Cyberbullying is SO complicated. It's a major string in the tangled ball mess of bullying issues. Even many experts in the field haven't really caught up to what's really happening and what to do about it.
I often talk to adults about bullying and usually I can sense that the audience is with me. But when I get to talking about bullying online, the audience turns from looking engaged to looking panicked.
I have to give a shout out to the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention at the University of Buffalo. They're hosting Understanding and Addressing Cyberbullying, a full day of speakers and workshops on September 19th (and the price is affordable -- $75 for professionals and $35 for students). It comes at an appropriate time since the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) in New York goes into effect this school year.
(Note: please notice in their name that it's the Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention. When Jean M. Alberti, a former teacher turned psychologist started this center through a generous gift, I asked her why. She said that bullying had turned from something that could be handled as a teachable moment in the classroom to abuse. She makes it clear that bullying IS abuse. I like her. She tells it like it is.)
Dr. Amanda B. Nickerson, Director of the Center, answered a few questions for me:
What would we like attendees to take away from the conference?
A better understanding of the complexity of cyberbullying as well as effective prevention and intervention strategies that can be put into practice. Also cyberbullying is just one aspect of bullying, results from our needs assessment revealed that this was an area that respondents wanted to know more about. Dr. Sameer Hinduja, our keynote speaker is a leader in the field of cyberbullying prevention and intervention. He conducts original research on the topic, is co-Director of the Cyberbullying Research Center , and presents to a wide range of audiences such as businesses, law enforcement, school districts, parents, and youth.
In addition, we have selected panelists that represent diverse perspectives to address legal issues , school administration issues (from a large urban district as well as a suburban district), mental health issues, and organizations that provide outreach and education about these issues.
Other work at the center includes ongoing research and evaluation projects where they work to better understand the dynamics involved and the effects of bullying, as well as the types of policies, programs, and interventions that work best. To that end, we have developed a guide to school-wide bullying prevention programs.
What I like about the Center is that it's taking the time to do research. Evidence-based programs are a priority.
In other words, we can't assume that we're on the right path in diminishing bullying if we don't spend time and money researching the truth.