What the Best Bullying and Cyberbullying Assembly Speakers Do

Posted by Sameer Hinduja on February 18, 2015

cyberbullying aseemblyLast 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 few minutes of your talk. That is a short amount of time, and a lot of pressure to grab and hold their attention. Relatable speakers will deeply connect with the audience by demonstrating complete familiarity of, and appreciation with, the offline and online world of teens (but not in a way that seems contrived or fake). In addition, they must immediately engage students – not with scare tactics – but by clarifying at the onset why what they have to say matters to the students’ very lives. And how their message is different than all of the other anti-bullying messages the students have heard before. And that ultimately, the speaker is on their side. This is usually conveyed differently for elementary, middle, and high schoolers, and is a critically important skill to master. If the presentation somehow betrays that the speaker (and, by extension, the school) just doesn’t “get” kids and teens these days, and doesn’t really understand fully what is going on, its impact will be greatly stunted.

Speakers need to be uplifting.
The overall message, on its whole, should be hopeful and empowering. No one wants to be completely bummed out and depressed after listening to a speaker. That totally and completely drains away the audience’s desire and motivation to try and make a difference. Yes, kids need to understand the weight of pain, regret, and potential consequences that surround bullying and cyberbullying, but they cannot flourish and meaningfully contribute to a better peer and school environment under that burden. No one can. And no one will want to. Speakers must make sure the presentation is balanced, and leaves students feeling fired up and equipped to foster change.

Speakers need to focus on the positive.
Many adults are keen to focus on teen conflict, drama, harassment, and hate, and share those stories in an attempt to motivate youth to do the opposite instead. But we’ve found that those good intentions don’t lead to the desired effect. Instead, it can come across as condescending and preachy. Being subjected to those stories makes teens feel that adults expect the worst of them, and that they need to be managed and controlled instead of trusted and empowered. Justin and I strongly believe that speakers must point out all of the good that teens are doing as they embrace social media and electronic communications, instead of emphasizing all of the ways in which students have screwed up. Speakers should try to inspire them by showing them examples of teens just like them who are making a difference by standing up for what’s right. There are an increasing number of sites sharing meaningful stories of teens (and adults) doing kind things! Check out our Words Wound movement, Huffington Post’s Good News, Upworthy, One Good Thing, or A Platform for Good for ideas. Ideally, seeds will be planted in some of the youth. Then, they hopefully will be motivated to replicate the ideas discussed, or come up with their own (specific to their skills and situations) and work to contribute to widespread change on their campus.

Speakers need to have great content.
The data, stories, and examples they share must align with and reflect what the students have been observing and experiencing on their own, or else their message will be discredited and dismissed as irrelevant. The presentation should be interactive, fun, solemn at times (I mean, we are ultimately discussing a pretty serious topic here!), memorable, smooth, and somehow unique. It should also be updated with the latest research (when appropriate, don’t bore them with bar charts!), trends, headlines, stories, and screenshots. Many speakers want to do this, but honestly never really get around to updating their presentations. This will not win over the audience, and keep them locked in to what is being shared. Speakers should remember that students have heard this message before, and their default reaction will be to tune out because of the way this topic has been browbeaten into them. This is why content is – and always will be – king.

Speakers should include solutions.
Students want to know who they can trust and confide in if they are being mistreated. They want to know how to really, truly get someone to stop being mean, and how to anonymously report problems, and how to block mean people on specific networks or apps. They want clear direction as to how to intervene so that it doesn’t backfire on them, and how best to help others in a way that is safe for them as well. They need clear, specific strategies that are age-appropriate and will actually work. At the same time, schools need to know that a good number of presentations are high on inciting emotional responses but low on solutions. Just make sure you identify your goals at the outset, so you are not left feeling like something was missing after the presentation(s).

Speakers should have a plan for follow-up.
They should have books, materials, activities, resources – something they can distribute to the school so that faculty and staff can debrief with the kids and thereby continue the conversation after the assembly (and, ideally, on a regular basis throughout the year). And the resources should clearly mirror the messages conveyed in the assembly, so that everything builds upon itself. If the speaker doesn’t have content to share, he or she should be able to recommend the best out there. This simply demonstrates that they know the proverbial lay of the land, and have taken the time to figure out what can help the school on a long-term basis with their bullying prevention goals.

Ultimately, a great speaker with great content makes for a great presentation. I know that sounds intuitive, which is why I wanted to drill down into the essential components to show individuals what matters the most. I hope the preceding helps those of you who are out there on the front lines, working hard to raise awareness on this incredibly important issue. If we are spending our lives (and the time, attention, and resources of schools) trying to communicate a truly transformative message, we must give it our best – and do it right.

Pause Before You Post: What Students Need to Know About Web-based Personal Publishing

Posted by Justin W. Patchin on July 1, 2013

Teens are the primary producers of web content, and continue to publish their ideas, experiences, stories, observations, and opinions on blogs, web journals, or personal profile pages (e.g., on Facebook). Additionally, they publish the pictures they take, the music and videos they produce, and many other forms of artistic, creative, intellectual, and social expression. While they are well-familiar with the benefits, teens must become aware of the inherent risks in personal publishing so that they can enjoy it in a safe, responsible, and productive manner. Through real-world and online examples, this presentation sets parameters and guidelines for electronic content made and shared by adolescents, and covers in depth the aspects of audience, anonymity, permanence, copyright, and free speech. Its overall goal is to induce youth to “check themselves before they wreck themselves” through self-reflection prior to their personal publishing.

(45-60 minutes)

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Jostens Renaissance 2011: You Make it Matter

Posted by Justin W. Patchin on June 30, 2011

As regular readers of this blog will know, Sameer and I have had a long partnership with Jostens. When I was in high school in the mid-1990s, our class rings and yearbooks came from Jostens, so I knew of the brand. About four years ago, Charley Nelson, who is the director of educator services for Jostens, contacted me to talk about our cyberbullying work. Little did I know that in addition to their yearbooks and rings (they designed the 2011 Super Bowl ring!), they also coordinate a number of professional development activities for educators, mostly centered on cultivating a positive school climate. Their Renaissance Program emphasizes academic achievement, encourages student and staff recognition, and promotes school pride. We’ve worked with them over the last year to develop materials for “Pause Before You Post” – a campaign to educate teens about responsible personal publishing (online and off). See our “Student Guide to Personal Publishing” here.


The flagship event for Jostens Renaissance each year is their national conference, which draws over 1000 educators and student leaders from around the United States. I have been fortunate to have been a presenter at this conference for the past three years and I will tell you that it is flat out the best educator conference that I have been a part of. The positive energy is palpable and I leave the conference inspired and reinvigorated. There is a lot of learning and networking, infused with A TON of fun. This year, the conference is in Anaheim (July 15-17) and both Sameer and I will be there, presenting on issues related to cyberbullying, sexting, and responsible social networking. Headline speakers include Bill Walton (basketball Hall of Famer) and Liz Murray (Homeless to Harvard). If you have never been to this conference, you need to attend – and there is still time to sign up. I personally guarantee that you will not be disappointed. If you have attended in the past, leave a comment with your experience. If you will be there this year, stop by and say hello. If you are a Facebook follower, find me and mention this blog and I’ll give you a gift (while supplies last!). Hope to see you in Anaheim!

Happy New Year and CRC Initiatives for 2011

Posted by Justin W. Patchin on January 3, 2011

Happy New Year everyone! We hope that you all enjoyed whatever holiday you celebrated and that your 2011 is productive and rewarding. Sameer and I have a number of exciting projects and initiatives planned for 2011 and I just wanted to preview some of those here so that you can follow our progress over the next several months. We are writing two books that will come out in 2011. The first is a collection of essays from the leading cyberbullying experts from around the United States titled: Cyberbullying Prevention and Response: Expert Perspectives and will be in print later in the summer. Sameer and I are very excited about this project as it summarizes insights from those who have been involved in exploring the issue of cyberbullying from various disciplines for many years. The book will summarize the current state of knowledge concerning cyberbullying and provide concrete prevention and response strategies for adults who have, and who work with youth.


In the second book that is forthcoming, Sameer and I explore the importance of school culture and climate in preventing a variety of school problems—including those that begin or are amplified online. We hope to enlighten educators, parents, and teens about the tremendous importance of cultivating a positive school climate, not only to enhance student achievement, success, and productivity, but because a respectful climate at school will produce students who are safe, smart, honest, and responsible while using technology. Stay tuned for more information about the status of these projects.


We are working with several public and private organizations on education programs related to cyberbullying and online responsibility. A number of these will be rolled out over the next few months. We are scheduled to present at numerous schools, conferences, and trainings across the United States (and abroad) in 2011. Be sure to regularly check our events page for a listing of appearances that are open to the public in your area. Finally, we will continue to update our website and this blog with the latest information regarding the nature and extent of cyberbullying, and ways to combat it. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have comments or questions about any of the information on our site. If you are reading this blog you share in our mission to encourage the safe and responsible use of technology. Together we can make a difference.

IBPA 2010 Conference – Bullying Prevention in the Age of the Internet

Posted by Sameer Hinduja on September 13, 2010

The 7th Annual Conference of the International Bullying Prevention Association in Seattle, Washington is coming up quick, and we really hope you’re coming (register here).  We will be participating in a pre-conference on Monday, November 15th, and will be giving a presentation entitled “The Online Experience of Adolescent Girls: Cyberbullying, Sexting, and Relationship Abuse” on the morning of Tuesday, November 16th.  Justin and I really look forward to meeting you if we haven’t already, catching up with you if we have, hanging out, and brainstorming about new initiatives and collaborations.  Many people are doing awesome, pioneering work in the fields of bullying and cyberbullying, and we are honored to be able to rub elbows with them.  If you have any questions about the conference or our roles in it, or if you want to get together to chat while we are there – please let us know.

Family Online Safety Institute Conference – December 11th, 2008

Posted by Sameer Hinduja on December 1, 2008

I’m going to be in Washington, DC on Wednesday, December 10th and Thursday, December 11th for the Family Online Safety Institute’s annual conference, where I’ll be participating in a formal roundtable to discuss cyberbullying prevention and response and Internet safety issues.  I am really looking forward to this, as many top practitioners and authors in this field will be there.  It will be excellent to see and catch up with Anne Collier, Larry Magid, Nancy Willard, Michelle Ybarra, Sonia Livingstone, Janis Wolak, and Sam McQuade, and to talk technological strategies and solutions with some of the heavy-hitting corporations in the communications and social media stratosphere.  Look me up or set something up with me – I’ll be at the conference hotel in the early evening on the 10th for a reception dinner, and then milling about attending presentations and networking throughout the day before my 4:30pm roundtable on Thursday.

Book Update

Posted by Justin W. Patchin on June 16, 2008

We are happy to report that our cyberbullying book is now expected to be in print on August 5th, 2008. We are very excited to have the book in our hands (and perhaps even more excited to have it in YOUR hands!). It represents the culmination of over five years of research and we worked very hard to make sure the book was comprehensive and easy to read. I will be doing a couple of presentations at the White Earth Communities Collaborative Brain Development Conference in Mahnomen, MN on August 13th and 14th and will have copies of the book available for purchase and signing. More info about this conference can be found here. We’ll post more details about the book as the release date approaches.

Dr. Hinduja in DC at DOJ/NCPC Event on 06/04

Posted by Sameer Hinduja on May 25, 2008

I have been invited by the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Crime Prevention Council to provide remarks on a briefing of Internet Safety at the National Press Club in Washington DC on the morning of June 4th, 2008. I’ll be covering some of our latest cyberbullying research findings in order to heighten national awareness on the topic. I must also say that I am extremely excited about getting my picture taken with McGruff the Crime Dog. I’ll post it here if it happens!