C’mon everybody – get writing!

Vanessa Rogers is the author of Working with Young Women, Working with Young Men, Let’s Talk Relationships, 101 Things to Do on the Street amongst others. In this article she gives her writing tips for aspiring authors. And, if you’re feeling inspired feel free to send in your proposals to post@jkp.com


They say that there is a book in all of us, and judging from the number of emails and Tweets I get from people in the youth work and social education field inspired to write their own, it would certainly seem to be true. So this is a collective response to those of you who have asked me for ideas of how to start writing, and to share my personal experiences of writing a book. I hope it is useful – but please remember this is only my way, which I made up as I stumbled along the way.

When I start a new resource book it is because the subject holds a compelling fascination for me. For example, Working with Young Women (Jessica Kingsley Publishers ISBN 9781849050951) came out of lots of girls’ groups that I was facilitating at the time. The young women came to the group because they had been identified as at risk of offending and aggressive behaviour, but the more I got to know them the more I thought that a lot of their behaviour was actually a response to the bad relationships they had with their peers, parents and boy/girlfriends. It seemed to me that their anger and aggression was a coping mechanism that until now had worked for them. So, this made me question how young women can build a sense of self, gain confidence and assertiveness, look at the role models they have and their aspirations for life – in a way that is interesting, non-judgemental and fun. After all, through the group work I was basically asking them to change their existing coping behaviour, (which whilst not necessarily socially acceptable to all, gave them the kudos and ‘respect’ they sought), to take a chance of being vulnerable and exploring things that hurt to find a better way with me. But it seemed that this was the foundation for everything else – e.g. if you value yourself and your body you are more likely to respect it and look after it.

So from here, as for every other book I have written, I devised a series of questions that I wanted to answer. These help me keep focused and distill the essence of what I am trying to do.

After that, I spend about 3 months researching the topic. I do this by reading around the subject and trawling the Internet for ethical and correct data and statistics, but also by speaking with other practitioners and as many young people, or in the example above as many young women, as I can, to ask my questions and test out some of my theories. By now I usually have at least one box file filled with clippings and stuff, as well as my trusty notebook (I always have at least one hardback notebook on the go) filled with points to remember and ideas for games, quizzes or activities.

One thing; all of my session plans have to be tried out with young people before I will include them. For me, this part is one of the rules of my work to keep it ethical and grounded – it has to have been tried and tested and I have to know that young people will learn from it and more importantly enjoy doing so.

As I write constantly this means that I often have ideas stashed on my computer that are developed later when the opportunity presents itself. I try my best to include lots of learning styles in the activities and this might mean that I write the same learning outcomes three times, with three different ideas for delivering them. So, as I try them out with young people I use the one that goes best and dump the rest. I also ask young people to give me feedback as the book comes together, which I value as they don’t hold back if they think it won’t work!

Once this is done, I stick my main points on bits of paper around my desk and tell everyone that I am going to be ‘writing’. To my family this means that I am likely to be distracted, a bit bad tempered and the dinners will be rubbish for a while – but the good news is that I will be in the house for days on end and easily tempted to buy take-aways!! To my friends it means that if I do see them I am probably going to bore them witless by obsessing over my blossoming (or not) book. All training and other work is put on hold. And then – I write it.

I tend to write ‘all over’ my books – meaning that I might write part of the intro, then get a bit stuck so move on to one of the later chapters.  It may look chaotic but it isn’t – more like putting a jigsaw together, because by this stage I know exactly what I want to write and how it will look at the end. I tend to really get into this bit so write day and night, with no adherence to office hours – I actually prefer working through the night so it is pretty usual for me to be writing between 2 and 5 a.m.

Once it is done – which usually takes about 7 days end to end – I put it away for at least 3 days before getting it out and editing / doing the final writing.

Then it is off to Jessica Kingsley Publishers …… and I miss it like mad …… get a bit sad, like at the end of any relationship …… do any edits or re-writes asked of me by the editors and proof readers ….. and leave the printers to get on with it. In my head it is over.

I try and build a break in at this point so that I can have fun with friends and family and shake off the topic that has been all consuming for what might have been up to a year. And then, just when I think that I have had enough of writing, something sparks my interest – and the whole cycle begins again.

I hope this helps – but as I say all writers are different and I am sure you will find your own way of working. My only advice would be, write for you and choose a subject you feel passionate about – if you aren’t at the start, you definitely won’t be at the end! My very best wishes and good luck with it – let me know how you get on.

 

In Search of Youth Work by JKP author Vanessa Rogers

An interesting and thought provoking article from JKP author, Vanessa Rogers on what it is to be a youth worker today. Vanessa is the author of a number of titles on working with young people including, Working with Young Women, Working with Young Men, Let’s Talk Relationships, 101 Things to Do on the Street, and new from JKP the Little Books on Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco Set.


What is Youth Work?

Today I realised that I have been a youth worker for over 15 years, yet I still struggle to explain exactly what that means, especially to someone outside of the profession. It is not a simple answer and I have even been known to say, ‘social worker’ in certain social settings just because it is easier.

The irony is not lost on me; that I am prepared to betray my profession, even though I feel so passionately about it, because I can’t be bothered to explain what I do and that it involves more than playing pool and sorting out squabbles about which track to play next on the iPod in the youth club. Explaining detached youth work is even harder, and has even been met with snorts of laughter at the thought of being paid to wander the streets talking to unknown young people. ‘But what is the point?’ is a constant refrain.

It has not always been so. There was a time not that long ago when it would be hard for me not to weigh in with my views. In fact, many of my ex-students could stand testament to the fact that, ‘what is youth work?’ is one of my favourite assignment titles, and the 500 words produced in response are a constant source of interest and heated debate.

Then it dawned on me that perhaps the sinking heart I get whenever someone asks me what I do for a living is not merely personal apathy, but because I have had the conversation one too many times. The sense of justifying what youth work is, why it matters and the unique place it has in supporting young people – not only amongst friends, family and strangers but also with youth workers and other professionals – has become habitual. I realised that I am a bit tired of the struggle and don’t want to spend time any more time analysing the process at a cost of actually doing it less.

It hasn’t always been so difficult, although I am in no way harping back to some mythical golden age of youth work. I am simply pointing out that if you had asked me 15 years ago what I did my answer would have been pretty easy – an area youth worker for the Youth & Community Service responsible for developing girls work, work with young parents and managing a large and busy youth wing on the site of a school in an area described as ‘deprived’. So far, so clear.

The role of a Youth Worker

Fast forward and my role, but not my professional title, has changed so many times that writing a CV can be a daunting thing. Terminology for the young people, or ‘client group’, has changed from young people ‘at risk’ through ‘vulnerable’ to ‘targeted’; youth services have dropped the ‘ & community’ tag and been variously part of the education, leisure, Connexions and social care departments.

Responsibilities have changed to include meeting parents, undertaking social care assessments, creating community profiles and measuring work by the number of accredited outcomes achieved.
What constitutes ‘youth work’ has changed so many times that it can now be tagged on to virtually any service that works with young people.

But is this a good or bad thing? Is the increase in those using traditional youth work skills to engage with young people something to be celebrated or lamented? All I know is that ‘youth work’ is a notoriously difficult term to describe, and it isn’t getting any easier. The task of trying to find a pithy one-liner to sum up the collective aims of so many different clubs, societies and detached projects is almost impossible.

Perhaps it is that so many people now describe themselves as ‘youth workers’, whilst working in areas more traditionally associated with social workers or youth justice? I have even spoken with police officers that say they do ‘youth work’. Really? Are the professional boundaries so completely enmeshed? Please note this isn’t about professional qualifications, or even the lack of them, more a questioning of how the ethos of voluntary participation and the gradual process of building positive relationships and engaging and empowering young people fits within a law and order or social care framework.

The ethos at the heart of Youth Work

Historically, youth work did not develop just to ‘keep people off the streets’ or to provide aimless amusement, it has always offered social and political education in an informal environment. Good youth work may look as if it just ‘happens’ but the success of it actually depends on good planning, clear aims and measurable outcomes. This ethos should be at the heart of all youth work – especially detached projects. Surely an exciting detached project that motivates young people to get involved should result in more, not less, youths on the street? And that should constitute success?

Put simply, providing young people with a ‘good time’ is not enough. Effective youth work should offer young people the opportunity to meet, socialise, develop new skills, explore the world around them and learn to question and challenge what they see effectively. Detached projects should not be about forcing young people off the streets and away from adult eyes, but more about building trust and developing interesting projects that are relevant to their needs, reflecting the things of importance to them. Which is unlikely to be the same as the media focus on demonizing young people as part of a lawless counter-culture.

As I see it the need to build two-way respect between young people and other members of their community is paramount – after all it is hard to encourage young people to take up their responsibilities and become active citizens if they are treated like social outcasts. Why would you want to be part of something that clearly doesn’t want you?

Perhaps the answer is purely financial. In the struggle to chase funding and secure projects we have been forced to chase the pound, rather than offer what young people truly want. Or maybe as numbers dwindle in traditional old-style youth clubs what’s on offer is simply outdated and no longer meets the needs of teenagers. In that case let’s stop hanging on to the solutions of the past and try new ideas.

Listening to Young People

Young people can be innovative and visionary, with energy and enthusiasm to shape and change the world. To do this they need to find ways to get their voices heard and be able to see that their participation in things like youth councils, forums and consultations actually makes a difference. To be honest, as an adult I am happy to give my opinion on things that matter to me but I get disheartened and then disinterested if nothing ever comes of it and I don’t receive any feedback. Too often I think young people are let down because although they are told that their opinions count, when it comes to money and budgets, they don’t. Participation has to be more than a paper exercise or a way to ‘tick boxes’.

Reclaiming Youth Work

So I think it is time for youth workers to stand up and reclaim youth work by celebrating how different it is to other work with young people. It should be seen as a whole, not as a useful pick’n’mix to compliment other services, and defined in our own terms – whether that is through a Youth Work Academy or some other collective process – before someone else does it for us.

In another 15 years time I don’t want to still be ducking the question, ‘what do you do for a living?’ – I want to be able to say (still with pride), ‘I am a youth worker’, and for that to mean something.

Positive Psychology: The secret to leading a happy life for young people?

As the UK government announces that all state-funded academies will now have ‘well-being’ at the heart of their curriculum, Ruth MacConville and Tina Rae, authors of the new book, Building Happiness, Resilience and Motivation in Adolescents, discuss the impact of Positive Psychology on young people.

Photos: (left to right) Ruth MacConville and Tina Rae


What makes Positive Psychology a suitable approach for using with groups of teenagers?

RM: Over the past few years there has been an increasing demand for resources and materials that practitioners can use in schools and settings to enhance young people’s well-being. This demand has been partly in response to the previous government’s Every Child Matter’s agenda, but also because over the past decade the new science of Positive Psychology has caught the public’s imagination. Part of its appeal is its accessibility and because its agenda; happiness, well-being and human flourishing relates to and enhances the day-to-day business of everyday life. Positive Psychology offers young people the tools that they will need to design their futures in an uncertain world and offers them a sense of hope and resilience. Boosting the frequency of positive emotions is like boosting the frequency of deposits to one’s bank account – it feels good and it also means that when you have an emotional low and need a resilience withdrawal, you’ve got something to draw on.

TR: Boosting resilience via the use of Positive Psychology can innoculate against depression and other mental illnesses – it can also build self-confidence and achievement. This is particularly pertinent and important for children and adolescents who are coping with immense change and encountering enormous pressures in today’s complex society. Resilient children can ‘resist adversity, cope with uncertainty and recover more successfully from traumatic events or episodes’. Psychologists have long recognised that some children develop well despite growing up in high risk environments. This capacity to cope with adversity, and even be strengthened by it, is at the heart of resilience. It is not something that people either have or don’t have – resilience is learnable and teachable and as we learn we increase the range of strategies available to us when things get difficult.

We can do this by supporting teenagers to make sense of experience, to utilise constructive self-talk, develop mastery and self-efficacy, develop emotional literacy, and ‘happiness habits’, problem solving approaches and challenging and reframing negative perceptions of self.

What kind of strengths is it intended to build?

RM: The programme focuses on the kind of skill based learning that young people will require in order to develop the skills that they need. These are life skills and ones which cannot be underestimated. The resources aim to take what psychologists have learned from the science and practice of treating mental illness and use this to create a series of resources which foster happiness, resilience and motivation.

TR: The powerful message that is conveyed throughout the programme to young people is that with practise, persistence, effective teaching and dedication, strengths can take root and flourish in all of us. Another important messages to young people is that they have choices when it comes to strengths. They can decide whether they want to have a particular strength, develop it further and use that strength. Young people learn that playing to one’s strengths is recognised as being the best way to handle challenging situations and by learning how to recognise and use one’s strengths creatively we can increase our happiness and experience joy and enthusiasm.

How do adolescents respond to the programme?

RM: Education is all about our strengths, finding out what we are good at and building our level of skill in those areas. Adolescents take varying amount of time to respond to the programme, some students quickly internalise the message that the programme is about them as individuals and as human beings, that it is not about facts or a subject area that is somewhat removed from them. Other students, inevitably, take longer to adapt to the programme with its emphasis on their real life experiences.

Although students may take varying amounts of time to respond to the programme there is invariably a consensus by the end of the sessions that it has improved their relationships, put individuals in touch with their strengths, interests and abilities and built students’ capacities to have an optimistic outlook on life and manage stress and adversity.

Tina, you have been involved in setting up the Well-being Curriculum for the Welsh National Assembly – can you tell us about this? Why do you think that interest in Positive Psychology has increased so much over the past 10 years?

TR: The concept of emotional health and well-being is integral to the seven core aims of the Welsh Assembly Government’s vision for children and young people, based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – that they:

  1. have a flying start in life;
  2. have a comprehensive range of education and learning opportunities;
  3. enjoy the best possible health and are free from abuse, victimisation and exploitation;
  4. have access to play, leisure, sporting and cultural activities;
  5. are listened to, treated with respect, and have their race and cultural identity recognised;
  6. have a safe home and a community which supports physical and emotional wellbeing; and
  7. are not disadvantaged by poverty.

This concept is an essential consideration in many current Welsh Assembly Government policies impacting on pre-school and school-aged children.

The programme makes use of a range of tools to help young people remain emotionally and physically well and these include some of the tools of Positive Psychology.

Finally, what do you think is the secret to living a happy life?

RM: For me the secret to living a happy life is about depth of involvement with family and friends, and I agree with the 17th century philosopher Francis Bacon who wrote: ‘Friendship, redoubleth joys and cutteth griefs in half.’

Happiness is also about engaging in purposeful satisfying activities. For me happiness isn’t just a hedonic, pleasurable state such as enjoying fun leisure activities. It’s a richer, more complicated and more important subject than chasing pleasures. It’s about finding ways of leading a meaningful life, even if that meaning involves times of pain and challenge. The late Irish writer and social commentator, Nuala o’Faolain, uses the analogy of athleticism to illustrate the fact that, with effort, people we can change our happiness levels:

‘If you were a runner in the starting blocks at the Olympics you wouldn’t be waiting for inspiration; you would have trained. Well, we have to train for happiness and practice every day.’

I believe that we have to train ourselves in the skills of becoming happier.

It is also important to remember that we all must own our individual happiness. Being dependent on others for our happiness is as futile as being dependent on others for our unhappiness. It is important to be able to recognise that there are things in life we can’t control, and to not let the actions or inactions of others get in the way of our happiness.

Also it is important to remember that nobody can be happy all the time. It is absolutely normal and even helpful to have periods of sadness, as this is part of a healthy, emotional existence. It is also important not to feel badly because something upsetting happens and puts you in a bad mood. The important thing is how fast you can get through that mood and get into a more positive space.

TR: I think it is essential to recognise that lasting happiness requires us to enjoy the journey towards a destination that is truly meaningful for us…it must have a purpose. Happiness isn’t about getting to the top of the mountain! As Tal Ben-Shahar says: ‘Happiness is the experience of climbing towards the peak.’

Ultimately, we make a choice to be happy! For me, it really is as simple as that. In making that choice, we choose to live in the moment or, as Robert Burns says, ‘to catch the moments as they fly’. We also need to continually value, prize and highlight all the good and positive aspects of our lives, to engage in the rituals and celebrations that affirm our existence and that of others, to cherish the relationships that nurture and engage in learning and the flow of creativity. We need to reject this fairytale notion that there is something or someone that will carry us off to a happy ever after! Again, I will quote Ben-Shahar:

‘To realize, to make real, life’s potential for the ultimate currency, we must first accept that “this is it” – that all there is to life is the day-to-day, the ordinary, the details of the mosaic. We are living a happy life when we derive pleasure and meaning while spending time with our loved ones, or learning something new, or engaging in a project at work. The more our days are filled with these experiences, the happier we become. This is all there is to it.’

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

VIDEO – Mindfulness Play: Reaching students on a deeper level, with Deborah Plummer

In this series of videos, Deborah Plummer discusses the careful construction of the emotional environment in which the games and activities in her existing books are undertaken, which she calls ‘mindfulness play’, and which is discussed more comprehensively in her forthcoming book, Focusing and Calming Games for Children.

A short introduction to mindfulness play
Here, Deborah gives an overview of her approach and some examples of what mindfulness play looks like in practice and how to achieve it.

The wellbeing model underlying mindfulness play approach
Here, Deborah uses the imagery of a house to explain the wellbeing model that underlies her mindfulness play approach.

Top Tips for facilitating mindfulness play
Here, Deborah gives her top tips for ensuring that the games and activities used with children have their emotional wellbeing at heart.

How to set up a space for mindfulness play
Here, Deborah gives some advice on how to set up a play space that conveys a sense of respect for children, a vital consideration in mindfulness play.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Fostering independent learning, participation and inclusion in education and beyond

By Dr Dorothy Howie, author of Teaching Students Thinking Skills and Strategies: A Framework for Cognitive Education in Inclusive Settings.

The teaching of thinking has become one of the central developments in education over recent decades, and now thought is being given to how this can occur in a way which is of benefit to all learners – i.e. in an inclusive way. The United Nations’ 2006 Convention on the Protection of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities requires that we make a commitment to ‘the development of persons with disabilities of their personality, talents and creativity, as well as their mental and fullest potential’, with the goal of inclusion and lifetime participation in society. Internationally, countries are increasingly requiring through their national curriculum frameworks that the teaching of thinking is embedded in the curriculum, and generic through whole-school teaching and learning.

Having had a long career of teaching and research in both the teaching of thinking and inclusion, I was commissioned by Jessica Kingsley to write the new book, Teaching Students Thinking Skills and Strategies, which puts forward a framework for the teaching of thinking in an inclusive way. In line with frameworks for curricula in areas such as literacy and the meeting of social and emotional needs in the UK context, and the ‘Response to Intervention’ policy requirements in the USA, the book outlines a three tier framework, as follows :

  • Tier 1: Teaching thinking for all, with approaches which are integral to all classroom teaching and learning.
  • Tier 2: Working with small groups for those needing further particular attention to the teaching of thinking, because of their shared exceptional needs.
  • Tier 3: Working with individuals who need further individual attention, beyond Tier 2, because of considerable and complex learning needs.

The book then covers internationally recognised and well researched approaches to the teaching of thinking which can be used at each tier level. Some approaches, such as Vygotsky’s socio-cultural approach, with its strong focus on the learning process and the centrality of social interaction in the mediation of thinking, and Feuerstein’s Theory of Mediated Learning Experience and the wide range of process-oriented tools for assessment and cognitive education arising from this theory, are covered at each tier level. Others, such as Sternberg’s metacognitve/metacomponential approach with its learning process focus and the problem solving cycle which arises from it, Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory, and Swartz and Parks’ infused approach to the teaching of thinking, are covered at one or two tier levels.

As each of the approaches are covered at each tier level, I present clear guidance as to what in those approaches is of particular value in meeting learners’ needs at that tier level, and a clear example of the use of the approach at that tier level is given. The examples are carefully drawn, often from the research done by myself and my colleagues and research students, with particular attention to how the use of the approach at that tier level is addressing – in an inclusive way – the needs of all students.

This book is unique in making a comprehensive and systematic attempt to bring together the teaching of thinking and inclusion. It is also unique in its strong and consistent focus on the culturally appropriate and sensitive use of approaches to the teaching of thinking, so that the needs of all learners from culturally unique contexts can be addressed. I have done much of my own research with the teaching of thinking in the multicultural context of New Zealand, (this research is reported in my earlier book, Thinking about the Teaching of Thinking) and I am committed to the affirmation and enhancement of the unique ways of thinking embedded culturally in each learner, and learnt within their own unique historical, family and social context. There are strong examples of the teaching of thinking in this way within the book.

Read a Preview

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

Creative ways to get young people talking about positive relationships – An Interview with Vanessa Rogers

Vanessa Rogers is a nationally acclaimed youth work consultant in the UK and has written a number of popular resource books for JKP aimed at those working with young people.

Here she answers some questions about her latest book, Let’s Talk Relationships: Activities for Exploring Love, Sex, Friendship and Family with Young People.

Tell us about this book – how did you develop the exercises?

This book has gathered together all the resources that I have developed (or been given) over the years that I have worked with young people around one of the most important topics: relationships.

Not just about sex and intimate relationships, this book is also a collection of ideas to work with young people to explore the values of friendship and trust, peer pressure and considers ways to build good relationships with parents through the rocky road of adolescence.

One if the key messages for teachers, social workers, health and youth work professionals, or indeed parents, using the book is that all of the activities have been tried and tested with young people – and they work!

Why is it so hard for young people to talk about relationships in a serious way?

I am not sure that it is hard for young people to talk about relationships! I think the challenge is to create an environment where young people can safely discuss their feelings, hopes and dreams, as well as ask questions about the things that are important to them, without the fear of being ‘judged’. This involves setting clear boundaries and creating a supportive space for learning to take place.

After all relationships are serious – but they should also be fun and enrich people’s lives, and this is one of the key messages running through the book. It is important to enable young people to develop the skills to feel confident, be assertive about what they want from a relationship and have self-respect, as well as respect for others and the wider community. That way they should be able to make good, healthy choices about their friendships and other relationships.

How do positive relationships with family, friends and mentors bolster a young person’s self-esteem?

Research would certainly suggest that there are clear links between self-esteem and positive relationships. From my own work I have seen the confidence that grows from a young person feeling loved and respected by their friends and family, and giving love and respect in return. This is not about everybody getting on all of the time, adolescence is a time of turbulence as teenagers struggle to find out who they are and take emotional risks, but building resilience to help them weather the knocks that life offers and come through it well.

In terms of getting young people to open up about relationships, when is a one-to-one setting preferable? What about the group setting?

Most of the activities in the book can be easily adapted for one-to-one work or for parents to use to prompt discussion with their teenagers.

In terms of preference, it may well be more appropriate to speak one to one about very personal issues, or if you have a young person who would struggle to cope in a group.

However, for the most part these session plans are around raising awareness and learning together, rather than a counseling resource. For me, the ideal for working with young people around relationship issues is a small group of between 8 and 12. If you plan to do sex and relationships work you may want to consider of the young people would talk more comfortable in a single gender group. Alternatively you may decide that the young men and women could learn from each other!

What should parents, youth workers and other facilitators do to prepare themselves for talking about relationships with young people?

I think the main advice I would offer is to learn to listen. Often young people have plenty to say, but have no one they trust enough to say it to. Set out your boundaries at the start so that they know exactly what can be kept confidential and what can’t. Create opportunities where young people can explore ideas and discuss issues, without it being personal, some of the scenarios and role-plays in the book are ideal for this.

Don’t make assumptions about the relationships that young people have or their sexuality. Remember two things – not all young people are having sex (the average age in the UK to have sex of the first time is 16), and not all young people are heterosexual! Equally, lots of young people might have taken part in sex education at school, but it is the relationship side of it that needs exploring. Offering the opportunity to talk about the relationships they have and the relationships they would like for the future can be invaluable.

Finally, set aside time and make sure that you have information about support mechanisms in place for those that need it.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2010.

Vanessa Rogers on Cyberbullying – Part 5: Advice for teachers who have been cyberbullied

This week, we’ve featured 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.

In today’s final post, Vanessa shares some advice for teachers who have been victims of cyberbullying themselves.

No matter how cautious they are it has been apparent over recent years that one difference between cyber and any other kind of bullying is the opportunities it provides for bullying across generations, including professionals such as teachers and youth workers. A 2007 survey by Teacher Support Network and Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) demonstrated that malicious use of Internet and mobile phones to bully or harass teachers has a profound effect on their psychological and physical wellbeing, in some cases leading to sickness absence and even resignations.

Professionals can help themselves to avoid meeting pupils in cyberland by keeping to strict professional boundaries, for example refusing friendship requests on Facebook and not letting pupils have their mobile numbers. However, it is out of their control if pupils set up online forums or post inappropriate pictures with teachers heads superimposed on, and this lack of any control over what is happening can add to the very real distress experienced by victims.

If despite taking every precaution any teacher finds him or herself a victim of cyberbullying, the advice is the same as that given to any child – tell someone. On 15 April 2009, the DCSF (Department for Children, Schools and Families) issued guidance, ‘Cyberbullying: Supporting school staff’, which outlines practical ways of preventing and tackling cyberbullying of teachers and other school staff.

Yesterday: Vanessa discusses how young men and women experience cyberbullying differently.

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.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s series with Vanessa Rogers! Keep checking the JKP blog for more news and information about other youthwork and related topics.

Vanessa Rogers on Cyberbullying – Part 4: How young men and women experience cyberbullying differently

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 how young men and women experience cyberbullying differently.

In 2009 The National Centre for Social Research undertook a study on cyberbullying involving 15,000 children. The study examined the characteristics of bullying victims in secondary schools in England between the ages of 14 and 16, and found that cyberbullying was the most common form of abuse endured by children along with name-calling. However, in my experience cyberbullying is more prevalent amongst young women. That is not to say that young men do not cyberbully, that would be untrue, but the covert, sustained nature of cyberbullying seems to suit the ‘Mean Girls’ style of bullying.

This is backed up by a 2009 study done by Girlguiding UK that revealed that more than a quarter of girls in the UK have been picked on by email, the Internet or mobile phone. These female bullies often rely on their friends, sometimes termed ‘bystanders’ to reinforce their bullying behaviour and feelings of success. This can take many forms that include sending round a ‘list’ of people to target online, bluetoothing on pictures or film or even stealing passwords and impersonating a victim online.

Either way, any work needs to be done with the whole group and in particular targeting the ‘bystanders’ who make a bullies behaviour possible.

Tomorrow: Vanessa shares some advice for teachers who have been victims of cyberbullying themselves. 
Yesterday: Vanessa discusses why engaging with social technology can help parents and teachers prevent cyberbullying.

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.

Vanessa Rogers on Cyberbullying – Part 3: How parents and teachers can help prevent cyberbullying

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.

Tomorrow: Vanessa discusses how young men and women experience cyberbullying differently. 
Yesterday: Vanessa discusses how to tell when a young person is being cyberbullied.

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.

Vanessa Rogers on Cyberbullying – Part 2: How to tell when a young person is being cyberbullied

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 how to tell when a young person is being cyberbullied.

As with any form of bullying it is often hard to spot the signs of cyberbullying. The insidious nature of targeting someone online, or cyber stalking, means that the perpetrator often remains faceless. However, teachers should look out for any marked changes in pupil’s behaviour, and remember that they may well be working with the bully as well as the victim of any bullying in the same class. For example, changes in friendship groups, pupils becoming withdrawn or obsessive use of chatrooms are all possible indicators that bullying is taking place. Teachers should regularly check the sites that pupils have been visiting online and be aware of young people who are either over secretive or over zealous with their online activity.

Young people I have worked with who have been a victim of cyberbullying describe feeling nervous, distracted and trapped with, ‘no way out’. These feelings can lead to frustration and/or depression with many victims avoiding school or social settings where they may come across their tormentors. Equally, they may never be quite sure who their bully is, leading to mistrust of everyone and general aggressiveness. However, all of these potential indicators are also arguably signs of normal adolescent development, so teachers should be vigilant but take care not to jump to conclusions.

Tomorrow: Vanessa discusses how parents and teachers can help prevent cyberbullying. 
Yesterday: Vanessa explains how cyberbullying is different from other kinds of bullying.

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.