Cyberbullying is a prevalent discussion topic in today’s popular culture and news cycles. It is disappointing to note that while there is much discussion, there doesn’t seem to be many solutions presented at large, and while this is representative of the information at the surface level, there has been a tremendous amount of scholarly research done on this very topic. Even research on traditional bullying can yield wisdom for cyberbullying because both forms are influenced by similar motivations and factors.
The problem is one of significance when considered statistically, in that over half of students have been bullied online. The numbers are staggering regarding victims and unfortunately, the links between bullying and a collection of negative emotional responses like depression, anxiety, loneliness, and hopelessness, is strong. It’s interesting, however, that not all children who experience bully victimization have the same emotional responses. Some children have very intense experiences of these negative emotions, while still others can be virtually unaffected by it- but why is this? Researchers have set out to understand this exact question which has presented helpful knowledge that can give you and your child tools to mitigate these problems.
Several studies on the relationship between values and bullying have shed light on why some students can “bounce back” more easily than others. The implications of these studies are that children who have cultivated a deeper connection with their personal values have decreased levels of cyberbullying, such that the more these values increase, the more cyberbullying decreases.
The idea of values plays a key role in what researchers have coined as ‘resiliency’, which is the ability of a child to “withstand external pressures and setbacks.” This is generalized to pressures of stress from school, parents, or social situations, but several studies have specifically targeted bullying. While there are anti-bullying approaches that consider controlling environmental factors, like Positive Youth Development (PYD) which considers the relationship between these internal resiliencies and works towards pairing those values with an environment that allows a child to flourish, parents don’t have the ability to control the external factors themselves. Focusing on internal resiliency is an effective way to regain some control over the situation, at least in terms of personal action. These internal qualities have been defined by a refined list of personal attributes from a research paper studying resiliency. The following list is a survey given to children which rates each item as Not True at All, Rarely True, Sometimes True, Often True, and True Nearly All The Time:
- I am able to adapt when changes occur.
- I can deal with whatever comes my way.
- I try to see the humorous side of things when I am faced with problems.
- Having to cope with stress makes me stronger.
- I have trouble bouncing back after illness, injury, or other hardship.
- I believe I can achieve my goals, even if there are obstacles.
- Under pressure, I stay focused and think clearly.
- I am easily discouraged by failure.
- I think of myself as a strong person when dealing with life’s challenges/difficulties.
- I am able to handle unpleasant or painful feelings like sadness, fear, and anger.
Although this list was designed for research, it’s a good approach for objectively looking at your child’s potential for handling bullying situations. If it seems that he/she is less versed in any of these outlooks, this could be the time to work on developing these qualities. Several studies have also found that the children that respond least negatively to bullying typically have higher self-esteem, more social connectedness, and better family relationships, and that a positive atmosphere at home combined with warm family relationships also contributed to a better emotional response.
As a parent, the implications of this information can challenge a natural protective intuition that creates a desire to monitor all activity in detail about your child’s life, and since online activity can be monitored with invasive spyware, that seems to be a common approach. But what this research is demonstrating, is that a child needs to develop the ability to cope with social stress, which may not mean that mom and dad solve all problems all the time. Exercising judgment can be an empowering and important learning experience for young people (obviously highly dependent on age).
The most omnipotent form of bullying today, cyberbullying, can challenge a child’s resilience on a daily basis through a variety of platforms. With the constant connection and updates, it is often found that parents don’t understand how, where, and when to look out for bullying on these social media websites. Is it possible for a low-tech parent to promote resilient development through social media monitoring?
BulliPatrol monitors activity trends on children’s and teen’s social media accounts and alerts parents of the negative ones. BulliPatrol keeps the content of messages, comments, and tags, unknown, and by doing so, allows parents to respect the privacy and judgment of their child while also keeping informed of the important trends in their child’s social interactions.