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In the last section, we discussed four steps in a technique for structured termination of joint sessions for internet bully and victim. These four steps are, setting the stage, introduce the rationale for termination, introduce preparation tasks, and the final joint meeting.
In this section, we will discuss four specific therapeutic strategies for victims of internet bullying. These four strategies are avoid giving the internet bully an emotional payoff, be verbally assertive, do something unexpected, and practice necessary behaviors.
Mira, age 13, became a target of internet bullying after she reported to the principal that a classmate, Tamara, had stolen her makeup case out of her gym locker. Mira stated, "when I got home that night, I had a dozen instant messages calling me a liar and a tattletale! I tried to defend myself, but the messages just got nastier!" Mira’s mother attempted to address the situation by keeping Mira busy and away from her computer, but Mira had instant messaging on her phone. Mira received up to 50 harassing instant messages a day from Tamara.
Mira’s mother’s actions were certainly understandable. It is a human instinct toward loved ones to be protective. Clearly, while the family support is invaluable, continuous protection by avoiding sources of electronic harassment can result in avoidance reactions. In addition to encouraging family support, I introduced Mira to the following six strategies.
Strategy # 1 - Avoid an Emotional Payoff
Strategy # 2 - Be Verbally Assertive
I stated to Mira, "Using assertive words online can help you convey to Tamara that you have confidence in the fact that you are a good person with rights you cannot be required to give up. This doesn’t mean you should use the aggressive language Tamara uses on you. If you use aggressive language, this conveys disrespect that is likely to provoke Tamara further. Using assertive language instead conveys the idea that your ideas are defensible without demeaning Tamara, and can dissuade Tamara from continuing to harass you."
Strategy # 3 - Do Something Unexpected
I stated to Mira, "Maybe if you know Tamara is going to post her list, try doing something a little different. You could post a video that cheers you up, or some of your favorite pictures. That way, you can cheer yourself up, but surprise Tamara by not responding directly in the way she has come to expect."
Strategy # 4 - Practice Necessary Behaviors
I explained to Mira that the answers she came up with in discussing her role play may not be always positive and comforting. Doubts will naturally arise about how responses might work that cannot be answered completely until the responses are tried in an actual situation. However, the value of this practice is that ideas can be tested, dropped, and changed to make them better and help the victim feel more confident. Think of your Mira. Would the online Peer Practice technique help her or him develop confidence in regards to responses to an internet bully?
In this section, we have discussed four specific therapeutic strategies for victims of internet bullying. These four strategies are avoid giving the internet bully an emotional payoff, be verbally assertive, do something unexpected, and practice necessary behaviors.
In the next section, we will discuss four strategies for skill training for internet bullies. These four strategies are identify support, increase the ability to empathize, gain a more accurate self-concept, and improve social problem solving and anger management.