Our primary mission at the Cyberbullying Research Center is to translate the research we and others do into something that is meaningful and interpretable to teens, parents, educators, and others dedicated to preventing and responding more effectively to cyberbullying. When we first launched this website (10 years ago!), there wasn’t much research being done, and so it was easy to keep up. These days, however, many scholars are putting cyberbullying under the microscope, which is a very good thing. It is important to recognize, though, that not all studies are created equal. In this post I’d like to discuss one particular problem: small sample sizes. And, to be more specific, I am most concerned with the way some media reports portray results from these studies to be definitive. For illustration purposes, I’d like to highlight two recently-published papers that gained some measure of attention by the media in the last (read more…)
Last week I shared what I feel are the most important considerations for schools planning to host bullying assembly programs. This week, I wanted to focus on speakers themselves. As you may know from your own experiences, there are fantastic ones out there, but there are also many who leave a lot to be desired. Justin and I regularly do assemblies all across the United States (and occasionally abroad), and truly enjoy visiting and working with students, staff, and parents in this capacity. However, we simply cannot do them for everyone, as much as we would love to. As such, here are my thoughts on what the best bullying and cyberbullying assembly speakers do. Speakers need to be relatable. You may have heard that you win or lose your audience in the first (read more…)
Schools have been organizing assemblies to address bullying, substance abuse, and a variety of other student issues for as long as I can remember. I definitely remember sitting through them during middle school in particular, and – unfortunately – tuning out because I just didn’t feel like I could connect with the speaker. When it came to the assemblies about bullying, I thought to myself, “yes, we all realize that it’s wrong to be mean to others, but nothing really is going to change at my school, and so why even bother?” I admit that was quite a defeatist mentality, but I’ll blame it in large part on my disillusioned, angst-ridden adolescent self. That said, I also remember a couple of more inspirational speakers who gave presentations at my schools – and while they weren’t at all about bullying, I did find them compelling, hopeful, motivating, and even instructive. And (read more…)
Last summer, Illinois (somewhat quietly) passed a new bullying law that took effect on January 1, 2015. The law includes language similar to at least 13 other states which makes it clear that schools have the authority to discipline students for cyberbullying that occurs off campus (and outside of a school-sponsored activity), when such behavior substantially disrupts its educational processes or orderly operation. This has been the long-held federal standard and I was happy to see Illinois moving in the right direction (see also, Minnesota’s recent update). About the time this law was signed by the governor of Illinois, a former educator from that state told me about another aspect of the law that seemed to permit educators to demand passwords to private social media profiles of students suspected of (read more…)
Despite a recent headline announcing the opposite, most teens do not sext. Kelly Wallace wrote an article for CNN back in November which was updated and reposted last week. Most of the content of the article is accurate, and I certainly appreciate that she referred to published research and interviewed people who know what they are talking about when it comes to issues involving teens and technology. The primary problem I have with the article, is the headline: “Chances are, your teen has sexted.” This broad proclamation is based on a study involving a small sample (175) of undergraduate students from one university in the northeastern United States. Respondents were asked in an anonymous online survey whether they had, as minors, sent sexually explicit messages to others. More than half admitted that (read more…)
I first wrote about Yik Yak back in March, when the app took several suburban schools by storm. High school administrators around Chicago were deluged with incidents stemming from inappropriate student use of this app, ranging from bullying to bomb threats. To their credit, the administrators of the app responded quickly and restricted its use in and around most middle and high schools. Of course this didn’t stop persistent and inquisitive teens from using the app in other spaces, but it was a start. Since then, the app has slowly made its way to other parts of the country, including mine. What is Yik Yak? For those of you who have yet to encounter Yik Yak, it works like an anonymous, location-based Twitter feed. Posts are called “yaks,” and like Twitter, users are limited (read more…)
Whenever I visit schools to give a cyberbullying assembly or presentation to parents in the community, I am also typically asked to sit down and chat with the administrators about the policies and programs they have in place. Here, they let me know what they have been doing to identify, address, and prevent teen technology misuse, and then detail some of the struggles that they have faced – like how to talk about sexting without sounding irrelevant, how to develop penalties for rule-breaking that can be consistently enforced and supported by all, and how to strategically encourage kindness and peer respect in a compelling way. Apart from sharing with them evolving best practices, I also encourage them to invite students to the table when determining what can and should be done.
Students should always feel that they have a voice at school. (read more…)
For a few years now, I have admired the leadership and initiative of Ms. Geraldine Johnson, Bullying Prevention Coordinator for Pennsylvania’s Cumberland Valley School District. She stands out in my mind as one of the most caring youth workers I have ever known, and it is so inspiring to see the love she has for her students and the love her students have for her. Together, they have proactively sought to combat bullying and create an environment in which kindness, peer respect, and acceptance reign supreme. Central to this effort is their ITO Club, which we featured in our new cyberbullying book for teens entitled “Words Wound: Delete Cyberbullying and Make Kindness Go Viral.” ITO stands for “It Takes One” – and that message is the primary thread in the fabric of their programming (read more…)
Last week I presented at the International Bullying Prevention Association’s annual conference in San Diego, CA. This was the second time that I have participated in this event, and both experiences were enjoyable and educational. The attendees (over 700 strong this year) are generally very interested in the work that we are doing at the Cyberbullying Research Center, and the other presenters are uniformly among the best in the business. The conversations that occur between the formal presentations are just as enlightening and thought-provoking as anything within the scheduled sessions. Talking with attendees and other speakers sparks insights about issues we are working on and allows us to view our research and writings from the perspective of informed others. It was a couple of these conversations that sparked my interest in writing this post. Right before my first presentation, I (read more…)
Our website was down for a couple of days last week which was *extremely* maddening for us as we pride ourselves in giving our faithful followers free and unfettered access to our resources without interruption. The cause of the downtime was, well, to put it bluntly: You! Nearly a quarter of a million people visited our website during October (which, not coincidentally, was National Bullying Prevention Month) and traffic continued to explode as we moved into November. Visitors to our website have generally steadily increased since we launched it nearly a decade ago, but this was a significant jump from the months before.
In addition, those of you who are visiting, are downloading more resources than ever before. In October, visitors to our site downloaded more than 250 gigabytes of data. To put this in perspective, one of our most popular documents (read more…)