This week, we’re featuring an interview series with Vanessa Rogers, an experienced and highly regarded teacher and youth worker, and author of the recent book, Cyberbullying: Activities to Help Children and Teens to Stay Safe in a Texting, Twittering, Social Networking World.
Today, Vanessa discusses why engaging with social technology can help parents and teachers prevent cyberbullying.
It could be argued that this generation are the first real ‘cyber citizens'; certainly from nursery school onwards they have been introduced to the cyber highway and the infinite wonders of the web. For many young people social networking, such as Facebook or Bebo, is a very important part of their life. It offers them the ability to talk, share photos, music and interests – all from their own home or school. Particularly for those young people living in rural areas these sites offer a whole social life that they would be unable to enjoy in real life. In short, young people aren’t going to give it up lightly, no matter what the potential dangers are, and nor should they be expected to.
Instead, parents/carers and professionals should make sure they have at least a basic understanding of the technology involved and remain curious about the time young people spend online, asking questions and checking out what they are doing, thereby helping them to take responsibility for their online actions, without demonizing or spreading panic. Young people should be reminded that with the freedom digital technology offers, must come the responsibility to develop good online behaviour that offers respect for everyone, which is what this resource pack is all about.
Teachers can help young people develop ‘cyber manners’ by making it clear that cyberbullying in any form is unacceptable and that it will not be tolerated. By creating a peer environment that sanctions against, rather than ignoring or condoning hurtful actions, clear messages are sent to both the victims and perpetrators of bullying behaviour. Schools and other learning providers should have cyberbullying within their anti-bullying policy and clear sanctions should be put in place and widely publicized to both pupils, parents/carers and teachers.
Equally parents should take steps to ensure computer using at home is both safe and respectful of others. Using basic online filters and blocking software can help, as can agreeing online protocols and setting clear boundaries that reinforce what is acceptable and what isn’t. Parents should also role model good cyber behaviour themselves, for example not getting into text arguments or joining in with their children’s online fights.
Instead, both parents/carers and professionals should take opportunities to explore what ‘cyberbullying’ actually is, build awareness and victim empathy, and ultimately encourage young people to take responsibility for their online behaviour in the same way that they are in the ‘real’ world.
Vanessa Rogers is a qualified teacher and youth worker with over ten years’ experience within Hertfordshire Youth Service, UK, both at practitioner and management levels. Prior to becoming a nationally acclaimed youth work consultant, Vanessa managed a wide range of services for young people including a large youth centre and targeted detached projects for Hertfordshire County Council. Vanessa has written a number of popular resource books aimed at those working with young people, and she also has a column in ‘Youth Work Now’, a supplement of the national magazine ‘Children and Young People Now’. Vanessa’s website can be found at www.vanessarogers.co.uk.
Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2010.