Last post I Interviewed Holli Kenley about her book, Cyber Bullying No More, and she gave so many good tips for therapists and parents I decided to write two posts. Today I want to focus on tips for therapists who are working with children and adolescents who have experienced cyber bullying. To read information about how parents can support their kids, visit “Cyber Bullying No More!, Parenting a High Tech Generation” Part 1: Tips for Parents with Holli Kenley.
What are some reasons you think kids use the Internet to bully other kids?
There are two main reasons why cyber bullying is so prevalent.
- Technology provides ‘anonymity’ for the cyber bully. This is really important. The cyber bully is distanced from the victim (no face to face connection), detached from the real word (identity protected) and disinhibited from the harm or hurt being inflicted on the victim. Thus, the cyber bully feels disconnected from the real world and his/her actions.
- Technology provides a “huge power differential” between the victim and the bully. The bully is able to effectuate his/her agenda with ease. An expansive audience and limitless victimization reinforce the bullying behavior, and the bully is emboldened because of the lack of accountability and overwhelming factors of reinforcement. Thus, the cyber bully feels empowered.
Research suggests that the main motivations for cyber bullying include:
- Revenge or retaliation
- Power and control
- Cool and fun
- Use as a defense mechanism (insecure, angry, jealous, mean)
It is interesting to note that Albert Bandura’s current research suggests that cyber bullying is a behavioral manifestation of the ‘process of moral disengagement,’ largely learned and reinforced by the factors of anonymity and power differential. Group work focusing on the areas of restorative justice, with a heavily embedded empathy component is strongly recommended.
How do you feel a therapist could help a child who is involved in Cyber bullying? Either as a victim or the bully?
Many children take on the roles of both cyber victim and cyber bully (cyber bully victim). It is important to assess for both roles and their involvement in each. During the intake process, it is extremely important to conduct a thorough 5Axis Diagnosis, paying special attention to Axis I – Clinical Disorders. Also, with both victims and bullies, assess for thoughts of suicide and homicide (Duty to Report and Duty to Warn).
Here are three interventions for each.
For a child who is being cyber victimized, remember the 3 “S”:
- Safety Net – Implement safety measures and develop a step-by-step plan for the victim who is in danger of harming him/herself or others (victims are more like to carry a weapon than bullies). Pay attention to levels of depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behaviors. Implement technological safety measures as well. Put a strong ‘net’ around this child!
- Support – Believe and validate the child and his/her feelings. Listen, empathize, and develop a support system for the child. Let the victim know that he/she is not alone.
- Social Skills Development – Many victims are feeling powerless. Either through individual or group counseling, working on assertive communication and self- empowerment skills is extremely important.
For a child who is cyber bullying, remember the 3 “C’s”:
- Consequences –Remember that the goal with the cyber bully is to change the behavior. Research suggests that punishment by itself does not work, nor does solely taking the technology away. There should be appropriate consequences that correlate with degree of severity of bullying. (One exception would be if there is a duty to report given the laws within each community or state.) Making meaningful amends to the victim or acts of restorative justice are highly recommended.
- Contract – A Family Online Agreement should be implemented at once with clear guidelines on appropriate use, rules, and expectations. Whether one is in place or not, there are grounds for restricting usage of technology for a designated period of time. During this time, the child must demonstrate accountability and responsibility for his/her behaviors. Frequent monitoring is mandatory.
- Counseling – It is extremely important to perform a ‘needs assessment’ with the cyber bully. The motivations for bullying vary widely; and thus, effective interventions do as well. Research suggests that group counseling with an emphasis on empathic skill building is highly successful in reversing bullying behaviors.
Tell about other publications that are available, or that you are working on
Resources on Cyber Bullying:
- One of the best online sites for references is Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) – www.fosi.org . There are all kinds of tools, downloads, materials, etc. available for counselors, therapists, educators, and families.
- Another excellent reference is Cyber Kids, Cyber Bullying, Cyber Balance (Trolley & Hanel, 2010).
Other Publications by Holli Kenley
- The PMS Puzzle: a recovery book based on my own struggle with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.
- Breaking Through Betrayal: And Recovering The Peace With, a self-help book addressing recovery from all kinds of betrayal.
- two e-singles: Betrayal-Proof Your Relationship: What Couples Need to Know and Do
- Cyber Bullying no More: Parenting A High Tech Generation.
- My newest book is Mountain Air: Relapsing and Finding the Way Back…One Breath at a Time, addressing recovery from any type of relapse.
- I conduct workshops about cyber bullying to parents and at educational workshops and at therapeutic/recovery conferences.
- Recently, a small group of community members and I participated in a two day Valley Wide Anti-Bullying Outreach Event which will take place August 29th– 30th , 2013 in my hometown of Prescott , AZ. As part of the event, we will screaned the “Bully Movie’ and we had guest speaker Kirk Smalley, whose family was profiled in the movie, speak to several schools and at an open community forum. Mr. Smalley’s organization – Stand For The Silent – is an international movement of change – an outgrowth in remembrance of his son Ty, who took his own life at 11 years old after years of relentless bullying.
I started this interview by saying that cyber bullying (and bullying) is a family issue, a community issue, and a societal issue. Yes, parents must do their part, but so must we all. Thank you Holli for your time and expertise on the important subject of Cyber Bullying. To purchase Cyber Bullying No More, please visit: Amazon.com or other major and independent book sellers. To read more about Holli and her work, please visit her website www.hollikenley.com