/7 humiliation that invades the child's or adolescent's own room. The technological easiness of documenting the bullying by video and distributing disturbing images makes the problem much worse.
The available technological means of communication and distribution are more powerful than ever and the children do not always realize the power they have. Cyberbullying stems from derives lack of awareness of the intensity of their brutality. Children and youths do not understand the heavy consequences of publicity, the implications of their deeds on the victim, and their legal and criminal aspects. Thus, they eventually have no choice but to deal with the consequences of their illegal actions and the guilty feelings they would have all their life, and, in certain cases, their punishment by the State's authorities.
What Cyberbullying Got to Do with Social Status?
69% of the youth think that those who engage in cyberbullying are 'popular'.
Online violence among children and youth does not only stem from aggressiveness or lack of awareness, but also from the fact that it is seen as a means an effective means of improving popularity.
Due to the desired social status among the child's peers, children do not easily admit that they are victimized by cyberbullying ("I don't want to be regarded as weak, coward and softy"). Additionally, some bystanders might adopt the aggressive behavior, in order to adjust themselves to what they consider as a group norm.
Why don't children report when they are victimized by cyberbullying?
"If only we knew about it…"
"How come she didn't tell us?"
Research held in Israel and other countries suggests that children tend to complain much less about cyberbullying than about in-person bullying (Boniel-Nissim and Rolider 2015).
There are various reasons for this finding, including the children's fear of parental intervention ("They'll embarrass me," "They'll take my smartphone away," "They'll say it's all my fault"); a fear that the situation might escalate; a fear of their peers who might stigmatize them as collaborators with the school administration; and because the young victims occasionally do not realize that it's absolutely legit to complain about bullying.
What Can I Do as a Parent Who Yearns to Protect My Child from Cyberbullying?
Make an effort to download and use the main apps your child uses, at least for two weeks. In this way, you will realize what your offspring experience and effectively transmit a message that you are the most relevant address for talking and advising about cyberbullying issues.
Do not preach. Children and Youths dislike preaching and lecturing. Try to remember that social media also has some positive, enjoyable aspects. Show some interest when you speak to your children, ask them questions, and do not preach.
Share your thoughts with your children. When we tell them what's happening in our lives, our children become more attentive, without defensiveness and resistance. Tell your children about an embarrassing experience you had online (like sending a message to the wrong WhatsApp group) or an incident in which you read an offensive comment someone wrote and you regret not intervening, or maybe tell them about your involvement in an Internet debate that escalated.
Ask them questions about other people, not about themselves: "How is the atmosphere in your class's WhatsUp group? Have you encountered children who are nasty in WhatsUp but never dare to speak this way in person? Do you know any children whose Instagram profile does not really show who they are?
Make sure they are aware of various ways of intervention and reporting, including ways to report to organizations that offer support in cyberbullying situations, or writing an anonymous note to the class's educator.
Speak to them about privacy in social media and emphasize that cyberbullying and non-consensual distribution of intimate images are illegal.
Encourage them to follow their intuition. If they are bystanders who encounter a sort of behavior that makes them feel uncomfortable then they are not overreacting, and they are not the only ones who care about what they see and feel this way.