MDPH Podcast 1: That S So Gay: Preventing and Addressing Anti-Gay and All Forms of Bullying (2024)

Webinar: Cyberbullying

Webinar Description: The CyberbullyingWebinaris presented by Elizabeth Englander, Ph.D., Founder and Director of the MassachusettsAggressionReductionCenter at BridgewaterStateUniversity. This Webinar focuses on the causes of abusive (bullying) behaviors in children, with a particular emphasis on cyberbullying, Internet safety, and cyber-risk behaviors.

Webinar Duration: Approximately 73 minutes

Brandy Brooks: Good afternoon, and welcome to the Cyberbullying Webinar. My name is Brandy Brooks, and aside from being the moderator this afternoon, I am a contract manager for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Suicide Prevention Program, the sponsors of this Webinar.

Before I introduce our presenter, Dr. Elizabeth Englander, I would like to go over a few housekeeping issues. First, should anyone experience any technical difficulties with either the audio or video for this Webinar, please dial 1-800-843-9166. Again, that's 1-800-843-9166, and a ReadyTalk representative will be more than happy to help.

Second, all telephone lines are muted except mine and Elizabeth's, so please use the Chat function to type in any questions you may have. Given the number of participants, Elizabeth will do her very best to answer as many questions as possible as we go along and at the end of the Webinar during the question-and-answer period.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let me introduce our presenter, Dr. Elizabeth Englander. Dr. Elizabeth Englander has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. She is also the founder and Director of the MassachusettsAggressionReductionCenter at BridgewaterStateUniversity, where she is also a Professor of Psychology. Dr. Englander is the author of three editions of Understanding Violence, and dozens of other articles and book chapters, as well as serving as a guest editor for Special Edition, Cyberbullying from the Journal of Social Sciences. Through her work, she has presented on topics including bullying, cyberbullying, aggression and violence, social success, and success online.

So without further ado, I will now turn it over to Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Englander: Yes, hello. Can everybody hear me? Or I should ask, actually, Brandy, if you can hear me. I'm not sure this is going through.

Brandy Brooks: I can hear you perfectly, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Englander: Okay, sounds good. Good afternoon, everybody, and what I'm going to do is I'm just going to go through the presentation. And it will probably work best, because of the number of participants, if you go ahead and send any questions you have by Chat. But it would probably work better to hold off on answering the questions until the end, just because that way we can make sure to get through everything. And then I can really turn my attention to the Chat box. So if that's a problem, by all means, you can yell through your capital letters. But generally speaking, if we can hold off until the end, that's a great idea.

For those of you who don't know what MARC is, I just thought I would very briefly tell you about it. This is a center at BridgewaterStateUniversity in the public higher education system here in Massachusetts. And what we do in the center is we conduct research on bullying and cyberbullying. We do programs for K-12 education in schools. And we also do other activities, so, for example, we run contests statewide,we develop curricula, things like that.

The basis of the program is that the Center utilizes faculty and students--graduate students and undergraduates--to bring programming to K-12 education. And so we do that through a series of print programs, most of which we do in school at no cost to the school. And that's a great part of the whole idea.

Also, however, the research that we do is, I think, very important and really helps the program significantly. And through our base at the university, we have access to older teenagers for research purposes. We also do research on kids in grades 3 through 12 and on parents and on faculty. So we have a number of different avenues that we're constantly exploring.

The purpose of the program at the university level is to train future professionals. So we have students that we are training people how to implement theK-12 education and set the model that works really, really well. Mostly what the kids in the Center focus on is they focus on the programs that we use to educate kids in K-12. So in essence, the older kids are teaching the younger kids, and that is a very important part of it and a very helpful part of it as it happens, because really, if adults go out and speak to kids, they can be very powerful, there's no doubt about it. But there's something especially powerful about having a high-status older peer, even somebody who's even five years older than you are, or a few years older.

I'm just noticing on the chat that a number of people, or a few people, are asking about the sound. Is there some kind of sound issue that's happening right now? Can people hear me? If people can hear me--okay, it sounds like most people can hear me. I am on a cell phone, and if I need to, I can move to a landline. So please let me know, anybody, if there's problems like that.

All right, so the purpose of the programs that we do in schools is to, really, not to treat. We don't do treatment, we don't do referrals, we do no clinical work of any kind. We don't refer people to therapists or to lawyers, nothing like that.

The purpose of the program is really around prevention. And so that's based on decades of research in which we really, it's really been very well established that the way to address and prevent online and in-person bullying in schools is to establish a school climate where the kids and the adults are very conscious and very aware about bullying, where they're thinking about it, and they are really engaging their peers to stop this kind of behavior, to see that it's something that's really socially undesirable.

That's what we call the whole-school approach, and in essence, it's a very important part of the approach. But it's difficult, too. Preventing bullying is not an instantaneous or overnight process; it's really something that has to be done one brick at a time.

We try very hard to be innovative in the program, we try to be very practical, we try to be very concrete. And we definitely use our research directly in the field. And that's actually a big advantage that we have, because many academic centers do research, but they don't do field work or they do field work, and maybe clinics, they do field work, but they don't do research. And it's very advantageous, frankly, to be doing both, because it really gives us an opportunity to address things that we need to know in our research and to apply those directly in the programs.

For those of you who may or may not know about this, this year we're releasing a number of curricula. There's a K-5curriculum on our website on bullying and cyberbullying. There is a high school curriculum, which we're in the middle of field testing right now, so once we have data on that, we will release it.

We are going to have a day at the college, March 15, which is going to be reserved. That's for training adults on the cyber issues in the cyber skills curriculum.

The curriculum for high schools is really not really about cyberbullying per se. It's about digital skills that contribute to safety and bullying online. So we're going to have this training day, because I know that many adults feel uncertain about their knowledge basis in this area. And so that's really what we are going to be addressing in it, the knowledge base. And for those of you who want to do that, you might want to keep that in mind.

The research that we do, as I mentioned very briefly before, is on grades 3 through 12. So we have surveys of thousands and thousands of kids in those grades. We also do research on parents and on faculty.

But probably our most fruitful research program is the one that we do on freshmen in college. And what we do is we grab the freshmen when they come in, and we study them in great detail about what their high school and middle school experiences were like, a little bit about elementary school, too. But it's really advantageous to the high school issue, because frankly, in the high school issue, when they come in as a freshman to college, high school is a very recent memory. And they still really remember what was going on.

And so we study them about things like their social interactions and their peer interactions and conflicts and bullying. We talk about, we study them for their relationships with teachers and parents and that kind of study, we do a lot in that study on digital behaviors. And that's extremely helpful in helping us understand better what's going on, although there are still a little (inaudible) because there's many, many questions that we haven't answered.

The high-status role model is, I referred to what that is, I think. That's just a model that we use to deal with teenagers, mostly. But we also do programs outside of K-12 education because, frankly, K-12 education does not do this alone. And it's really important that we utilize all of the resources in the community.

So one of the resources that I think is underutilized is pediatricians. Parents go to see pediatricians every year. Pediatricians can educate both kids and parents around these issues. And pediatricians carry a lot of weight, generally speaking. And so parents who may have a more difficult time in their relationship with their school, they listen to their pediatrician more readily. So we're working very hard to try to get pediatricians educated and onboard with us. And we're having some success. We actually are doing a pilot program that talks to the children right now.

Okay. So I'm just going to tell you very briefly about the research that we're doing and the research I'm going to cite in the studies. And the one I'm going to cite in the studies today is the study on college freshmen. And there are over 600 in the study so far. Some of the findings are very established; some are rather preliminary, depending on where we're at with the analysis. But that gives you an idea of what we're going to be doing.

Okay, this is, I apologize, a little bit out of order. It's not point number six. I wanted to start by talking about cyberbullying and how much of a change life in school and the social life of children today incredibly much. And I really think you almost can't overestimate the impact of this on kids' social behavior, on their socialization, on how they develop friendships, on many, many different things, which I'll talk briefly about.

Basically, we see cyberbullying cases down to grade 2. That's probably because you have to be literate to cyberbully. So you can't do it in grades K or 1, for the most part. You're usually not good enough at reading and writing.

We have a tendency to think of kids today as very knowledgeable about computers. But actually, they are very comfortable with them. They are not particularly knowledgeable about them. And that's an important distinction to make.

I just want to make that sidebar for a minute. I can see somebody ask if they can get copies of the slides. Generally speaking, what I ask presenters to do, and I think I talked about this with Brandy, but I'm not sure. I'm happy to give out the content of these slides. That's not a problem. But I usually ask people not to utilize the slides themselves, just because that's caused so many problems for me in the past that I don't even want to get into it.

And people are always very well meaning, but sometimes they misinterpret events or misinterpret information in a perfectly well-meaning way. And I'm always the one who ends up getting in trouble. So rather than field a lot of irate phone calls about this, what I can do is send everybody who's here today an outline of all of the contents of the slides, and then once you really feel like you're comfortable with the content, you can build slides around it. I'm perfectly happy to give you the content. It's not a problem.

Okay. Anyway, so kids, generally speaking, are very comfortable with technology, but they're not particularly knowledgeable. One of the things that we did in this study this year is we asked kids to estimate for us how much they thought they knew about information technology. And then we also gave them a test where we actually tested them on their knowledge base to see how much they actually knew. And they did pretty poorly on the test as a whole.

Now remember, these are college freshmen, so these are not, certainly, at Bridgewater State University, they are not going to be the most competitive group, but any group of college freshmen is in general among the more competitive segment among kids. So, really, they weren't all that knowledgeable. They were comfortable, but not all that knowledgeable.

But just a couple of things that can demonstrate just how comfortable kids are with technology, and they are very, very comfortable with it. This is a study that was done in San Diego at the University of California about a year ago--two years ago now. And basically, what they did is they were trying to show how Americans consume information. And just as an example, if you look at the blue sectors, you can see that from 1960 to 1980, that television consumption went up significantly. And then it dropped down again by 2008. That probably won't surprise any of you who are parents, because you know that it's not the kids are doing less screen, it's that they're doing less television. And as you can see, by 2008, 27% of their consumption was online. And that's very, very different. And actually, more than 27% when you count games online.

The point is, though, that this is obviously something they're very, very comfortable with. Kids are very comfortable as well, and that can be introduced as something called cloud computing. Cloud computing is basically when you use a program that is based on the Internet instead of a program that's installed on your computer.

So just as an example, if you want to make a document, if you were to use Microsoft Word to create your document, that's a program that's installed on your computer. But you don't actually have to install any program on your computer. You could go through your browser to something like Google Docs, and you could create a document there. And that's a whole word processor. It's just that it's online.

Now, kids are comfortable with cloud computing, by and large. They can't really envision a world where there isn't an Internet connection. Of course, we can. We can remember when Internet connections were sketchier or not as readily available. But most kids today pretty much assume that they're always going to be able to get online.

This is a study that was done--a pretty funny one, I think--that was done in Europe among older teenagers. And basically, what they said to them was, "If you had to give up your Internet connection or your partner, which one would you give up?" And most of them said they would give up their partner rather than their Internet connection. And it really just shows that, it sort of demonstrates, how far that kids would go, how much it means to them to be connected electronically. And I'm actually going to talk more about this as we go on. But that's just to give you an idea.

Another issue that's very important has to do with the disconnection between kids and their parents. There is a very broad and significant digital disconnect. And this contributes to bullying, because one of the major feeders to bullying in school and online is online interaction. And that's another point I'm going to make later, that people often don't realize, is that these kids don't see the distinction between digital behavior and in-school behavior the way adults do. They see the two things as just part and parcel of one interaction.

So I thought I'd talk about some of the disconnect between parents and kids. So, okay, we're the parents. I think one of the first things that we notice is that parents do tend to have this belief that if they have a nice child, they couldn't possibly engage in bullying, particularly in cyberbullying.

Of course, one of the advantages of cyberbullying is that it often leaves a written trail. And so you can pretty readily see exactly what the child has done. I myself have gotten many emails from parents who are absolutely devastated to find out that what they've been told about their children is true, that they were bullying others, simply because they had the black-and-white evidence.

What kids tell us about this business about being nice is many kids today seem to feel that what they do, particularly what they do online--but also to some extent, I think, what they do in school--really doesn't have any reflection on how good or successful a person they are. They think that being a successful person is about being on top socially. And that's true, to some extent. But they don't see bullying as being related to these issues.

Another issue that's very big is the idea that parents really think that the objects we call cell phones are telephones. So they look at an object like this and they think that they're giving their child a phone. And that's what they're giving them. But my argument is that really, that's a phone. That other object, this object, is not really a phone.

MDPH Podcast 1: That S So Gay: Preventing and Addressing Anti-Gay and All Forms of Bullying (2024)
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