Meeting young people at digital eye level concerning bullying
January 2016, Centre for Digital Youth Care held a digital campaign which focused on bullying among children and young people. The project is part of a larger European Daphne effort that specifically works towards creating an anti‐bullying concept based on emotional intelligence (ENABLE).
Our digital campaign emphasised that bullying can be experienced in a variety of ways and entail different consequences. In this context, young people were invited to share their experiences and submit suggestions on how bullying can be stopped.
Why a digital campaign?
The aim of our campaign was to create an open dialogue where young people would have the opportunity to reflect on their emotions, thought‐processes and behavior in regards to bullying. This would apply to the one who bullies, the victim, and bystanders (the group). The campaign was based on the principles of ENABLE’s anti‐bullying concept, whose purpose is to develop young people’s social and emotional skills, aiming to improve their understanding and their sense of responsibility regarding their on‐ and offline social interactions. ENABLE wants to fight bullying using a holistic effort concerning young people’s social lives, empathy, and their individual resilience. By making a digital campaign, we have created a dialogue with young people across school and spare time.
“As a victim of bullying, you get a sense that it’s your own fault, or that others won’t believe or understand you if you tell someone, for instance your parents or teachers” - Anonymous youth during our group chat on bullying
Centre for Digital Youth Care works daily on meeting young people at digital eye level by using digital media. The experience we have from our online counselling, Cyberhus, tells us there is a need to focus on digital efforts because they offer youth an opportunity to enter into dialogue on their own terms.
Organisation of the campaign
CfDP’s digital youth counselling, Cyberhus, operated as a bridge between young people, and each Thursday during the month of January, the group chat focused on bullying. The subject matters in the group chat were based on ENABLE modules.
Thursday 7 January 2016: What is bullying
- Definition of bullying (and where does it take place?)
- When does it turn into bullying?
- What happens when someone bullies? (the individual, the group, the environment). Which “roles” exist? (victim, bully, bystander). Do I participate in bullying by not doing anything when the bullying takes place?
- What are emotions? How do I describe how I feel? Examples of emotions (good and bad). How do I know if someone has the same experience as I do?
- Which subjects are sensitive? (e.g. race, religion, appearance, disabilities, gender, sexuality)
Thursday 14 January 2016: What is digital bullying guest counsellor: Jonas Ravn, CfDP
- “Faceless” ‐ How does this affect someone’s communication? (difficult to read emotions)
- Misunderstandings (intention vs. reception)
- Digital self‐harm
- Have you ever experienced digital bullying? What did you do?
- How do I avoid digital bullying?
Thursday 21 January: Violent bullying
- Teasing, bullying, violence ‐ what define the boundaries between those aspects?
- Physical and psychological violence
- Why is it difficult to act up?
Thursday 28 January: How can we stop bullying?
- Peer‐to‐Peer Support (youth to youth network)
- How do I take on accountability as a child or a teenager?
- Is it easy to change behavior? (why is it difficult?)
- How do I manage my emotions? Strategies on managing negative emotions
- What can I do in a particular situation? What are the consequences?
Prior to the group chat, we posted a short blog post that focused on the theme of the following chat. The post invited people to comment and submit inputs. We also posted a blog summary after the chat session.
“There is a bully-mentality in my group that makes it difficult to cross with others. A kind of implied accept that bullying does happen” - Anonymous youth during our group chat on bullying
The counsellor's experience with the group chat
Our group chat had on average 20 young people online during each chat session consisting of 3 hours. The chatroom hosted a lot of different perspectives on bullying and our young people shared several personal experiences. The counsellors observed that some people shared experiences they had not yet shared with others. In addition to personal accounts, the chat sessions particularly circled around issues of which emotions were associated with bullying; how can you avoid “hating” on social media; which significance applies to a certain group in relation to maintaining or changing a culture of bullying, and how can words do as much harm as physical blows. Our young people were also proficient in supporting and acknowledging one another, as well as encouraging people to stand up for themselves if they, or someone else, got bullied. They also believed that you must verbalise feelings associated with the consequences of bullying, and the bullying itself, so that we learn more about how we can understand our emotions, and how we respect one another. Also, people agreed there must be a focus on anti‐bullying starting during early school years.
Group chat as a tool
We chose our group chat as a pedagogical tool, because this chatroom creates a framework under which youth are able to enter into dialogue with a counsellor or with one another. Young people may exchange experiences or advice, and they can communicate honestly without having to expose themselves, because the group chat allows full anonymity. This makes it possible for us to connect with ‘well‐adjusted’ as well as vulnerable young people. Particularly in relation to vulnerable young people, our group chat offers a room in which their experiences, thoughts and emotions are taken seriously by a counsellor and/or other young people. They cannot say anything wrong in our group chat, and this may help them share more than they would have at school or at home. In other words, the group chat offers a space for young people who normally do not have much space to begin with.
When young people are allowed to absorb their space and contribute their own knowledge, it seems that some sort of informal learning between young people is taking place. The informal learning can be viewed from two angles. First and foremost, there seems to be an aspect of social‐learning because our young people are doing well at moderating each other and speak out if their boundaries are breached. This way, they communicate what they want and what they do not want in a social context. Second, apparently there is an aspect of emotional learning due to the fact that our young people are taken seriously. A lot of people we meet on Cyberhus, have almost no experiences of being taken seriously ‐ be it by other young people or adults. So, they experience a growing insecurity regarding their faith in their own emotions and thoughts. At Cyberhus, they are taken seriously. They are met with care and respect. Therefore, our group chat may help young people trust their own words more and enable them to participate in the debate on bullying in the physical room, e.g. at school or in their youth club.
Additional communication Our blog and group chat have very much operated as part of our campaign which recognises that bullying happens in varying degrees and expresses itself in a variety of ways. The more informative part of our communication material for young people consist of articles posted on Cyberhus. They are still available in Cyberhus’ articles archive, and entail information on e.g. different types of bullying (violent bullying, sex bullying, digital bullying), whom to address if you experience bullying, and a success story on someone who managed to come out on the other side of bullying. The function of the articles have been flexible meaning that if someone asked a question in the chat room, e.g. concerning bullying at school or digital bullying, we wrote an article on that subject. This way, we were able to meet our young people and show them that we listen. As already mentioned, it is of utmost importance to us that young people are taken seriously.
Future plans for our project
Bullying is a major issue and the stories from our group chat testify that bullying results in very serious consequences. At CfDP and Cyberhus, we will continue to make an effort to create dialogues on the issue of bullying and provide young people opportunities to reflect on their behaviour, in real life and online. This effort include ongoing group chats, and blog posts on bullying.
Our group chat has particularly addressed how bullying can be stopped and how young people, parents, and pedagogical staff as a unit, must collaborate more focused on the fight against bullying. Therefore, in the future it could be interesting to receive practical ideas from young people on how a given group culture could be changed, along with young people’s views on initiatives inherent in the ENABLE modules, with an aim to improve and target those initiatives. All in all, it has been an exciting process which has had a positive impact on groups of young people. Also, our campaign has managed to create an intended dialogue on bullying. Therefore, we consider our campaign a success, however, we unfortunately face a long road before coming to grips with bullying.
More information on the project can be obtained by contacting Signe Sandfeld Hansen by mail, email@example.com or by phone, +0045 86370400.
The campaign is developed in collaboration with ENABLE.
Article by Signe Sandfeld Hansen, Master of Science in Psychology & Project coordinator, CfDP and Karina Lange, Master of Arts (MA) in International Business communication & Communications officer, CfDP.