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In the last section, we discussed two of the central problems inherent to internet bullying. These two problems are, internet bullying is highly sexual, and internet bullying is perceived as inescapable.
In this section, we will discuss three steps regarding helping adolescents in an internet bullying crisis. These three steps are convey realistic concern without undue anxiety, delay making final judgments, and develop positive working relationships with everyone.
Tommy, age 13, hung out with a popular crowd at school, but was very small for his age. Soon after the start of the school year, a girl from his class, Amy, began taunting Tommy about his size through instant messages and emails. Amy also would continually challenge Tommy to perform physical activities for which he was incapable, like running around the school track in under 7 minutes, or jumping across a ditch. A month after Amy’s bullying began, Tommy’s responded in kind. He digitally edited a photo from a pornographic site, putting Amy’s face on a girl in the picture. Tommy then circulated the photo to his classmates.
Recognizing Common Issues Technique - 3 Steps
♦ Step # 1 - Convey Realistic Concern
For Tommy and Amy, this involved honest explanations to each student of the full impact of their behavior on the other party during the first intervention session. Amy stated, "I know it wasn’t really me in that picture, but I feel so humiliated! I feel like the boys in the class see that picture when they talk to me, and I just want to crawl in a hole and hide forever!" Sugarcoating Amy’s reaction when discussing the incident with Tommy would have prevented him from understanding the true severity of the incident.
However, over-emphasizing Amy’s reaction could have created an anxiety level in Tommy which would reduce the effectiveness of the intervention. Clearly, the balance between moderating anxiety and allowing participants to recognize the true severity of an incident is delicate. Think of your Tommy and Amy. What steps do you take to ensure this balance?
♦ Step #2 - Delay Making Final Judgments
Tommy stated, "Everybody keeps treating me like I’m so bad, and feeling sorry for Amy. She’s the one who started it! What she said to me was wrong too!" Although other adults involved in the case wanted administrative action taken against Tommy immediately, I suggested that any administrative judgments wait. Such immediate punishment, clearly, would only increase Tommy’s anger and increase his resistance to reflection on his behavior. By delaying the judgment and considering both student’s sides of the issue openly and objectively, I was able to demonstrate to Tommy before judgment was passed that adults believed in his ability to change.
♦ Step #3 - Develop Positive Working Relationships
I also attempted to explain that more would be done when things had calmed down. During our first meeting, I stated to both Amy and Tommy, "there will be a time and a place to hear both of your sides. This is not that time or place. Right now, I want both of you to take some time to calm down and go about your business. Soon, we will have another meeting, and we will also talk to the principal about what is going to happen."
Questions for Assessing Understanding
When both Tommy and Amy could display their understanding of the problem and the steps that would be taken, I called an end to the first session, and began working with the school administrators on what kinds of appropriate actions could be taken. I felt that problem solving between the two students could wait until a more concrete plan had been worked out with the parents and administrators involved. Think of your Tommy and Amy. Might using the recognizing common issues technique have served as a positive first intervention for these students in your internet bullying case?
In this section, we have discussed the three steps in the recognizing common issues technique for helping adolescents in an internet bullying crisis. These three steps are convey realistic concern without undue anxiety, delay making final judgments, and develop positive working relationships with everyone.
In the next section, we will discuss the first two steps in the evaluation stage for dealing with an incident of internet bullying. These first two steps are, see the probable bully first, and identify concerns regarding the problem.
- Harmon, A. (2004). Internet Gives Teenage Bullies Weapons to Wound from Afar. The New York Times.