Are you going to be part of the problem, or part of the solution? This is a question we ask in every PROJECT ROCKIT workshop in schools across Australia. When we see bullying happen, we all have an impact to make, and this question challenges young people to consider what that impact is going to be. We know that when we witness someone being harsh to someone else, we have so much power to make a difference, and there are many low-risk ways to be part of the solution.
At PROJECT ROCKIT, we have learned so much through working with over 300,000 young people over the last 13 years, and we are passionate about sharing credible, realistic strategies with students across Australia. Our team of presenters are young people themselves, and visit schools in metropolitan and regional areas to empower students to create an online world where kindness and respect thrive over bullying, hate and prejudice.
While the majority of our approach is to be a youth-driven organisation running workshops in schools, we also host forums for parents and family members to discuss strategies, promote insight and understanding of different technology and social media platforms, and to demonstrate that we all have a lot in common when it comes to what we are concerned about in the online world, and also what we see as the benefits. These aren’t sessions on ‘how to parent’, but instead an opportunity to amplify the voices of young people from workshops around Australia, and also to share resources (including this very website!). Similarly, my aim in writing this blog isn’t to guide your parenting, but to share these strategies so that you too can support the young people in your lives to enjoy the great aspects of the online world and minimise the more negative sides.
So, how can we encourage positive and healthy use of these platforms?
- Grow your understanding of young people’s digital lives ahead of any trouble
- Protect your accounts and content by selecting the highest privacy settings and checking what others can see (e.g. Instagram profile, Snap Map, etc)
- Agree on healthy limits and expectations before setting up new devices and accounts
- Promote pro-social behaviours like having difficult conversations offline
- Encourage positive peer support, like using the DM (direct message) feature to reach out to someone who has been affected by online bullying. Year 10 student -“One small gesture can change a person’s life”
How can we support young people who are being cyberbullied?
- Try to suspend judgement when listening to the problem. There are many sides to every story
- Give realistic and safe advice that you would actually be willing to use yourself
- Block the user, report nasty content and delete hate but always grab a screenshot first
- Challenge online hate and discrimination in risk-free ways, like writing a ‘counter-comment,’ throwing a random curveball and using power in numbers
- Look for allies. Allies can provide support when you’re not there, nurture new social connections or even be confident enough to stand up for your young person in the moment
- Work with the school. Rather than seeking out someone to blame, work with the school to establish a clear response that you can step through together.
Despite what some cynics make believe, the vast majority of young people don’t agree with bullying, but many don’t know what to do when they see it happening. If we are able to empower each and every young person to take action when they see online hate, we can work together to create a safer online world for everyone. We believe every young person should be able to enjoy the good things about technology and social media without fear of experiencing discrimination or bullying, but it takes a group effort to create change. We are advocating for a world in which young people feel empowered to consider their impact, online and offline, and to choose to be part of the solution - we hope you’ll join us!
For more tips and conversations on these topics, check out our episodes of PROJECT ROCKIT TV on YouTube.