Teens: Delete Cyberbullying and Make Kindness Go Viral!
Next week, our newest book will be released. And we are seriously pumped! Like all of the others, this one is on the topic of cyberbullying. But this book is not like all of the others. Rather, it is the first book on cyberbullying that we know of that was specifically and intentionally written for teens. Words Wound: Delete Cyberbullying and Make Kindness Go Viral represents our effort to give youth the tools and inspiration they need to effectively prevent and respond to cyberbullying. And more than that, it encourages them to utilize the power of technology to spread kindness throughout their schools and broader communities.
We’ve long advocated that tackling teen tech problems requires a comprehensive and coordinated effort that includes parents, educators, law enforcement officers, and other community leaders. But it should also involve those who are at the very center of these issues: teens! And we know from the many conversations we have had with teens over the last few years that they do want to be a part of the solution. Until now, however, not much was available to help them. This book changes all of that.
Written for Teens
Whether teens are being cyberbullied, or just tired of seeing it affect their friends and school, Words Wound offers real-world advice that they can put into practice today. The book includes dozens of stories from teens who have experienced cyberbullying or who have worked in their communities to fight it in creative and effective ways. Teens are able to learn directly from those who have been wounded by words, but also from many who refused to stand idly by as their classmates were being mistreated. Readers will come to deeply appreciate the serious harm that comes from cyberbullying, but even more importantly learn the strategies they need to do something about it. Specifically, it empowers teens to combat cruelty with kindness, and to harness the power of positive peer pressure to persuade all teens to act with respect toward others, whether online or off.
It was a blast writing this book because it allowed us to get out of our comfort zone and write much more informally than we usually do. It was as if we were sitting down and having a chat with a teen. We get to hang out with students all of the time in schools all across the U.S. (and beyond), so we feel like we have a solid handle on what they are dealing with and how they are confronting online challenges. And we have also heard from them about what works and what doesn’t.
I deliberately tried to get inside the head of teens as I was writing for this book over this past summer by, for example, listening to current pop music by Justin Timberlake, Macklemore, and Lady Gaga instead of my usual favorites from the early 1990s. In fact, Lady Gaga had a small part in inspiring us to write this book. We were invited to participate in the launch of her Born This Way Foundation in February of 2012. The Foundation is all about empowering youth and giving them “the skills and opportunities they need to build a kinder, braver world.” We love this mission! At the launch event, an audience member asked Lady Gaga what she thought was the best way to teach students how to intervene in bullying incidents. In reply, she explicitly called for more resources to be directed to teens to help them navigate these issues (see 1:02:20 in the video). Upon reflecting on her answer we realized that there really wasn’t much out there for teens on how to deal with cyberbullying. We knew they were thirsty for information, and so we wrote this book.
Also Helpful for Adults
Even though this book is for teens, we also see it as a great resource for parents, educators, or really anyone who works with youth to help them navigate the difficult intersection of adolescence and technology. Adults who read the book will learn from teens themselves as their experiences represent the bulk of the book. They will also be given teen-tested and approved strategies for dealing with cyberbullying, and come to appreciate the importance of their role (and responsibilities) as the “Trusted Adult.” We enlisted input from several teen editors to review the content in the book to make sure the suggestions were realistic, appropriate, and relevant to them (special shout out to Kylie and Kevin who went above and beyond in their efforts to help us!).
Moreover, to assist adults, we’ve created a companion Leader’s Guide which will be freely available and allow teachers, counselors, or youth group leaders to use Words Wound to teach teens about empathy, cyberbullying, and digital citizenship. It includes learning objectives, discussion questions, activities, and assessment questions for every chapter. We believe it is perfect for educators who are looking for a teen-oriented book to guide them through lessons on these difficult concepts. This is especially important given the federal mandate that schools teach about cyberbullying awareness and response.
More Than a Book
Ultimately, our hope for this project is to take it well beyond just the book. We really want to create a mindset among teens where care and compassion become contagious and where cruelty is viewed as simply not cool. We know there are pockets of youth out there in their schools actively promoting this perspective, and a few of their stories are highlighted in the book. We will continue to support their efforts by showcasing success stories on our new teen-oriented website www.wordswound.org and popular social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). Be sure to visit those sites, and continue to follow this blog as we roll out exciting new resources and activities to help teens delete cyberbullying and make kindness go viral!
To pre-order a copy of Words Wound, visit Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Indiebound.
Words Wound: Delete Cyberbullying and Make Kindness Go Viral
By Justin W. Patchin and Sameer Hinduja
Many well-meaning researchers and experts have written a number of books for adults that detail the nature and extent of cyberbullying, and offer suggestions for parents, educators, and other adults to effectively respond to the problem. In fact, Dr. Patchin and Dr. Hinduja have written three books just like this! Words Wound is different. This book represents their effort to speak directly to teens. They’ve long argued that it takes a coordinated community effort to address cyberbullying, and teens can and should be a big part of that. And they want to be.
Whether teens are being cyberbullied or simply sick of seeing the drama play out online every single day, Words Wound offers real-world advice that they can put into practice today. The book includes dozens of stories from teens who have experienced cyberbullying or who have worked in their respective schools to stop it in creative and meaningful ways. Readers are able to learn directly from those who have been wounded by cyberbullying, but also from many who refused to put up with it at their schools. Teens will come to deeply appreciate the serious harm that comes with cyberbullying, but more importantly learn the strategies they need to be part of the solution. Specifically, it encourages and empowers them to combat cruelty with kindness, and to harness the power of positive peer pressure to persuade all teens to act with respect toward others.
Patchin and Hinduja have spent more than a decade studying cyberbullying and have spoken to thousands of teens – those who have experienced, participated in, or witnessed cyberbullying. Based on what was learned, they believe teens are uniquely positioned to be the primary catalyst of lasting change in their schools and communities. Words Wound represents a reflection of teen voices and provides a toolkit of helpful and practical ideas based on their varied experiences.
Patchin, J. W. & Hinduja, S. (2014). Words Wound: Delete Cyberbullying and Make Kindness Go Viral. Minneapolis, MN, Free Spirit Publishing.
School Climate 2.0: Reviews and Response
Since our book School Climate 2.0: Preventing Cyberbullying and Sexting One Classroom at a Time was published last year, the response has been amazing. Many educators have come up to us at events around the country to tell us how much they really appreciate the research-based information and strategies that they can put to use in their classrooms. Others who know a thing or two about teaching and technology have also chimed in with their opinions.
For example, Kevin Jennings, the former Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education said “this book is filled with useful information and practical tips for those who seek to create positive school climates where bullying of all kinds is minimized.” Joe Sullivan, the Chief Security Officer of Facebook said: “this practical guide provides important information, backed up by careful research, about the ways that adults can help build constructive dialogues and relationships with students.” Jonathan Cohen from the National School Climate Center called it a “wise and practically helpful book.” You can read more thoughtful reviews here. The book has also been reviewed 21 times on Amazon.com and all but one reviewer gave it 5 stars. So, suffice it to say that the weight of the public opinion on the book has been wonderfully positive.
All of this not-so-shameless self-promotion sets the stage for an email Sameer and I received last week that our book had been recently reviewed as it was being evaluated for an award. Here is the entire, unedited review:
“This book should be required reading for any educator currently facing today’s youth in classrooms. Easy to read, practical information and suggestions abound throughout. I do not feel the authors clearly indicate how school officials and administrators might influence or mitigate out-of-school, off-site social media bullying, other than showing repeatedly that what happens online after school very much affects school climate the next day. This really is the crux of the problem not only for schools, but with this book. Five out of the eight chapters focus on an out-of-school online climate that is most often also out-of-reach legally for school administrators. However, the authors do an excellent job of discussing the unintended consequences of the necessities and practicalities of BYOD, and offer many ideas to try (example: Delete Day). There are many lists of questions for administrators to ask themselves and students about school climate. The chapter summaries are actually a great learning tool, as they nicely recap the entire chapter. Throughout, the authors maintain a very positive approach.”
Even though the review starts out great and notes several positive aspects of the book, I found myself focusing in on the two criticisms, or really misunderstandings, that were expressed by the reviewer. And because we have this great venue with which to connect with you, our loyal followers, I thought I would take a minute to respond to these concerns.
The first issue raised by the reviewer was that the book did not “clearly indicate how school officials and administrators might influence or mitigate out-of-school, off-site social media bullying…” I feel that the book makes a very compelling argument, starting right in Chapter 1 that the strength of the student/teacher relationship vis-à-vis a positive climate at the school was one such way to have a great influence: “by developing strong relationships between the school and students, among students themselves, and between the school and their families, this principle can be used to dissuade negative behaviors and encourage positive behaviors even when adults aren’t around—such as when teens are online” (p. 11). In fact, this is the entire thesis of the book! The whole point of the book is that educators who work to foster a positive climate at school *can* influence the behavioral choices of students, even when they are away from school. This perspective is revisited throughout the book and in Chapter 6 in particular when we discuss numerous specific strategies for improving the climate with the broader goal of “mitigating” the “off-site” problematic behaviors.
The second criticism that jumped out at me was the suggestion that much of the content of the book “…focus[es] on an out-of-school online climate that is most often also out-of-reach legally for school administrators.” Chapter 9 addresses this misunderstanding head on, as illustrated by this specific subheading: “Can Schools Respond to Behaviors That Occur Away From Campus” (p. 164). The short answer is, of course, yes, they can! And that chapter spells out the legal, policy, and ethical arguments for that response. The bottom line is that educators *can* respond to any behaviors, even those that occur far away from the school, if the behaviors result in, or have a articulable and imminent likelihood of resulting in, a substantial disruption of the learning environment at school (see also this blog post). We believe that most cyberbullying incidents can rise to this level but that educators need to respond appropriately and reasonably.
This reviewer apparently didn’t read our book very carefully. Perhaps the evidence for this conclusion lies within the content of the review itself. Exhibit A is this statement: “Five out of the eight chapters focus on…” The book actually contains 9 chapters. Exhibit B is this: “The chapter summaries are actually a great learning tool, as they nicely recap the entire chapter.” Could it be that the reviewer simply read the summaries and not the full contents of each chapter? Whatever the cause for the confusion, we are always happy to address questions and concerns raised in our writing. The value for us in this blog is in our ability to connect more directly with you so that we can discuss these issues in a way that is more enlightening to all. We learn something new from our online friends every day, whether it comes in the form of a comment on the blog, an email, or a social media mention. And we try to pass along new insights or explanations of our various materials. So don’t hesitate to contact us! Whether it is for the purpose of complementing, criticizing, or clarification, we are here to listen, learn, and pass along important updates. We are all in this together!
Education Week Teacher Book Club
One of the first things we learned in our earliest cyberbullying studies was that targets were not telling adults about their experiences. Even today, very few students who are cyberbullied talk with adults about what is going on. The concern we have heard from adolescents time and time again is that they are afraid to tell adults because they think they will be blamed or their cell phones or computers will be taken away. They are embarrassed or scared and overall they just think things will get worse for them if they tell an adult. Well, whose fault is it that teens don’t feel comfortable talking to us about their experiences? One clue: it’s not *their* fault. We as adults need to take the initiative to learn more about what teens are doing online (the good and the bad) and equip ourselves with knowledge and tools to prevent and successfully respond to cyberbullying when it happens.
Today starts a four day online discussion of Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard on the Education Week Teacher Web site. If you have read our book, please join in the conversation! There are a lot of great strategies out there and a discussion involving our book can help stimulate other innovative ideas. Only when we come together to effectively respond to cyberbullying will targets open up and share their experiences with us. We look forward to reading your insights on the Education Week Teacher Discussion Forum.
Prevention and Response Campaign using our cyberbullying book as the anchor
We remain very proud of our award-winning cyberbullying book from Sage Publications, and continue to receive great feedback about it. More and more school districts are purchasing it for their educators, and we are very thankful for that. Our goal is (and has always been) to meaningfully equip those on the front lines of this problem with practical strategies they can immediately implement in schools and homes. We hate fluff, and we are all about substance – and so towards that end I thought I would share with you some recommendations as to how our book might serve as the centerpiece of a cyberbullying prevention and intervention campaign at your school.
1. Assign book, chapter by chapter, to all administrators at elementary, middle, and high schools across your district or county. We know that many administrators will want their teachers to read it, and so you can decide what you want to mandate and what you want to make optional.
2. Create a web site/blog/message board system where each administrator must respond within a certain timeframe to the “quiz” questions at the end of each chapter.
3. Allow message board to facilitate dialogue between and among administrators on the “discussion” questions for each chapter. They will be able to learn from each other, and this will contribute to a team-effort mentality across the district.
4. Create a web-based form for the “Cyberbullying Report Card for Schools” to allow administrators to see where they stand on prevention/response initiatives at their campus, and a “Notes” section to indicate a plan of action (and timeline) for correcting deficiencies.
5. Require each school to designate a Trustee (in keeping with the book’s suggestion) and create a master list of Trustees to be posted on the Web and made known throughout the school – so that everyone in the school knows the primary Point-of-Contact for cyberbullying-related matters at that school.
6. Read the numerous cyberbullying-related scenarios presented in the book to students in all classes to stimulate dialogue about the issues, and to demonstrate that school personnel recognize the gravity of the problem and want to do whatever it takes to help.
7. Have students at each school spearhead a PSA campaign (or something similar – like posters, comics, limericks, etc.) related to cyberbullying, and have a grand prize to give to the winning team(s). Please see our handy Top Ten Cyberbullying Prevention Tips for Teens resource.
8. Have a formal meeting once every Spring where the latest research findings and prevention/response information is presented to administrators from these schools.
9. Require a PTA (or equivalent) meeting to be held at each school to demonstrate to parents that the school is on top of issues related to use and abuse of technology by students.
10. Build in an evaluation component, where you survey administrator/teacher beliefs regarding cyberbullying before and after or through an experimental and control group. You should also survey students about the extent to which their teachers/admins care about this issue (pre/post). Our Cyberbullying Research Center can help with this and provide informal or formal guidance.
We’d love to hear how you have used and benefitted from our book, and so please feel free to contact us with your thoughts and feedback!