This lesson explores what it means to stay safe online. It focuses on cyberbullying and helping young people understand what it is, reflect on their experiences of it, and learn ways to prevent it or stop it.
Cyberbullying happens when kids bully each other through electronic technology such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, group chats, online games, or other platforms. Bullying, as described by stopbullying.gov, is “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.”
Cyberbullying can happen in very small ways, such as consistently posting mean comments or messages, or very significant ways, such as spreading widely unkind or false information about someone.
This lesson focuses on helping kids understand what cyberbullying is, why it’s not okay, and how to stop it.
- Talk about cyberbullying. Have a short conversation using the following questions:
- Have you ever heard of cyberbullying? What do you know about cyberbullying? Think of a time when you saw/heard of cyberbullying – what are some examples of cyberbullying your thought of? (Suggest no names are used, rather “he” or “she”/”him” or “her”) Write their responses on a flipchart, whiteboard or chalkboard.
- Are there things people do to one another online that could hurt feelings but that most people don’t considered bullying? What are some examples? Write these down as well. They might mention things like making mean comments on social media or posting pictures of others without permission.
- Explain that cyberbullying happens when people are intentionally and consistently mean to each other through electronic technology. If you’d like, you can read the definition from stopbullying.gov, “…unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.” It can happen in small ways, such as comments on posts, or very significant ways, such as threatening someone or spreading unkind or false information about them. Cyberbullying hurts the people who are bullied. It can also hurt people who bully by making them look bad and making them feel sad about their own choices.
- Do the Online and On Guard…Is It Cyberbullying? activity, which describes different scenarios and asks youth to sort them into four different categories of social interaction, including bullying. As they sort, facilitate a discussion about why they put the items where they did. There may be disagreements. Try to come to a shared decision about where to put each item, letting them know that every situation is unique and this activity is just to get them thinking. Validate all their ideas to encourage more discussion. Allow them to talk about their own similar experiences but stop them if they start to talk about specific examples that involve other people, letting them know that telling other people’s uncomfortable stories can actually be a form of bullying. Questions to help with the conversation can include:
- Why did you choose this category?
- What if we change something about this example? Would that put it in a different category? What kind of change would cause you to move it?
- What other examples would you put in each of these categories?
- As a group, make a list of things that people can do to help stop cyberbullying. Here are some things you can add if they aren’t mentioned:
- If someone is being mean to you or someone else online tell a teacher, parent or other trusted adult.
- If someone is being mean to you or someone else online, tell them to stop. Sometimes quietly standing up for yourself or someone else is enough to convince a bullying to back off.
- Only accept friend/follow requests from people you know in real life. Set privacy settings so information about you (including images) are not visible to the public. Every time you post or share, carefully consider whether you want it to live on forever, because it might.
- Use good passwords and never share them with anyone. Generally, the longer the password, the stronger it is. Adding complexity, such as uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters, makes it even stronger.
- uppercase letter (e.g. A, B, C, D, E)
- lowercase letter (e.g. a, b, c, d, e)
- number (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
- special character or symbol (e.g., ! @ # $ % & * _ + ~ . ,>)
- Make your password memorable for you. Don’t use information people know about you, such as family members’ names, pet names, addresses or license plate numbers. And don’t repeat characters more than three times in a row.
- Ask your parents or caregiver to help you if someone if cyberbullying to help you decide how you should respond. If your caregive is asking for your password – maybe be willing to share it so that they can help protect you. Remember, sometimes caregivers ask for passwords not because they don’t trust you, but because they are helping to protect your from cyberbullying!
- Create a “Bully-Free Zone” agreement or pledge. Ask them to commit to a short list of things they will do to help keep each other safe and healthy online and to sign the agreement. This can include simple things like, “Be kind,” “Ask before posting,” and “Treat others with respect.”
One possibility is to use the THINK model:
Always THINK Before You Post
T=Is it true?
H=Is it honest?
I=Is it inspiring?
N=Is it necessary
K=Is it kind?
If not, should you post it?
- What to do if you or a friend is being bullied:
- Support them by listening to their story and reassuring that their feelings are fair. “I totally get it.” “That is not OK that they did XYZ.”
- Offer to help them find an adult who can help them problem solve. “I think we should go talk to Mrs. XX – she always knows what to do” or, “My dad helped me one time when BLANK happened – I think he could help with this too.”
- If your friend is nervous about getting help but you really feel like they need help, talk to a trusted adult who can help you problem solve your job as a friend. You can start by saying “I want to talk to you about something in confidence” so that they know it is an important and sensitive topic.
There is no one easy way to stop any kind of bullying from ever happening, but by introducing young people to these ideas now you help them start to build the tools to prevent or stop it from happening if and when they encounter it.
Continuing the Conversation
Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing how to recognize, prevent or stop cyberbullying.
Additional Instructor Resources