Social media can be a wonderful thing. It allows us to keep in contact with those who live far away, it provides opportunities for creativity and collaboration, and means there are new ways to share information – tackling the top-down nature of media broadcasting. However, it also means we are all contactable even when we don’t wish to be so. This has dramatic consequences for those who bully and those who are bullied as after the school gates close there is no safe place to go.
Thankfully the issue of bullying is being taken more seriously than it used to be and it’s about time! A recent report explained how cyberbullies are more likely to self-harm, just as those who are being bullied are too. It goes to prove that the children on either side of the bullying spectrum actually have more in common than they know – a deep sense of insecurity.
Although these are issues that can be addressed by parents, doctors and therapists; schools can also help to tackle these issues and they should. Children spend a large proportion of their day at school and have every right to feel safe there. Schools are also the first place that children learn how to be with each other, behaviours that can be taken forward into working life. If the insecurities of a bully aren’t dealt with, they may continue to act similarly in the workplace, and on the flip side those who are bullied may continue to let their self-esteem be battered and be walked over by colleagues. These issues don’t disappear with the bullies, they are damaging for life unless they are addressed.
Luckily, there are innovative practices all over the world that tackle the issues tied up in bullying whether it be cyber, emotional or physical. Here are the tools and approaches we think you should know about.
To nip bullying in the bud…
The first point of call for any child in danger of becoming a bully is to build their empathy skills. When a child is sensitive to how their actions will make others feel and they feel genuine compassion for others they’re far less likely to bully someone.
Roots of Empathy encourages these empathetic behaviours by bringing babies into the classroom. A certified instructor hosts the sessions with the baby becoming the teacher! The instructor encourages students to identify their feelings and the feelings of the baby by asking questions which help students to understand the needs and emotions of others.
Empathy cannot be successfully taught through traditional instruction, but it can be taught experientially which changes the architecture of the brain. If children develop these skills early on, they will continue to be inclusive and responsive to others throughout the rest of their lives – successfully tackling the root of the bullying problem!
To build high self-esteem and healthy social media usage…
When people feel good and secure in themselves there is less of a desire to persecute others. To help students build their confidence it’s vital for them to feel successful at something, to feel noticed and to be appreciated.
Trix and Trax is an educational programme that encourages and shines a spotlight on students’ individual talents. The programme has students identifying a talent such as a sport, an artform or music – and then teach their skills to their peers. To empower the students further, live events are organized where students put on a group performance that they’ve worked on together.
The performances are filmed and shared on the Trix and Trax social media tool – a completely safe space where students encourage each other by giving positive feedback and build each other’s strengths. This is a much healthier way of using social media which highlights the positivity that this technology brings to the world!
The multidimensional approach of Trix and Trax helps to establish positive student relationships and builds on students’ confidence and self esteem.
To encourage asking for help…
Schools can’t do everything themselves, sometimes a young person is just going to act out, perhaps due to problems at home or an insecurity issue that cannot be addressed through educational means and needs a medical professional. In this case, it’s important that the bully and those who are being bullied have a safe space to communicate their feelings so that they don’t suffer in silence.
Adolescence is a time when anxieties really come to a-head and it can be difficult for children to ask for help. MeeTwo is an app which allows young people to post their problems and receive advice and feedback completely anonymously. The app was created by a psychologist and an educational technologist in collaboration with teenagers from schools in England. The teenagers wanted a discreet, social media-esque device that they could use to receive help, which is exactly how MeeTwo works.
Users can ask any question, but a 300 character limit means their posts are focused and concrete. Other users can reply with advice or ideas, or click the ‘MeeTwo’ button to say that they share the same problems which reassures young people that they are not alone.The virtual nature of an app is proving to be useful for teenagers experiencing social isolation, social anxiety and those who are unable or reluctant to seek help from teachers and parents.
Everything on the app is pre-moderated so there is no danger of students being bullied on the app, allowing them to have a virtual safe space to express themselves and receive support. If a post is rejected by a moderator, the user receives feedback as to why, which helps to educate young people on what is an appropriate way to communicate on social media.
In this social media platform trolls remain safely out of the picture.
To get students career-ready with impressive digital footprints…
In order for students to go on to have successful careers they need to feel confident in their abilities so that if they do encounter those who haven’t dealt with their issues, they will be able to hold their own and not allow bullies to control them or damage their careers. Employers are also frequently using social media as a way to see if a potential employee is suitable for the company, so it’s important for children who otherwise might engage in bullying to be aware that their digital presence could affect their futures.
New Technology High School helps students to build impressive digital presences and encourages children to have a healthy attitude and relationship with social media. Students use social media to interact with experts and build a digital presence through blogging.
Students are taught how to promote their content on social media or if they want to minimise their digital footprint they are educated on privacy settings and how to limit those who can see their content.
By conversing with experts and building their digital skills, children leave school already with some knowledge of the working world and with the blog portfolios to backup their passions and career interests. Similarly to Trix and Trax, by tapping into students’ individual passions and interests you are able to spark their excitement and deter them from feeding insecurities and lashing out through bullying.
New Technology High School helps to build confidence whilst giving them an impressive social media presence which is both attractive to employers and empowering for students.