Relationship. Belonging. Learning. How are these disrupted by cyber threats and bullying?
Learning is done in relationship, and is most impactful when students feel a sense of belonging. Safety and security are prerequisites for a sense of belonging. Belonging is defined as the extent to which students feel that they are valued members of their school’s community, and can be cultivated by the actions of their teachers, families, and peers. Dr. Terrell Strayhorn describes belongingness as a right, and as something that we require in order to excel in every aspect of our pathways for education and career. When our sense of belonging is disrupted or broken, it is detrimental to our ability to live as our full selves in work, school, and life.
Cyberbullying is ugly, it harms us and limits our capability for human interaction. As adults some of us may have experienced this on our social media feeds or in email exchanges. Our wisdom provides us more tools to handle these assaults than our children have. According to the 2022 Pew Research on cyberbullying, 46% of teens ages 13-17 have experienced bullying online, which means that most of us know a young person who has suffered from bullying.
Arlin Cunic, describes the psychology of cyberbullying and how to stop it in this 2022 article in VeryWell Mind. Cunic states, “It is our job as a community to work toward establishing systems that prevent cyberbullying from taking place at all.” Yes, it is. A cyberbully can act anonymously, and without accountability to the person they are hurting. It is devoid of the interpersonal connection that is needed to resolve conflict.
Our youth need to feel that they can be the beautiful persons they are without concern for ridicule. They need to know that others will regard their story with respect if not compassion. They need to see adults modeling that on campus, in their community, and at home. When we provide our students, our children, with experiences where they can be curious about another’s views and background, they develop skills for understanding and how to be in community with one another. Melonie Parker, of Google captures this in her statement about why Google invests in building belongingness, “The effects of belonging are just as powerful. When we treat each other with mutual respect and support, and work together across our differences to shape our world and our future, the possibilities of what we can do are truly limitless.”
So how do we fortify our youth to oppose bullying and shut down cyberthreats? Through belongingness. Through building a Culture of We.
Resources for addressing cyberbullying:
Stopbullying.gov what to do if you are experiencing cyberbullying.
We the Digital Citizens video for students - Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media Family Activities for Digital Citizenship:
High School - Media Balance and Well-Being
Middle/High School Family Tips w/ multiple languages
Family Tech Planner for Teens and for other ages and resources click here