Children and Screens held the #AskTheExperts webinar “It’s Not Funny: Cyberbullying and Other Online Cruelty” on Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020 at 12:00pm EDT via Zoom. Moderated by esteemed researcher Dr. Elizabeth Englander, an interdisciplinary panel of leading psychologists, researchers, and lawyers shared personal testimonies of cyberbullying and empowered parents and students to prevent and handle adverse online experiences. Panelists discussed what research says about online cruelty, and how adults and kids can work together to promote civil engagement online.
Elizabeth Englander, PhDDirectorModerator
Trisha PrabhuUniversity Student; Founder and CEO
Melissa Faith, PhDClinical Pediatric Psychologist
[Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra]: Welcome and thank you for joining us for this week’s Ask the Experts Workshop. I am Dr. Pamela Stella Pietra, president and founder of Children and Screens Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, and host of this popular weekly series. As you know, children screens is a leading interdisciplinary convener, funder, and curator of scientific research, and public educator on the topic of digital media and child development. Today’s workshop will focus on one of the most difficult and problematic elements of our digital world when bullying, cruelty and meanness are taken into cyberspace. Our experts will share personal stories and provide advice on how to handle cyberbullying and how to talk with your children about it. Our panelists have reviewed the questions you submitted and will answer as many as they can during and after their presentations. If you have additional questions during the workshop please type them into the Q&A box at the bottom of your screen and indicate whether or not you would like to ask your question live on camera or if you would prefer that the moderator read your question. Please know that we may not be able to answer all of your questions but we’ll answer as many as time permits. We are recording today’s workshop and hope to upload a video onto youtube in the coming days. You’ll receive a link to our youtube channel tomorrow where you can find videos from our past webinars as well. It is now my pleasure to introduce our moderator dr elizabeth englander. Dr. Englander is a renowned researcher and is the founder and executive director of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State University which delivers programs, resources, and research to more than 400 schools every year nationwide. Dr. Englander has been a friend and advisor to children and screens for many years and we are so pleased to have her here today. Welcome elizabeth.
[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: Thank you Pam, and welcome to everybody else. I’m very excited about today’s webinar and I hope that you’re going to get a great deal from it. We have great speakers and we have some great advice too. So I think you’ll find it really worthwhile and thanks for coming and pam thank you for hosting this. I am going to begin by just laying the groundwork for what we’re doing today and talk a little bit about what it is that we’re talking about when we talk about cyberbullying. So I want to be very clear to begin with that cyberbullying is a form of repeated cruelty online using some digital means. It’s not a situation where one child is mean to another one, just one, so it’s not an accident. It’s something that’s done on purpose, and that’s done over and over again to a target. Now sometimes it’s very hard to identify that kind of thing online but today our goal is really to give you answers. All right. So just to give you a few points about it. The first point I want to make about it is that I know that cyberbullying can be very scary. It can be scary for the kids who get involved in it and it can be scary for their parents, excuse me, for the kids. The scariest thing about cyberbullying is usually the feeling that it’s public, that it could be seen potentially by almost anybody, and this does frighten them. That’s the main thing that they are typically concerned about. Parents usually are concerned about some other issues. So for example, if you’re a parent and your child is a victim of cyberbullying you might be very worried about it leading to depression, you might be worried about things you’ve heard or read that it’s even linked to suicide. These are very frightening things for parents. You also might worry that if your child’s being cyberbullied then or if they’re engaging in cyberbullying even then there might be content that occurs that could come back to haunt them later. So you might be worrying about that kind of thing. One of the questions is how much of this is hyperbole. Now these, I think these fears aren’t false. I think that they’re quite real and quite understandable, but I will say that I think media reports of cyberbullying have really focused on these very difficult situations, to the point where it may feel as though it’s more likely than it really is in reality. And, I think one of the goals here today is to really help parents understand that this is a problem, a social problem that we can cope with. It’s hurtful and disturbing. It’s not always catastrophic though. Just a few basic facts about it. Cyberbullying is not a universal behavior. It doesn’t happen to every child, but it’s not rare either. About 17 percent of kids, between 17 and 20 percent of kids, will say that they’ve been cyberbullied in a given month. If you ask older teenagers you know: have you ever been cyberbullied? About 37 to 40 percent will say yes and that’s about as common as getting a speeding ticket. So that’ll kind of give you something you can wrap your mind around. It’s not something that happens to everybody. It doesn’t happen all the time. Many people will say it’s happened to them at some point, but it’s not sort of an ever-present constant issue for kids. I think it’s important to keep that in mind. It is just as common in girls as it is in boys. Some research actually suggests it’s more common in girls, but that’s unusual, because most forms of aggression when you look at them are more common in boys. So this one’s a little bit different in that way. It’s also really important to understand that cyberbullying is not separate from what happens between kids in the real world. The real world. It’s not, you know, it’s not substantially separate or different. It really is part and parcel, and often what happens online happens in school or between kids when they see each other. It tends to go back and forth between interactions in person and interactions online. That’s very very common. Bullying in school or in person is actually still probably more common. The research is a little mixed on that, but they’re clearly comparable and they’re often very strongly related, and it goes back and forth. So it’s really important not to see it as something separate. It isn’t separate, and kids don’t view it as something separate. The other thing I really want to point out is there’s definitely ways to cope with this, and there are ways to help prevent it. There’s now been enough research that we really do have ideas about what parents and families can do to help kids not become victims or targets, and there are, you know, things that we can all do if cyberbullying does happen to help cope with it. And the good news is that the research is actually pretty consistent so there are definitely things we can draw from that. One of the interesting things about threats online is how much kids see cyberbullying from their friends or their peers as a problem versus adults. So if you ask kids what’s the real threat online, this is the kind of data you get. Kids say, oh it’s cyberbullying that’s the most common problem, but interestingly if you ask parents that same question, they’re much more likely to see adult predators. So it really seems like threats from peers are probably the most common thing that kids face. Cyberbullying can happen in any social media platform. It actually doesn’t seem to be related to a platform per se. Although there are some indications that, for example, Snapchat has higher rates of it, but generally speaking, it really can occur on any site. So regardless of the site we tend to see the same kinds of behaviors that lead to problems. Number one would be videos and pictures and this has to do with problems. Videos or pictures that embarrass somebody or victimize somebody are probably the number one way that we see cyberbullying in the lab. Then there are comments. So for example on TicTok. Probably the primary way that people embarrass others is through comments. There’s hostile confrontations. People are much more likely to be confrontational online than they are in person and kids are like that too. And by the way, kids are very well aware of this. So a lot of these issues are things we can talk about with them because they’re very aware of it. And then rumors and gossip. Rumors and gossip are a huge huge issue and very very common, and kids tell stories about each other. They talk about other people. It’s really hard to get kids not to gossip about each other. It’s actually hard to get adults not to gossip about each other. So it’s really important to understand how challenging that can be. Finally, I do want to point out that bias between kids when it comes to cyberbullying is substantially increasing. In the last couple of years since 2016, we’ve noticed a dramatic increase in bias based on things like race/ethnicity, family, status, and we really all have to be aware of this as parents, because this is something we need to make sure to nip in the butt in our own kids. Just a few quick things, and then I’m going to be quiet we’re going to go to our next speaker. One of the important points to understand about cyberbullying is that it doesn’t take place in a vacuum, so it really depends on what’s happening with the kid, the child themselves. So for example, if you look at severe or minor digital incidents, you can see the incidents that really impacted kids the most were incidents that were also happening at school, not ones that just happened in a random way online. If it was repeated, it was definitely more hurtful. But, the really hurtful stuff are the things that happen online and in school or in person. My final point is that digital stuff is not just about teenagers anymore. There’s no way we see it in much younger kids and for example, some of our research has shown that kids who own cell phones in elementary school are significantly more likely to get involved in cyber bullying both as bullies and as victims. And so it’s…this isn’t just an issue for teenagers anymore this is something we need to start talking to kids about when they’re young. Okay, I’m going to stop there, and we’re going to hear from our other speakers, and then I’m going to come back and wrap up and talk about preventing it with some nice concrete tips that parents can do, can use. Okay so, our first speaker is Trisha. And Trisha Prabhu, we are very excited that she’s here speaking with us today. Trisha is a 19-year-old innovator. She is a social entrepreneur, a global advocate, an inventor, a founder and the CEO of Rethink which is a patented technology and an effective way to detect and stop online hate, which is incredibly exciting. She’s currently pursuing her undergraduate degree at Harvard University, but she snuck away between her classes to come and be with us here. So Trisha, we’re really excited to hear from you. So why don’t you go ahead and take it away.
[Trisha Prabhu]: Fantastic. Thank you so much Elizabeth for that, very complimentary introduction. And thank you to Children and Screens for having me today. I’m very excited to be here, to be talking about what is an increasingly pertinent and pressing topic, especially as a new school year kicks off. So welcome to everyone. As Elizabeth said, my name is Trisha. I am a junior at Harvard. I’m studying Computer Science and Political Science, and I’m also the founder and CEO of Rethink, a patented app that detects and stops cyberbullying at the source before the damage is done. I’m here today to talk a little bit about my personal experiences in the cyberbullying world being a victim, observing it happening to my friends, and to bring a youth perspective as someone that has grown up in a world where all I’ve ever known is technology. i’ve never known what it’s like to not have a phone or not be able to access the internet and look things up and not be able to connect with my friends over social media. So I am hoping to bring a little bit of the youth perspective, talk about my personal experiences, and then finally wrap up with what I learned from my experiences and in the world of cyberbullying. And what I would offer to parents is advice when it comes to things that you should be talking to your child about, things that you should be thinking about, and key youth takeaways on this problem. So I’ll start by talking a little bit about how I first got involved, kind of, in cyberbullying and how it first happened to me. So I actually grew up in a suburb of the city of Chicago. I’m very proud of Chicago and I was…I was born and raised in this area. And when I was, you know, when we were when I was very young you know 10 years ago, we were one of the few families of color on the block. You know that those demographics are starting to change now, but when I was growing up it wasn’t uncommon you know for people to look at me, you know kind of oddly as I was walking down the street. Just because you know, I was a person of color and I stood out. And as every young girl knows, standing out is one of the worst things when you’re 10 or 11 years old. You know when you’re 10 or 11, every day, every little thing can feel like the world is ending, right? It can feel like just an absolutely horrible thing and you know when you have that kind of mentality paired with feeling like an outsider, and having young people remind you that you’re an outsider, it can be a very deadly, very deadly mix. And so unfortunately you know, in school I faced a lot of bullying you know, lots of you know “do you eat curry all the time” and you know “you look like a monkey”, lots of racial slurs, a lot of that bias that Elizabeth was just alluding to in her presentation. And when we all got phones, and we got them pretty young. I got my first phone when I was six. Six years old if you can imagine it. And it was a slider phone because I’m young enough to, or at least I’m old enough rather to remember what those look like, but we got phones and you know by the time I was eight or nine you know I had my phone. And all my friends did too. It was very normal, you know we stayed home from school. You know our parents wanted us to have some way of being able to, you know, connect with them if we need trouble. So you know we all had phones. And so when we got those phones, that was when the bullying that had been happening in person– the slurs, the comments– suddenly transitioned to cyberbullying. And for almost six months when I was 11,12 years old, I was genuinely afraid of my phone. I know that can be hard to conceptualize in your mind. How can you be afraid of your phone? When it would ding and I would hear the ping because I had just received a message. I remember being afraid, feeling my heart constrict. What was this next message gonna be? I received all sorts of terrible comments, sometimes people posing as other people and playing tricks on me. My social media was you know, it was every single message was just you know another person. Sometimes I didn’t know who because it was anonymous or it was pretty clear who it was, but there was actually no way, because the account was anonymous to actually you know point the finger at someone. And being 11 and 12, of course I was embarrassed, and so I didn’t tell my parents. It’s really hard when you’re 11 to, you know, have a conversation with your mom or dad, and say: “hey mom you know, I’m the least liked girl at school. I just thought you should know.” You know, it’s hard to have that conversation and so I hid it for a very long time, and my grades started to slip. Um, I was just less engaged in the extracurriculars, the activities, things that had meant something to me. I didn’t talk to my parents as much about what was happening in my life, and eventually they started to notice. Eventually I was worn down by everything that was happening to me, and eventually I told them and the cyberbullying finally, after six months, came to a close. But you know many years later, you know, after, you know, two or three years later, you know, after I had, you know, finally put those experiences behind me. I decided, okay you know it was a horrible, horrible thing and I’m just gonna forget like a lot of victims. I just wanted to forget. I read the story of another young girl who had had almost the exact same thing happened to her, so much similarity in the stories in terms of the type of cyberbullying. And you know, the things that had happened to her: how long it had gone on, how old she had been. Except her case you know ended up much more tragically because she didn’t have the same resources. She didn’t talk to her parents, and it was much much much more prolonged. In my case it was six months. In her case it was a year and a half. I remember thinking something is wrong here. We have to do something about this um and I knew as a young person with perspective on this issue, I had the potential to also do something about this, on this issue you know in a way that perhaps adults couldn’t because they didn’t really get it. And so I decided to be an upstander, not a bystander, and that is how my work with Rethink which Elizabeth talked a little bit about began. That is my story. That is how I got here and that is how I know what it’s like to be 10, 11, 12, 13, a teenager today with a phone and just how scary it can get. My advice, the things that you know I wish that you know parents had known, the things that I wish my parents you know had known talked to you know talked to me about, had talked to you know my cyberbullies and my perpetrators about. There are a couple kinds of lesson takeaways that I want to share. One is civility is something that needs to be taught. I think a lot of parents assume you know kind of right or wrong, morality, what’s good, the golden rule, that’s kind of enough you know, and kids will absorb and pick up on it, you know it’s something that you know, kids they understand as they get older. And perhaps that’s true, and maybe you’ve had a conversation with your child about you know this is good and this is bad, and you shouldn’t say mean things to other people, which is all great great first steps. But having a really targeted serious conversation about civility and civility online is so important, and your kids are probably ready to have that conversation even if you think that they’re too young for it, or they’re not thinking about these kinds of things, or it’s not you know, it’s not pertinent to them. They’re only 10, 11 years old. 10 and 11 years old is when kids are getting on social media nowadays. It’s when they’re getting their first phones., and it’s when they’re, unfortunately you know, they’re starting to interact and you know communicate in ways that can sometimes be really hurtful to young people, so the opportunity to really actively and intentionally involve yourself in that process by just having a conversation. It doesn’t need to be, you know, accusatory. It doesn’t need to be, you know, mean or rude, but there’s a great conversation to have there about respecting everyone, about how tempting it can be when everyone joins in on a big joke about someone, how important it is to to stand out and be an upstander and speak out for stability, right? And those conversations, I think, can be incredibly impactful. Lesson number two that I hope you know parents take away from this, and this is more from the perspective of you know a parent with a child you know that has been victimized. While it’s true Elizabeth pointed out, you know, cyberbullying is not a universal experience. It does not happen to a lot of kids every day on a daily basis. Often, we’re thinking about isolated incidents, you know, incidents. I was unlucky but with that said, you know, please, you know, speak to your kids and have them know that you are there for them, you know in the case that something terrible does go wrong. I think you know as a child you know my parents never told me you know never sat down with me and said, hey you know Trisha, you know if this happens to you, you can talk to us; we’re not going to be angry; we know that this is happening and we’re here for you, because… not because you know, they didn’t you know… they didn’t you know, want me to know all that, because they just didn’t think it would happen to me. You know it’s not something as a parent that you think will happen to your kid. It’s just something that you read about you know that happens to other kids. Well you know, it can happen and so prepare for the worst, right, is what I always say: prepare for the worst. So your child will feel comfortable turning to you. We need our parents more than we realize, especially at those weak moments, but it can be so hard, you know to speak with a parent because you feel shamed, you feel alone, and you don’t want to admit to your parents that you know those horrible things happening to you. You’re worried about the repercussions. You know what if things get worse if you tell your parents. And you know having those you know conversation with your child and saying: hey that’s not what’s gonna happen, and I’m here for you, just as simple as a quick conversation you know after dinner one night can be super impactful, and your child will have that in their back pocket if and when something happens to them. Then kind of the third thing, the last thing I want to round out on before I turn things over back to Elizabeth, and we get to hear from some of the other amazing speakers here today. The third kind of takeaway that I want to share with all of you is a question that I get from a lot of parents often when I do talks and you know I do a lot of speakings: why is it that kids cyberbully? I just don’t get it. I don’t understand you know why this is happening, and you know there are a lot of explanations and we’ll hear from some experts you know around, you know those very questions: why you know why kids are cyberbullying? But I do believe you know from my personal experiences, what i’ve seen some of the research that I’ve done with Rethink, and the work that I’ve done that part of it is attributable to the fact that you know when kids are looking at a phone you know, it’s just so much more different from the experience of looking someone eye to eye, face to face, and saying something to them they could really impact or hurt them, right? There’s something about the phone, something about the ability to be anonymous to hide behind the screen that makes young people much more willing to say things that they would never say to someone face to face, and that was something that I experienced. I had you know individuals who attacked or targeted me. They would have never said those things to me in person, and they didn’t…they didn’t at school, even if they were bullying or teasing some of the horrible things they said. They never said it to me in person; they only felt emboldened when they were at home on their phone. and so what does that tell us? What does that tell us as parents? We need to be really intentional about having conversations with our children about being really thoughtful online and recognizing that, you know, the internet can get the better of us, right? And really framing it that way that, you know, as human beings, the internet can get the better of us, and this isn’t something that’s just restricted to young people. It’s something that happens to adults too, right? And so you know, equipping yourself with resources, tool kits, conversations, you’ll hear much more, you know, specifics on this, so you can ensure your child doesn’t allow it, doesn’t allow the internet to get the better of them is something I think that is so so important. And a specific recommendation on that, encourage your kids to think before they post. Have them ask themselves: is this something that grandma would be okay with? You know if it’s not, if grandma can see it you know that’s a concern. So that’s my presentation. That’s my story. Those are my tips and advice. Looking forward to engaging in some Q&A after this, but that is my presentation.
[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: Thank you Trisha. That was really really interesting and informative. I think one of the really important points that you talked about was this idea that when kids are in a space where they feel really safe, like at home or behind a screen, then they’re definitely going to engage in behaviors they wouldn’t do in person, and we know that actually from the research we know that, when kids are at home they’re more likely to post stuff, and we also know when they’re using a small screen, interestingly, it tends to make people feel safe. Because you sort of feel like nobody can see what you’re doing even though you’re putting it on instagram. It sort of feels that way so that was great. I do have some questions for you Trisha. So I’m just gonna read you a question, and this is from Sonia and she said: any thoughts on what ages should be appropriate for giving access to social media? Yeah, that’s a question I bet everybody on this panel gets that question all the time. So what would you say?
[Trisha Prabhu]: Yeah absolutely. I would say two things: I’d say definitely go by, you know, right now facebook is, actually you’re supposed to be 13 or older to join, and a lot of kids are joining at 10 or 11 and putting in a birthday that’s not their birthday and they’re joining. That’s a huge concern. I would say wait until high school, you know, early high school, and that’s at the earliest if you think at that point it’s appropriate; it’s something your child wants. Do not fall into the trap of “but my friends have it; my friends have a phone, my friends have instagram and my friends have snapchat”. As someone who’s had access to social media from 12, I can tell you, you know, when your kids are older and wiser, they will thank you. Because you know, the research finds kids are not happy on social media. You know what I mean. They spend a lot of time on it, but they’re not happy when they’re utilizing these platforms. It’s not a very positive experience. So I would say, you know, kind of stay strong in that conversation because it can be compelling. They say, well you know, you know my best friend has it. I would say you know wait until you know, wait until kind of you know later teenage years, or at least you know high school as kind of a good parameter. I think middle school is just too early.
[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: I agree with you completely and I think we need to resurrect the old thing about how if your friend jumped off a cliff would you do too. Just because, you know it’s… it’s pretty clear, and also I can tell you as a researcher, I can guarantee as a researcher that I could look at any…any group of kids and they are not all on social media, so we know that they don’t all do it you know, when they’re 10 or 11 years old, so don’t fall. And I think Trisha is totally on target. One more question trisha, and this comes from Keisha, and the question is “your child thinks that these people are his friends, how do you get him to understand that they are not his friends?”
[Trisha Prabhu]: Yeah absolutely. You know I think it can be hard, you know, the french, the line between you know friendship and you know…you know folks that you don’t want your kids to be hanging around. It can be difficult for kids to navigate that line because there’s so many dynamics at play, social dynamics and you know tricky…tricky just you know kind of blurred lines. And I think you know what to say to a child you know when they think someone’s their friend and really not their friend is it’s kind of to say, you know, almost like a socratic method is the wrong word, but I think pulling out, you know specific experiences and having a child try and justify them, I think can be very effective and not in a way that’s you know confrontational. And I just… I think the thinking process will be very effective for the child to then reflect on later when they’re not under the pressure of trying to defend themselves to mom and dad, but I think just saying you know “okay if they’re your friend then why did they make you do that right?” And they’ll probably come back with some sort of you know “well this and this and that and blah blah blah”. Okay, but you know is is that something that you wouldn’t make a friend do is that you know what if I did that to, you know, someone else, would you think that’s a you know… and they’ll probably be like “no no no you know blah blah” they go off, but I think that starts the thinking juices right? And the doubt in the mind around is this really a friend you know, and then you know you start to observable, and then I think it becomes more apparent. But I think a lot of times, kids you know they’re a little you know…they’re navigating some tricky lines, and they may be doubtful themselves as to whether or not x or y or z person is their friend, and they just need someone to start asking those questions and kind of get the process going in their mind. I do think it is helpful to work with your child as they navigate that line. I think saying that you can’t see x, y and z person. That is the rule; you can do that, but it’s a lot better when the child learns it with you, so even if you’re going to do that at least try and make it a learning collaborative process where child is learning with you that this person is not their friend, not only because it’ll be more effective you know when you say this person’s not your friend, but also because it’ll help them down the road when they’re trying to navigate in life and this is a skill we use for years and years.
[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: Great points Tricia! Thanks so much for your input, and I think planting those seeds is a lot about parenting pre-teens and teenagers, just planting the seeds. So our next speaker, I’m very excited to introduce her. This is Dr. Melissa Faith, and Dr. Faith is a clinical pediatric psychologist. She’s specializing in hematology and oncology at John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. Dr. Faith has worked on cyberbullying and peer victimization for 15 years and her research interests include emotional socialization, social adjustment, and sibling adjustment. During and following childhood chronic illness, I think that’s really interesting; I think we don’t pay enough attention to siblings and sibling relationships, and how incredibly profoundly those impact kids. So Dr. Faith, we’re really happy to have you. Thank you for coming; take it away.
[Dr. Melissa Faith]: Thank you for inviting me. Let me share my screen here. Okay, so what I want to focus on today is talking about some specifics about what parents can look for, what they should know about cyberbullying, and how insidious it can be, but also what they can do if they suspect cyberbullying has happened to their child. Again, we’ll very quickly talk about how to recognize cyberbullying, what it is. We’ll talk about short and long-term psychological consequences and we’ll talk about how to prevent and navigate social media. A little bit of background about me: I do clinical work so I see patients, and I do research and so I’m going to try to bridge those things together as best I can, and give you some examples as well. When we talk about traditional bullying, a lot of times we use the word “peer victimization” and like you heard earlier from one of our speakers. There are lots of different things that go into the kind of bullying that’s truly most harmful to kids, things like it being on purpose; it’s not that somebody accidentally got left out, it was on purpose, it’s repeated over time, and so it’s not just one incident. It’s things that happen over time. There’s a power difference between the victim and the person who did the bullying. Whether that power difference is because of social status or physical stature or intellect or any of those sorts of things, and peers support it. They might not support it by championing the bully and by saying good job bully, but they support it in other ways, by not standing up by being a quiet bystander, by maybe laughing and giggling alongside the bully maybe even because they’re scared that they’re going to get bullied. But then cyberbullying is kind of a unique special thing that’s come up over the last decade or so. So cyberbullying is anything that happens over computers, cell phones, electronics, social media, iPads, anything at all that’s happening electronically. Most commonly it’s going to be things like text messages, using websites, or social media apps, having different types of posts, that’s what it usually is. And usually it’ll be things like spreading lies or rumors saying mean and hateful things to each other, or posting pictures or videos that either the victim would not want to get out, or that are unflattering. Less commonly but still importantly, sometimes it can also be where the bully is pretending to be somebody they’re not, so perhaps creating a social media profile pretending to be the victim even though they’re not, or pretending to be somebody the victim knows even though they’re not. As you heard earlier, the estimates of how many children are cyberbullied at some point during their childhood vary, and the statistics really depend on how you’re defining cyberbullying, what age groups you’re looking at, what counts and what doesn’t count as cyberbullying, so the estimates are all over the place, 5.. to 4…40 percent. Probably that 35 to 40 percent is more realistic as to how many kids will be cyberbullied at some point before they’re 18 years old, and there’s some evidence that girls may be more likely to be cyber bullying, but again that evidence is mixed as well. So, how is cyber bullying different? We’ve heard a little bit about this already. First of all, the bullies have the option oftentimes to be anonymous. They can create fake profiles; they can hide behind their keyboard; they’re not having to look at somebody face to face. Even you as adults think about the kinds of things you might mutter under your breath when you’re driving, as opposed to what you would say to somebody in the grocery store if they were taking too long in front of your line. You say things when you’re behind a screen, or when you have that anonymity that you wouldn’t say otherwise. There are often fewer consequences to bullies because it’s hard to know who they are, because they can be anonymous, and because it’s hard to prosecute cyberbullying, it’s getting better but hard to do and it’s easier for bullies to gain power on the internet and so in a traditional brick and mortar school setting, somebody who is only of…sort of low social status may have a hard time bullying other people because they don’t have enough power to do it. But online, it’s very easy to get that power either because you’re pretending to be somebody you’re not, or because you just get lots of followers. So power means something different online. From the victim perspective, they may not know who’s bullying them which makes it very difficult to intervene, and they may be even less likely to tell parents because they’re worried about consequences, “are mom and dad gonna take away my phone if I tell them about this”, “are they gonna say I can’t have social media anymore?” “I already had to wait until I was 14 to get social media, now are they going to make me wait until I’m 18”. So victims can be scared to talk about it, and from the parent perspective, it’s difficult to supervise. If your child has a cell phone, an iPad, anything at all that they do in privacy; it’s real hard to know what exactly they’re doing online unless you’ve taken some steps as precautions, so it’s hard to supervise all of a child’s online and cell phone behavior which makes cyberbullying a little bit tough as well. And finally, cyberbullying makes us question what repeated means, so I told you before in traditional bullying, the kind of bullying we’re really worried about is the kind that’s repeated over time, but when something’s put on the internet, it could be there forever and so that makes us really question too “what does it mean for something to be repeated?” I’m going to give you some very severe examples first, some patients that I’ve actually had, patients who have come to me over the last few years telling me things and then I’m going to tell you about, some more common types that happen. So some more severe examples, I’ve had a 13-year-old girl with cancer, her peers at school created a hate website and this has actually happened to several of my patients, not just this one girl, but comments on this website, and we’re talking a full-blown somebody did computer- coding-type of website, some comments were “you should just die”, “you look terrible without hair”, “you should just kill yourself”. So that was one example of a patient I had. Another example was a 14-year-old girl who had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, her peers pretended to be her crush, and so this fake crush and my patient had been texting back and forth some explicit messages and photos, and then those messages got sent to, probably not the entire school, in my patients perspective the entire school. And then I had a 15-year-old boy who was somehow got involved in a what I would consider like a text message hate group, and so it was a group chain and it started out where all the peers were roasting each other, which is a term that a lot of kids use to mean that they’re playfully bantering. It became very very hateful and negative, and became sort of a hate group against my patient where they were spreading false rumors and eventually scheduled to to beat this boy up, to have a group beat this boy up. So those are severe examples. More commonly what we’re looking at here are spreading rumors either via social media or by text messages, group chat exclusion, so purposely having group chats and on purpose leaving somebody out; I’m leaving people out of photos or tags on purpose. And so again, it’s that purposeful exclusion with the point of trying to purposely hurt them, unflattering pictures and videos posting those on purpose, having mean anonymous messages on posts, screenshotting conversations that should not be shared, or posting mean things, commenting mean things on things that the victim has posted online. There are lots of long-term consequences to cyberbullying and other types of traditional bullying as well. What some evidence has suggested is that the consequences of cyberbullying may be even slightly worse than the consequences of traditional bullying. Perhaps because you can’t get away from cyberbullying. For many kids, their cell phone and iPad goes to bed with them, not that they should, but they do sometimes. And so this is something that they’re confronted with constantly, so even their home may no longer be a safe haven. So from a psychological standpoint, kids who are chronically bullied especially cyberbullied are at higher risk of developing depression or anxiety, higher risk of behavior problems including problems with substance abuse, or legal problems, or getting in trouble at school. They tend to feel more powerless, have poorer self-esteem, and there can be a higher risk of suicide. Like we mentioned earlier, this is not to say that everyone who is cyberbullied has these these outcomes. That is absolutely not the case. Just that chronic bullying…chronic cyberbullying increases the likelihood that these things are going to happen. From a social standpoint, people who experience chronic bullying are at greater risk of social skill problems, so it’s harder for them to maintain or keep friendships, harder for them to initiate friendships. They tend to also be more rejected by their peers. From a physical standpoint, a lot of times, kids who are chronically bullied are at risk of developing new physical complaints, often this is because of things like anxiety and stress, so stomachaches headaches things like that. But if the child already has a chronic disease, or chronic illness, or disability, they’re also more likely to develop exacerated symptoms from that. So for example, if I’m working with a child who has some sort of a chronic illness that makes them fatigued, then if they’re also chronically bullied at school, they may be more likely to develop things like aches and pains or even worsened fatigue things like that. And then finally from an academic or career perspective, these children are at risk of poor grades, less academic achievement, so less likely to complete college all that sort of stuff, likely to be a little bit less performing job-wise long-term, more likely to drop out of school, and poor teacher relationships, and they don’t feel as connected to school. These consequences can be at the same time bullying has happening, but I think what’s important to realize is that these consequences can span all the way into adulthood, and that’s why it’s so important to stop bullying when we see it happening. So is your child at risk? I’m going to run through the next couple slides very quickly just to to get your minds thinking. This was a recent very large study looking at 13- to 17-year-olds, and they asked what kinds of social media these kids were using. What they found was 13- to 17-year- olds, 75 percent were using snapchat, 76 percent Instagram, 66 percent Facebook, 47 percent Twitter. That’s a lot of kids and of course, some kids are using multiple things there. I won’t go over exactly what all these are, if you have questions later, happy to go over that. In terms of messaging apps, about 91 percent said that they use some kind of text messaging whether it’s texting through their phones or using iMessage. At least 40 percent use a texting app, and this is important for parents to know, your children may be texting back and forth and being part of group texts without using their text messages, and so I think it’s important for parents and their adolescents to set up a relationship of trust where we know what apps are on these kids’ phones, so messaging apps like Kik, Whatsapp, Groupme, Line, and Viber are all text message apps that they can use that do not use their data plan, so you might not even know that they’re using them. And then Facebook Messenger, about 27 percent were using that. And very quickly, a lot of these children are also using live stream video, so 13 to 17-year-olds in the study, 76 percent were using video chat sometimes, 44 percent were live streaming– that’s where you are videoing yourself and it’s immediately uploaded without any editing or any way to just stop it; it’s immediately going on to the internet, and the common live streaming apps are Younow, Periscope, Facebook, and Twitch for gaming. So all that is to say many of our adolescents are at risk, younger children as well as cell phones become more common in elementary school and middle school, but certainly are adolescents. So let’s talk about preventing cyberbullying. The first thing that is imperative is setting clear rules with your kids about what’s allowed, what’s expected and what’s not, and to develop a relationship of trust. I like to tell my parents that who I work with, that things are okay as long as you’re honest, consistent, and there’s trust. So if I tell my child “if you do this, there will be a consequence, here’s the consequence”. My child already knows what I’m going to do. It’s fair if my child knows that I’m going to be checking their apps, or I’m going to be checking their social media. It’s fair because I’ve already told them that I’m going to be doing that. So the big thing is trust. Letting them know that what you’re doing. Consider their age and maturity if you are going to give things like iPads to a younger child, I recommend bookmarking websites that are allowed to use and perhaps initiating some parental controls or monitoring and so you know what they’re doing. There’s monitoring software that can tell you things as vague as what websites they went to, or as detailed as keystrokes which that’s a little much, but either way as long as there’s some way for you to monitor those younger children’s activities. For older children I’d say other sorts of monitoring are important, so it’s okay for you to require your children to make you one of their friends on social media, and it’s okay to set up rules for your children that they’re not allowed to block your access to things. It’s also okay and recommended that if you’re going to allow your kids to have social media, set up those accounts with them as an opportunity to talk about what is okay to share and what’s not, but also so you know their passwords, and I recommend that parents have a rule that children are not allowed to change their passwords or else they’ll lose access to the social media. And finally, communicate what your values as a family are. In this family we don’t post things that are xyz because that goes against our values, in this family this is what’s important to us. So I’m going to go through these very quickly. Some examples of things that you may choose to not allow new photos or sexual messages even if your child is a wonderful obedient child, it’s still important to say these things out loud; geo-tagging, this is where your specific location is uploaded directly into social media and so everyone knows where you are or are not, personal things that you wouldn’t tell your teacher, and so I like to tell kids if this is something you wouldn’t want your English teacher to know you shouldn’t put it on social media. They’re not allowed to change their passwords; they’re not allowed to download new apps or create secret accounts, and not allowed to delete posts or messages that anything that is said online should remain there. Things that you might want to tell them you do want personal conversations, things that are going to have sensitive information, only do those on the phone or in person. Don’t do those sorts of things over text message because they can be screenshotted and that’s not great. Saying things like in this family we are not on our phone during dinner and we put our phones away after nine, so having some clear expectations about time. You can say “I expect you to have fewer than two hours per day on your phone”, and there are some apps you can download for phones that will tell you how much time somebody spent on the phone and what they were doing during those time slots, and then make sure your children know that they will not get in trouble if they need help, even if they’ve made a mistake and broke another rule that you want them to be able to come to you for help. And things that parents can do look for warning signs, if your child changes all of a sudden, so they all of a sudden look irritable or angry or sad or worried, all of a sudden they don’t want to go to school, all of a sudden they don’t want to go to football or dance or band practice, all of a sudden they’re losing things at school they bring things to school and it’s not there anymore, they don’t want to go to their friends houses, they seem to be fighting with their friends, they look sullen, or every time their phone beeps they kind of cringe a little bit, any of those sorts of things might be an opportunity to talk to your child, and when you do, you want to ask questions. Of course you want to ask what happened, who was there, were they your friends or were they not your friends, but also how did you feel, and so sometimes as parents we get so excited to get the details because we want to mama bear, we want to jump in and fix it. We forget that there’s a real human child who might be suffering and so asking them that question: how did you feel about that, what did you do? And getting their ideas for how they might want to intervene. I also recommend for parents to think through how you’re giving your child support. So of course we all want to support our children. You wouldn’t be on this webinar if you didn’t, but really think about the difference between listening and intervening. Sometimes, the thing to do is not to jump in immediately and try to fix it. Sometimes, your role is truly just to be that rock-solid listener, so your child has somebody to confide in, and so you can help them work through those emotions. I recommend that parents be patient. Your children may not be ready to tell you what happened or who did it, and that’s okay, and then make sure that you stay calm and model good coping. Finally, if you do think your child’s being negatively impacted, it is completely okay to get help from a professional like a psychologist. Other things you can think about, a lot of states have laws in their schools that say that schools are responsible for stopping cyberbullying such as something to be aware of if it needs to raise to that level, and some types of cyberbullying may even be criminal. So for example, nude photos of a minor, threatening people via text message or social media, or getting other people to commit violence or harm, all those things are illegal. So those are just things to think about. Enhancing protective factors so if you think your child may be cyberbullied or may have chronically been cyberbullied. Other things for parents to do is to be as supportive and consistent as you can. Again rules are okay, even if your children hate it, strict rules are okay. Just be consistent; make sure they can trust that you’re going to follow through; make sure that you’re modeling how you want them to share on social media, you know some people are over-sharers on social media, we all know that; model for them what appropriate sharing is, and what kinds of things you’d want to use social media for; make sure that your children have some sorts of activities that are extracurricular, it doesn’t have to be an organized sport, but something that gives them an away from school and from the phones; fostering best friendships and so even children who are bullied for a long time as long as they have at least one best friend, they tend to do better. And then encourage healthy sibling relationships. So children learn a lot from their sibling relationships and one of the things we know is that if one child is always winning over the other, or one child is bullying the other, that can have negative consequences too. So you want to promote healthy sibling relationships as much as you can. If you need more information, I’m going to leave this slide up for a couple minutes but otherwise, that concludes my part of the talk. Hopefully I didn’t go too much over my time.
[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: That was great Melissa. I don’t know if you could turn off your screen share.
[Dr. Melissa Faith]: Sure.
[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: And I have a question for you that someone posted. The question is from Barbara, and you did a lot of really great tips there; you’re definitely someone right after my own heart because I think I often say pretty much the same thing. Barbara’s question is which is really interesting is “what do you learn, what do you do when you learn from your child that a friend of your child is posting inappropriately on social media?”
[Dr. Melissa Faith]: So I would say first of all, it depends on what kind of inappropriate. It depends if it’s actually dangerous or if it’s just morally something that wouldn’t align with your family values. If it’s dangerous, certainly we take that immediately to whoever we need to take it to, so we might contact their parents; we might contact the school; we might contact, I mean it’s dangerous, we might contact the police. So if it’s dangerous, that’s a different category. But if what we’re talking about are things that are just morally reprehensible, things that are vulgar, or things like that, my recommendation to parents is usually to use it as an opportunity with your children to just be supportive, but also to communicate your family values. “You know I wonder if we could talk a little bit about why that is concerning to me Josh; you know in this family I always try really hard to make sure that our family is kind to people and that we’re very accepting of people; what do you think about that”, and so, and I call that kind of the third option. There’s some literature on that if anyone’s interested, but it’s this idea that we can communicate our values without telling our kids what to do we don’t have to continue on by saying, and “I don’t want you to be friends with them anymore”, or “you have to unfriend them”. We don’t have to take it to that level; we can just communicate our values and start a dialogue with our children. So that would be my recommendation, and I hear from parents you know, but I think that other kids’ parents would want to know that may be true, but that might not be your role. Your role may be to communicate your own values to your child and to help your child grow into the kind of adult you want them to be.
[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: Great points! And you know I’m not sure if it’s so different from other issues where you find out kids are doing things that are questionable or dangerous. There’s lots of areas where you might hear about that, and I’m not sure it’s really so different when you’re talking about doing something sort of inappropriate or silly on social media. You know there’s all kinds I remember clearly once hearing about a couple of boys in my neighborhood who used to sled right under a metal gate, and like that kind of situation’s easy they could kill themselves if they picked up their heads, so I told their mother but you know there were plenty of other times when I didn’t so…
[Dr. Melissa Faith]: Here in Florida, we have some neighbor boys who are feeding alligators because we’re…
[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: Oh yeah okay…What’s wrong with that? Yeah…Okay that’s a great idea all right so I am going to wrap up with a few tips, and then we have some more questions that we’re gonna go through. And please remember that you can post a question in the Q&A box if you like, and we will try to get to it. I don’t know if we’ll get to all the questions but we will certainly try. So I’m going to wrap up with some tips, and some of my tips might be a little redundant because Melissa and I are kind of cut from the same cloth, but we’ll see how it goes. So let’s talk about first… I’m going to separate into two things, first of all, preventing cyberbullying and secondly coping with it. So let’s talk about preventing it. The first thing I really want to point out is that one of the things that’s really come to my attention in my research is that parents can get really bogged down in myths, so if you believe a myth it might not only be not useful, it might actually prevent you from having the self-confidence that you need to help address things. I’ll give you an example one of the myths that many parents have is the idea that they can’t help their kids with issues like cyberbullying because their kids are better at computers than they are, and so they’re not…they don’t have the self-confidence to help their kids with a technological issue. so that’s a myth because when you really look at their research on cyberpulling. One of the things you see is that it really doesn’t have much to do with technology per se. It happens on technology, but it’s you know kids are good at things like knowing what button to push, but what they’re not so good at is making social judgments saying things like “how will that person feel if I post this funny photo of them?” Those are the kinds of questions that are really important. When you’re thinking about preventing cyberbullying, you’re talking about making a judgment, making social judgments, and so don’t get bogged down in this myth that you don’t have anything to contribute. You have a lot to contribute and it’s really your life experience that’s going to help your kids make those social judgments. Another myth is the idea that if your child makes even one small error on social media their life is ruined, and this can provoke so much paralyzing anxiety. So it’s really important I think to understand that social media is not going to easily ruin your child’s life. Kids make mistakes, and I think one of the things that we’re all learning as a society is that even on social media, they make mistakes and the goal is to learn from those mistakes. That’s always the goal, to maybe get a better understanding of what their family’s values are or to use a mistake as something you can talk about with your child. It’s really good idea to emphasize healthy use of screens and strong social skills because these are the kinds of things that we know help avoid cyberbullying, so having conversations about screen safety and your kids relationships with their friends, “how are things going with your friends”, “what are they doing”, “what are you guys all doing online”, “what are you really enjoying these days”, and those conversations are really really really important. a few of the…this is…I’m going to give you a list of the few of the most common things that really seem to help kids understand how to use social media in a way that is safer and healthier. So for example, try to avoid misunderstandings by being really careful about what you’re saying. There’s plenty of kids who say to us things like “oh I didn’t mean to do that” you know or “I didn’t intend for it to come that to come out that way”. That’s these kinds of things, misunderstandings we hear about constantly in the lab. So let’s all urge our kids to really think about what words do you choose, make sure people don’t misunderstand you. And if you think it’s going to be hard to communicate this through digital means then talk to them in person or call them on the phone like Melissa pointed out. Don’t gang up on people with others. So don’t get into a situation where you have a friend who you think really expects you to be mean to somebody else because they’re mad at them. Don’t take the bait and don’t gang up on people because ganging up on people online is particularly hurtful. Three, if somebody seems mad at you and you can’t figure out why, resist the urge to just lash back. We find that the misunderstandings go both ways online, so people may misunderstand you if you don’t choose your words really carefully, but by the same token you may misunderstand other people if they’re not choosing their words carefully, and a lot of kids today are beginning to understand that if a friend sort of inexplicably seems angry at them, it’s smarter to just talk to them before you you know get all huffy. Four, remember that in a digital environment emotions escalate really fast, much more so than in person. So if you talk to somebody, if you go up to somebody and talk to them about a problem you’re having, then it’s actually more likely to de-escalate. But online emotions will escalate really really quickly. Be careful about images that you post, like I mentioned earlier, images and videos are one of the main things, so be very careful about what images you post, and make sure that what you’re posting isn’t going to embarrass other people. And I always recommend that families come up with their own family rule about using images of other people. The trick is though, that everybody even the parents has to stick to the family rule. So for example, if your family’s rule is if you post a picture of another person you have to ask them first, then that means that you the parents also have to ask your kids before you post photos of them. And you know I think those kinds of rules are really really helpful. And let’s try to keep things positive, we are right now living through a very stressful time and everybody’s online so the potential for cyberbullying is certainly greater, and I think we all need to remind ourselves to try to keep positive. Another tip is to really emphasize healt, and not just safety, we really focus on safety with kids we talk about things like adult predators, or even you know cyberbullying being dangerous, but what we find in our research is that kids are much more receptive to the idea of health being an issue online that maybe it’s not healthy to always stare at a screen, or maybe it’s not healthy to just lash back if somebody says something that seems like they might be mad at you. And emphasizing… and the interesting thing about this is that kids were really receptive to the idea that there are health issues with social media and screens; they bought that, but they were much less likely to buy into the idea that there are grave dangers online; they tended to think that adults exaggerated those. We know that social skills are related to social media and cyberbullying, but the news isn’t all bad and what I wanted to show you were a few things where I think these are sort of opportunities that we can talk to kids about. So one of these opportunities is that many of the kids that we study really understand or are beginning to understand that social media doesn’t really help with loneliness, that you can be on social media all the time and still feel lonely. And that’s a really good sign that kids are beginning to understand the limitations of social media. Even very high quality screen time like educational videos or school time, it’s really important to understand that even really high quality screen time cannot substitute for in-person interactions. In-person interactions are how kids build social skills, and screen time doesn’t substitute for that. So it’s really really important to encourage kids to get out and see their friends especially now most of us have pretty good weather, and kids can go outside and see their friends, and it’s really important that they do that because they need that in-person time in order to develop those skills. Most of the kids that we study really understand the difference between friends that they know in person and friends that they only know from online. They really seem to draw a distinction. I think the word friends is sort of a confusing one for us today, but most of the kids we study really said to us “I don’t have close relationships with people I’ve never met in person”, so that’s kind of reassuring too you know that they’re getting that. Now what do you do if cyberbullying occurs. The first thing is it absolutely can be serious. There are cases that have been associated with things like suicide, but most of the time it doesn’t appear to be extremely serious and we can use that now, and this is sometimes in contrast to how kids describe it to us. So we see a lot of hyperbole when kids describe it to us and they are often very upset about it in the moment, but what’s really interesting is that after the fact they often describe cyberbullying as not necessarily the biggest part of a bullying problem, that it was happening in school as well, and that was what they were more concerned about, not always the case but often the case. Don’t push punishment above all your other priorities. You know when we asked kids who were cyberbullied “what did adults do that really helped you?” Very few kids, only 7 percent of the kids, said “oh they punished the bully”, or “they really pursued that cyberbully and punished him that was what really helped me”. Instead what they really talked about are things like their parents sitting down and talking with them and giving them advice, sort of coaching them on how to handle the problem, trying to arrange things so that they could hang out with their friends and be near their friends, and that they checked in with you made sure things were going okay. “How did it go in school today? I know lunch has been hard”, “how did it go today? Did you sit with your friends? What did you do and what worked”, and talking about strategy and really thinking about ways to bolster your kids. One of the interesting things we did was we asked kids in this study “what strategies did adults recommend and then what strategies did you actually use” and these are the strategies that the adults in their lives usually their parents recommended, they told them to ignore a bully or decide that the bully had no power over you, and i understand why parents say this because it’s really hard to know what to say when a kid’s being bullied online or bullied in school for that matter, but what strategies really worked? Well, the strategies that kids used that they said really worked, most of them were about their friends. They were about sticking with their friends. and it’s really interesting that a lot of the strategies that kids identify targets identify as most helpful aren’t strategies that really focus on the bully. They’re really strategies that focus on building up the target, saying “you know something? There’s a lot of people who really care about you and maybe this person who’s being mean to you isn’t so important”. If your child asks for confidentiality and the situation isn’t a dangerous one, then you could respect that confidentiality, but coach them on how to cope with it. So you don’t always have to get another child into trouble, although obviously if the situation is severe or ongoing repetitive then you should, but you can always coach your child it’s not just getting another kid into trouble is your only option. really coaching kids is one of the things they find the most helpful. You know thinking through with them what could they do how could they handle situations; you know what are you going to do when you get on the bus, where could you sit, let’s think about it, those kinds of strategies. Family support is one of the most important things. Sometimes it’s hard to believe this when you have teenagers who don’t seem to love family support so much, but actually teenagers rank family support what right up at the top of things that really help them out. So take time to do family things all together with no screens and no social media. What we find when we look at this is that the kids kind of get dragged into these events, kicking and screaming, but after a while they love them so they could be things like taking a hike outside, could be playing a board game or cooking dinner together, anything like that reading a book together, anything like that that lets you connect with each other away from a screen is really really helpful. “Are you going to let the school know what’s going on?” Yeah you should. Now I want to be clear here. Schools don’t have jurisdiction over snapchat or instagram. They can’t make cyberbullying go away, but there’s a lot that they can do to help.
If you’re going to work with the school on cyberbullying incidents, understand a few things. First of all, they can’t tell you anything about another parent’s child. That’s confidentiality law; it’s not the school’s law; it’s the state law and a federal law. And so if they say “I can’t tell you about this other child”, they’re not stonewalling you; they’re really genuinely not allowed to; they’re following the law, but they can’t always discipline. Because if it’s happening online they may not have the jurisdiction; a school can’t punish a child for what they do on instagram, but what they can do is support a victim and they can watch and see what’s happening at school. So for example, if your child’s being targeted on instagram it may be that the child who’s responsible is also being mean to them at school in which case the school can intervene. And even if they can’t intervene, even if it’s only happening online, any school can say to a target “listen we are here for you you want to talk our doors are open come talk to us we understand that this is happening and we want to support you”, and that support can actually be worth quite a lot. One of the important things to remember though is that mobbing online never helps. Mobbing online is occasionally a reaction that kids or adults could take which is where they sort of form groups dedicated to bringing someone else down. So for example, you know this could happen in a town to school personnel who you know, somebody becomes mad at someone who works at the school, or somebody becomes mad at someone who is a neighbor of theirs, who’s employed at google, or somebody gets mad at a police officer things like that. And they form a group sort of dedicated to bringing that person down that’s what we call mobbing. And it can feel like social support but it’s actually really a destructive tendency, so if you see it happening I wouldn’t engage or have anything to do with it. I think that it’s really a better thing to steer clear of. Keep an eye peeled for signs of depression and Melissa went through those really well, so i’m not going to. One of the interesting things about depression I just thought I would show you is that we were talking with our subjects about the impact how depressing it can be to see sort of happy social media picks all the time over and over again, and about half of the kids in our study knew that social media pictures tended to be fake that they weren’t like everyone’s not so happy all the time. But interestingly about more than half of the kids who knew it was fake said to us that those pictures still really had an impact and sort of made them feel depressed sometimes anyway. So sometimes doing social media I think and seeing sort of happy pics of other people all the time can make depression worse. Most important thing and I’m going to close off on this and then we can take a few questions is to talk talk talk, you can actually in my opinion forget almost everything that we talk about here today. If you just remember to keep the lines of communication with your kids open, ask them how things are going with their friends, ask them how things are going online, ask them what they’re up to, ask them you know tell them about a case you heard about that worries you, ask them about these things. We know that parents who talk with their kids have kids who listen, so we asked kids if their parents ever talked to them about issues around socializing and cyberbullying and digital problems online, what we found is that about 45 percent of the kids in our studies said their parents never talked to them about these topics never. But of the kids whose parents did talk to them, about two-thirds of the kids said you know my parents said had a real impact on me. They didn’t always tell their parents this, but they did tell us this that you know we really did have an impact. So talk to your kids and plant those seeds, get them thinking about things and in that way, you know hopefully they’re going to begin being more thoughtful about what they’re doing online and how they’re managing their screen time and they’re socializing. All right, so that’s our website and that’s my contact information and that will be available at the end if anybody wants it. I’m gonna stop sharing my screen right now and we can answer some of the questions that we have, and you can feel free to post questions in the Q&A box and we can answer them. Please let us know if they’re for a particular panelist. One of the things that people talk, one of the questions is about the importance of social skills development in cyberbullying prevention. I think I touched on this a little bit, I know Melissa did too. Social skills development is incredibly important and one of the things that we find is that kids who develop social skills offline really well also tends to avoid cyberbullying involvement. So that face-to-face time without screens is really where we see social skills development moving along and that sometimes means challenges; it doesn’t always mean easy situations sometimes these situations are very challenging between kids, but they can be very helpful for them in developing those skills. Another question that came up is “what do you do if you think your child might be the bully?” And I think it’s a great question. I think it’s a great question. Does anybody also want to talk about that?
[Trisha Prabhu]: I hear the question was what do you do if you think your child is the bully right?
[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: Yeah, you think your child might be the bully.
[Trisha Prabhu]: Yeah I mean I think that’s difficult. I think there are a lot of approaches I mean and I’m sure Melissa would also you know have a lot to say on this, you know given her her direct experience, but something that she said in responding to a question during her session which is you know, it always depends on kind of the severity of, you know, what you’re worried about and I think that that definitely applies here right. I mean if you think that you suspect that your child is you know cyberbullying someone and the severity is you know, something that could be illegal is something that could you know be causing serious harm to a child and potentially to your child because of you know implications, then I would say you know it might be best, you know based off of those norms that you’ve set go straight to the source and see what’s happening on the phone right. But I think you know otherwise, they’re I mean you’ve echoed it so many times Elizabeth like talk talk talk, right, like talk to your child and try to understand what’s happening you know how did you figure out you know that you suspect that your child is bullying someone, so it’s something that you know a friend mentioned to you or a friend’s parent mentioned to you, and try you know gently you know poke the subject and have a conversation. And people will say well you know they said this thing to me, so then I said something back, and then it’s great to you know redirect to what Melissa talked about, you know these, you know, that’s not our values you know. Maybe there’s a punishment there you know to make clear you know there’s that this is a boundary that you know we cannot cross in any circumstances right, and trying to be I think empathetic but firm if something comes out. But I think the only way that something is going to come out unless you’re worried, it’s very severe and you’re going straight to the source is through an empathetic conversation right, especially as as these you know as we get older and older, but I’m sure Melissa has more.
[Dr. Melissa Faith]: I would say communicating values is one of the most important things depending on the severity and the chronicity, so how long it’s happening and whether simple interventions like talking about values has worked or not you know. If those things don’t work, I’d say the next step could also be to get the help of somebody who can do a little bit more assessment, so get the help of a psychologist, get the help of even the licensed mental health clinician, somebody who is trained in mental health who can help you understand and help your child change those behaviors and figure out why it is that they are not able to change just based on talking about your values.
[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: And I would add too as a child psychologist that you know sometimes kids try out behaviors. and your reaction and your response is going to be incredibly important in whether they decide to pursue them or not. But at other times behaviors like bullying or cyberbullying really are sort of a plea for attention, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. I mean attention and help and that may mean that you need to sit down and say “well you know our values but what’s going on with you? why are you doing this why are you feeling this way?” And really see if it’s a situation where you can intervene or like Melissa said get help if you need it and don’t be afraid to do that. Kids do sometimes behave in this way as a way of really engaging help. Another question that I’d like to put to the panel is somebody asked I’d like to know how to help deal with group chats where there are some kids who make themselves the leader, they kick people out of the chat group; they’re trying to exclude them and some kids have hurt feelings as a result. So this parent’s wondering how to handle those situations. We actually just talked about one of those situations with an 11 year old in the lab, but I’m curious to see what everybody else has to say. Melissa, what do you think?
[Dr. Melissa Faith]: So I will say there will always be vying for power in social situations. It’s the way humans and even other animals are geared, so there’s always going to be some of that navigation and that’s especially normal through to middle school years as people are developing who they are and what kind of friend they’re going to be. The biggest thing I would say would be to support your children and to help them choose friends who are supportive back to them; help them choose friends who are kind; help them choose friends who are reciprocal so when your child does something nice that their friends are also being nice back, where friendship is not conditional, and really helping your your child value their friendships and choose their friendships based on those things. You won’t be able to control what other kids say on a group chat. I guess you could exclude your child and say you can’t be on that group chat, but that’s not always super helpful either assuming that your child already has a phone and is texting individually with people and it’s on social media. So while I do think that we should not allow young children to have social media or cell phones, I 100 percent agree with that. By the time they’re you know 16, 17 if they already have these things the group chat is probably just a symptom of something else, you know of the kind of friend group your child has developed. And so I would say it’d be more about helping your child evaluate those friendships and to choose friendships accordingly than it would be probably to try to control what’s going on.
[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: I think you hit it right on the head. I think it’s the friends who can really help kids with these situations. It’s not terribly different from being excluded at a table in the school cafeteria or any other kind of group exclusion that can happen. In our situation when we were talking with the 11 year olds about it, they talked about um that they always stuck together and they said if somebody tries to exclude them they all leave and that’s how they coped with it, and I suspect that’s how they coped with any kind of exclusion, so thinking about it in the head and encouraging your kids to think about it. If it’s a problem, I think is is probably a really good idea. Okay let’s see. One of the parents asked a question saying, “I overheard my granddaughter saying to her cousin about another cousin: let’s make her cry”. Trisha, you want to take that one? It’s not a question I think, it’s more of a comment but yeah.
[Trisha Prabhu]: Yeah no. I mean I’m sure that wasn’t the most pleasant thing to overhear. But you know I think Melissa just mentioned it. I think you know as kids grow up, they’re figuring out how they interact with other people, and power dynamics and all sorts of things. So I mean I think question number one is to figure out why your granddaughter wants to make you know x-cousin or whoever it is, why they want to make them cry right. Like I think right now you know, what’s happened right? Because clearly there’s something that’s happening there, and we don’t know what it is; we don’t know if it’s some sort of strain, if it’s something that your granddaughter’s going through, but there needs to be you know some sort of conversation about what’s happening. And so you know there are a lot of ways to breach the topic. If you’re really worried you could you know ask outright “hey I heard about you know you saying x y and z thing about you know your cousin. What’s going on there you know this isn’t like you”. The other way is to just really subtly, ask about your cousin. You know “hey I was talking to…” you know or asked about the cousin “hey I was talking to you know x-family member the other day and she brought up”, I’ll just pretend the cousin’s name is Jane. “Jane, you know, how’s Jane doing? Have you heard me think about Jane recently” and maybe something will come out you know in the midst of a cup. But I think you know step number one is to figure out what’s going on and why that’s happening. I also you know I do want to say, I think just from the comment alone I’m almost I mean I don’t know if it’s an exaggeration like young people speak in terms that are very exaggerated, like exaggerated like you know Melissa pointed out that you know the the example of roasting, like roasting something literally the definition of roasting is to light something on fire right, but the way that we use it you know colloquially as young people is very very light-hearted and formal. If you roast someone, it’s very you know…it’s not a horrible thing. It may sound like that. So I think getting some more context around does she really intend to do something that’s going to hurt her cousin, that’s going to make her cry, or is it something that you know she said you know kind of annoyed like you know “gosh I just want to make…” you know like and it’s there’s a conversation to be had about you know being careful with language you know even if it doesn’t mean a lot to you it could mean something to her, and so there’s another conversation. But I think diagnosing what’s happening first and being cognizant that you know, it may not be what you think especially with young people is probably a good first step.
[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: I think that’s a really great thing to always remember, the melodrama that’s involved in children, and you know the tears and and tearing their hair, and it feels I’m not minimizing it; I’m really not. It’s very upsetting in the moment, but sometimes it is I think exaggerated. One of the questions that just came in and this is interesting because I really just wrote an article about this is “how do you help kids make friends and avoid cyber bullying when everything is online now?” When they’re going to school online and they’re socializing over the web and I think the answer to that is that we’re going to have to become a lot more proactive about seizing the moments that we can seize when people are together, so that might mean while the weather’s good telling your kids to go outside and see their friends outside, or setting up if they’re younger setting up outside play dates for them while the weather’s good, or it could be a situation where you say you know we can eat dinner together as a family every night and we can put down our devices. By the way, in our research we found that eating dinner as a family was directly associated with a reduction in being involved in bullying and cyberbullying, so it’s definitely worthwhile and if it’s just for that reason. But…so seizing those moments when you can be together and build on social skills as much as you can, driving somewhere in the car don’t stare at screens, make sure you talk and having family dinner things like that I think are really helpful. Melissa do you have any other things you can think to add to that?
[Dr. Melissa Faith]: So I have a number of patients who are dealing with this, and most of my patients also have either cancer or blood disorder, and so now they’re stuck at home online school and have no way to socialize with friends. I’ve had some patients who have been very creative about this, who have either in their classes in the group chats that they’re allowed to have through their online classrooms have developed study groups that can be a way to form new friendships, or who have joined online forums to learn a new skill. You know there are some groups where it’s kind of a good example, I have one teenager who joined this online learning community to learn about computer coding; I have another teenager who joined an online community where they draw characters from their their stories that they’ve written because they’re writers, and then they draw each other’s characters and so they try to make the characters better or funny or things like that, and so she’s met some people doing that. So I think there’s some creativity to be had here as well. I’ll also say although I love public school and private school and kids being able to have all those social socially normative interactions, I think that’s a very important part of development. I will also say that there are some forums through some homeschool co-op type things too that sometimes we’ll figure out ways to get kids together in a way that’s socially distant and safe.
[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: That’s great, thank you so much. I want to thank the entire panel. This was a really great webinar and I also want to thank Children and Screens for sponsoring it and taking the time to develop it. I’m going to hand it back to Pamela to wrap us up since we’re out of time. Pam?
[Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra]: Yeah well, thank you all for coming and for participating in such an important discussion, and thank you Elizabeth, Tricia, and Melissa for all of your advice and expertise, and thank you also for sharing your stories and concrete information so that others can learn. We hope that the conversation today has encouraged you to think critically about this issue and to start our continued conversations with your teens and tweens about cyber civility, especially now that school is starting again. Please share the YouTube video of today’s workshop with your fellow parents, teachers, clinicians, researchers, and friends, and please follow us on social media at the accounts shown on your screen to continue learning about this important topic. Be sure to check out Dr. Englander’s new book “25 Myths About Bullying and Cyberbullying” available on Amazon and Trisha’s award-winning app Rethink wherever you get your apps. Additional tips on cyberbullying will be up on our website in the coming days. Children and Screens as discussions about digital media use and children’s well-being will continue throughout the fall and winter with weekly Wednesday workshops at noon. We are off next week and hope you have a safe and relaxing labor day weekend. When we return we will have a webinar on discussing race, social justice, youth, and the media. This is an important conversation you won’t want to miss. It’s on wednesday September 16th at noon EDT. When you leave the workshop, you will see a link to a short survey. Please click on the link and let us know what you thought of the workshop. Thanks again, and everyone be safe and well, and a happy start to school.