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How to Teach 4 Critical Skill Areas to Internet Bullies
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In the last section, we 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 this 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.
Remember Tamara from the last section? Tamara stated, "After Mira ratted me out for bulling, I was really pissed. It was like everyone started looking down on me. So I gave her what was coming to her. I gotta stand up for myself!"
4 Strategies for Skill Training for Bullies
♦ Strategy # 1 - Identify & Seek Support
A first strategy that I introduced to Tamara was to identify and seek support from people who cared about her. Like many internet bullies, Tamara felt that only peers who agreed with her bullying behavior were her friends. She only looked to her small group of friends who supported her bullying behavior for confirmation. Immediately following the incident, one of Tamara’s teachers had reached out to her. However, Tamara had been confrontational. Tamara stated, "I asked Ms. Johnson who she thought was right, and she said something dumb about Mira doing what was best for everyone. So I knew she wasn’t really on my side."
I encouraged Tamara to reopen a dialogue with Ms. Johnson. I stated, "Ms. Johnson may support Mira’s action, but she’s obviously very concerned about you, too. She can like and support both her students, and she clearly cares about you enough to ask how you were." Clearly, while encouraging dialogues with people outside the internet bully’s immediate support group is important, it is important to remember that any perceived slight, regardless of how small or unintentional, will likely send the internet bully immediately back to the closed circle of ideas and friends that support bullying behaviors.
♦ Strategy # 2 - Increase her Ability to Empathize
A second strategy that I used with Tamara was to increase her ability to empathize. Tamara like many internet bullies clearly perceived Mira as an object rather than a human being, a sentiment that was enhanced by the faceless detached nature of the instant messaging she chose as the vehicle for her bullying behavior. Not perceiving Mira as a person with rights gave Tamara permission to treat Mira poorly, as evidenced by her statement that she "gave her what was coming to her" for the crime of tattling.
Reverse Role Play Technique
To help Tamara increase her skill at empathizing with Mira, I introduced the Reverse Role Play technique. As you may be aware, the objective of reverse role-playing is for individuals to see actions, try out behaviors, and develop a better understanding for other people and their relationships to them.
I stated to Tamara, "It would be nice to know how Mira would react if you said that, but she’s not here. Let’s do a little role-playing here to see if we can imagine what would happen. You react to me the way you think Mira would, and I’ll react the way I think you would. You’ve seen enough and thought enough about her that you can guess how she would react. Try to get in touch with how she would feel and you be her. I’ll start."
Although I practiced the role play in a traditional format as well, I was also able to borrow a pair of laptops from the school so that Tamara and I could practice the reverse role-play over instant messenger, through a pair of neutral screen names we set up specifically for the purpose.
♦ Strategy # 3 - Gaining a More Accurate Self-Concept
In addition to identifying support and increasing the ability to empathize, a third strategy I introduced to Tamara involved gaining a more accurate self-concept. As you are well aware, all people have doubts about their own qualities and acceptability, but in bullies these insecurities rarely find direct, open, and realistic expression. In addition to the many productive self-concept development strategies readily available, I have found that encouraging internet bullies to engage in mentoring can be extremely useful in developing a more accurate self-concept.
Mentoring allows the internet bully to spend non-defensive time trying to understand another person, who often looks up to them. To help her practice these skills online, I also helped Tamara find an internet support group in which she could participate. Being able to give others helpful advice and support in an online support group helped Tamara begin to recognize that individuals on the other end of an online interaction are real people with feelings sometimes similar to hers.
♦ Strategy # 4 - Improve Social Problem Solving & Anger
A fourth strategy I introduced to Tamara was to improve social problem solving and anger management skills. Tamara clearly saw social interactions as having only two outcomes, winning or losing. She had become dependent on overpowering others to insure these outcomes. I found that the following areas were critical areas for skill development: negotiation skills, win-win outcomes, give and take relating, listening skills, conflict management, anger management, and relaxation techniques. Think of your Tamara. What areas for social problem solving skill development are you currently addressing her or him?
In this section, we have discussed 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.
In the next section, we will discuss four therapeutic interventions for the friends of internet bullies and their victims. These four interventions are, give permission to act on feelings, decide on specific actions, provide immediate and follow up support for victims, and help bullies change in positive ways.
- Paulson, A., (2003). Internet Bullying. Christian Science Monitor.
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