Teaching students to help stop cyberbullying

A conference on cyberbullying last week in Montpelier drew some 300 middle and high school students from all over Vermont, the Rutland Herald reported. Judging by the reporting, it was very effective – a research-based approach that encouraged empathy and gave young people information they could act on (along those lines, see our new "Tips to Help Stop Cyberbullying").

The keynote was given by John Halligan, father of Ryan Halligan, who was 13 when he killed himself after being bullied online. Telling Ryan's story "made the students think twice about online communications," according to the Herald. Halligan told the students that he believed it's up to them, not adults, to stop cyberbullying. [Here's an interview PBS's "Frontline" producers did with Mr. Halligan for its "Growing Up Online" documentary, which you and your kids can watch in full by clicking in the upper-right-hand corner of its home page.]

Phil Fogelman, an education director at the Anti-Defamation League, which sponsored the conference, also spoke. He explained that the social and emotional impact of cyberbullying on people can be "devastating." "The students gathered in small groups for two hours of workshops, identifying the most common forms of cyberbullying, which include sharing secret or embarrassing information about someone, sending cruel messages, spreading rumors online and posing as someone else," according to the Burlington Free Press.

Speakers taught students how to recognize and address cyberbullying when it happens. The Herald reported that "most of the students said that when they encountered cyberbullying they tried to remain uninvolved. Instructors said it was important not to participate, but also said being a bystander is not enough. Students were urged to report cases of cyberbullying to an adult."

Related links

* Further info for everybody: Cyberbullying & Cyberthreats: Responding to the Challenge of Online Social Aggression, Threats, and Distress, by Nancy Willard, and Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying, by Sameer Hinduja and Justin Patchin
* For teens: Letters to a Bullied Girl: Messages of Healing and Hope, by teen authors Olivia Gardner, Emily Buder, and Sarah Buder
* For schools: Cyber Bullying: A Prevention Curriculum for Grades 3-5 and Cyber Bullying: A prevention Curriculum for Grades 6-12, by Susan Limber, Robin Kowalski, and Patricia Agatston
* "Cyberbullying better defined" in NetFamilyNews, 9/19/08
* "Online harassment: Not telling parents" in NetFamilyNews, 10/6/08
* "Tips to Help Stop Cyberbullying"

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