Cyberbullying and bullying happen. So how do we stop it? It turns out ‘we’ have little to do with the answer. Adolescents are much more influenced by their peers than by adults, so let’s use that influence positively to deal with bullying behavior.
Nancy Willard suggests we shift from an adult-centric solution to bullying to positive peer invention. Bullying is not a learned behavior, it is survival of the fittest. Kids are socially motivated to get attention or power to survive socially. However, kindness can be learned.
Focusing on kindness and peer influence is the way to approach bullying. She suggests starting by having students take a survey to assess the school climate and by getting students talking about bullying issues. The next step is to create a student leadership team to make posters and slide shows using the local data and comments from the survey. These posters will address the issue of bullying and show students that not everyone is doing it and the majority does not support it.
Finally, students should discuss barriers that prevent them from reaching out to someone being bullied and come up with solutions, in their own words. Willard also suggested having the high schoolers present their results to the middle school, and middle schoolers present their results to the elementary school. Using this trickle down effect of peer influence shows that those above you will not tolerate bullying either. This design makes everyone responsible to stop bullying and puts the power in the hands of the majority, not the bully. Once the student body knows they have strength in the numbers against the bully, when an incident arises they can do three things: reach out and lend a hand to the target, tell the bully to stop, or report the incident to an adult. Willard suggests the best option is to reach out to the target and be kind, which can easily be done in private.
The second option is to stop the behavior which Willard recommends doing in private by asking questions, challenging excuses, and focusing on making things right. If a student tries to stop the behavior in public she strongly encourages using the power of three, having two other students by your side that feel the same way as you – strength and safety in numbers. I greatly appreciated how thorough her design is, from getting the message out to the student body, to actions students can take when they see bullying happen. She also approaches the topic from the side of the target, recognizing they need supporters and lists specific interventions by family and staff that can help them be less of a target in the future.
Peers are the most influential people in an adolescent’s life. So it only makes sense to use that strong influence to deal with bullying. By collecting survey data so the students see they have strength in numbers, and guiding them to brainstorm the words to use in situations, we are empowering them to be responsible and kind to one another.
Almansi, C. (February 14, 2011). Cyberbullying: An Interview with Nancy Willard. Educational Technology & Change. Retrieved from http://etcjournal.com/2011/02/14/cyberbullying-an-interview-with-nancy-willard-2/
Willard, N. Cyber Savvy Survey. Retrieved from https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CyberSavvySurveyMOOC
Willard, N. (March 9, 2013). Bullying Symposium 2013 Keynote Speaker Nancy Willard. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZlZwX4gqxU