As 1:1 technologies and BYOD become more prevalent in schools, evaluating school-wide approaches to supporting students’ well being becomes imperative and a wonderful opportunity to enhance inclusive practice.
In this podcast, my CORE colleague Chrissie Butler and I discuss changes in understandings of bullying and cyberbullying, and explore how schools can take a more inclusive approach to support the wellbeing of all students.
Discussion areas include:
- student identity and the internet
- cyberbullying is bullying – there’s no distinction
- student diversity, unfamiliar perspectives and bullying
- resources and approaches to support all students to develop their digital citizenship skills
Pushing the boundaries of educational possibility.
Chrissie: Kia ora, talofa lava. Chrissie Butler here from CORE Education, and I’m here in the studio with Dr John Fenaughty who is my colleague here at CORE. We’re going to have a little chat about how lots of schools are kind of embracing BYOD and there’s lots more technology in schools, but we really want to talk about what’s happening, what schools need to be thinking about around keeping kids safe, but especially around bullying. So John, it’s great that you’re here too. The last couple of years you did some research around the impacts of cyber bullying on youth and health and wellbeing. So what might be some of the things that schools need to be thinking about now? Like some schools will have policies around BYOD already, but what are the new things people need to be thinking about?
John: It’s a really fascinating time as BYOD rolls out to more and more schools, and it really, it’s a powerful moment really for schools to consider what are we doing to manage bullying, what are we doing to manage cyber bullying? So I think it’s a really neat opportunity. So first off yay. Yay for BYOD.
John: Us getting the chance to think about what this means for bullying and for cyber bullying. One of the critical things that I’m aware of in the discussion around cyber bullying is often the challenge is made that we just need to take people away from the technology if they misuse it.
John: And that’s something that people frequently sort of point out, and it’s something I think that family, whānau often worry about because mainstream media does emphasise some of the negative aspects of BYOD devices, including the opportunity to be cyber bullied.
John: So one of the things that came through in my research is around the critical role that the Internet plays, and how children and young people develop, and that sort of comes from one of the key tenets of adolescent development which talks about when you’re an adolescent one of the key tasks that you do is you develop a sense of identity. It’s not to say that you don’t do that obviously throughout the whole of your life, and you don’t necessarily not do it before adolescence, but it’s something that is critical in those kind of late primary school and secondary school years that that’s what you will be doing.
John: And one of the key ways that you do that is in relationship with others. It’s by me being in a relationship with you and I get to find out that you know your favourite food is thin crust pizza, that I get to reflect on what is my favourite food.
John: And actually I’m not really so fond of thin crust pizza, chocolate mousse is totally where I’m at. But that all sounds a little bit kind of tangential, but the point is that now for young people, the Internet mediates those kinds of conversations.
John: It’s where I find out a lot about who I am and how I am going to present my various ways of identifying to people in my social world, so, and that’s important because I get feedback from those people, I get people saying oh yeah I’m totally also a chocolate mousse fan, or oh actually I’m more like Chrissie on this regard, and it’s how I learn about the world and how I develop, which is a critical part of my growth as a human being, you know. And so, that is a primary context that we need to I think really fundamentally appreciate when we think about BYOD, because that also emphasises that this technology is going to happen in schools where BYOD is only being rolled out in Year 9, it’s happening in Years 10, 11 12, 13. Digital devices are used by the absolute majority of all young people, to the point where I’m comfortable talking about it as a normative part of the development of young people. So, that’s sort of a roundabout wee sort of talk about how significant this stuff is in the BYOD space.
Chrissie: Yeah, I mean it’s, I mean even quite recently, or maybe even it still happens the you know kind of lock up the cell phones, or schools banning cell phones, and families as well it’s like lets cut off the Internet as a way of managing. I guess it’s some sense of control, but this idea that young people, children will be separated from technology and communicating with each other is kind of, I mean basically if they’ve got any kind of connection that’s going to be continuing.
John: Yeah, absolutely. And that sense of their, you know, when you touch on that protection stuff it talks to some of the things we’ve talked about earlier in terms of that the desire comes from a good place in terms of we’re trying to protect young people by removing them from their technology, but unfortunately we unintentionally remove them from their social support networks as well. So, in a situation where they are being, when they are experiencing bullying, they are actually by taking them away from the technology we also take them away from those social supports that are there for them, and those other ways in which their identity can still be affirmed through the Internet, through a particular friend or cousins who may be around. So, that thrust then talks to that shift away from cyber safety that we’ve seen into focussing on digital citizenship, and that’s the bit that I think is really exciting because it does reframe things. It’s moving away from it’s all about managing deficits and challenges, to this is about taking a strengths-based approach to acknowledging that there are challenges on the Internet and our role as family, whānau, educators, schools, hapu, iwi is to support young people to rise to and manage these challenges, because they exist. In my role at Netsafe I was frequently, you know, stunned by the fact that a lot of the cyber bullying we dealt with was for adults. So, we think about this frequently as a youth issue, but digital technologies create a digital world in which we as adults also participate, and bullying still obviously and aggressive acts still occur for adults. So this shift away from cyber safety to digital citizenship, focussing on key competencies and skills are a really powerful opportunity to equip young people with A the skills to manage these challenges, and B, the dispositions to be respectful and responsible citizens in a digital space and not harm others intentionally or unintentionally.
Chrissie: Cool. Could you maybe talk a little bit about that shift from, we kind of have talked about cyber bullying as separate from bullying, and now certainly in the Ministry of Education’s recent bullying guidelines that distinction is kind of disappearing.
John: Absolutely. It’s a really important point actually that for a long time, probably for a decade or so, cyber bullying has been framed as distinct from bullying, partly because of the rise of new technologies, the fact that this is a totally new environment and we are seeing these new behaviours on this environment, but the reality is that now we understand that cyber bullying is bullying of course, and as the digital environment has become part of our offline environment the distinctions between the two are no longer nicely cut and dried. And so when we talk about bullying now, for me we are talking about cyber bullying, and we talk about cyber bullying we’re talking about bullying. The two are interrelated, there is a very strong likelihood that if you’re experiencing bullying that you’ll probably know that person in your offline world, although there can be totally anonymous people who will harass others online.
John: The motivations for bullying normally require a relationship for you to wish to harm someone. The whole point of bullying, this took me a while to get my head around actually, but is to harm someone. That is the aim of bullying, and you want to see some of that harm. If that’s your, if that’s what you’re trying to do, then harming someone that you know offline is probably how you are going to do that, and you’ll use whatever mechanisms you can muster to produce that harm.
Chrissie: Ok so if we think about that in terms of, you know for a school moving to BYOD, so a huge increase in students access to technologies, and if schools really want to make sure that they are doing everything that they can to make this the best experience possible for all students, what are the kinds of things, what are the key things that schools can do?
John: It’s such a neat question because it’s something that really gets me going, because there are things that we can do.
Chrissie: Yeah, absolutely.
John: I’ve worked with loads of schools, loads of principals, loads of senior management teams who are often, often really confused and conflicted about what they can do. Obviously the bullying prevention guidelines produced by the Ministry are a fantastic resource to use. They produced by I think a consortium of over a dozen organisations and key thought leaders in bullying. So that’s really the first place, first port of call to get a really brilliant, concise take on it. The summary from my perspective on that is that taking a whole school approach is critical to any effective anti-bullying intervention. And that reflects some of the change in thinking about bullying. We traditionally thought about bullying as an individual problem. There were people who did bullying behaviours and then we kind of individualised the problem onto them. So we had bullies and then we necessarily had victims. And so bullying, the problem of bullying sat with particular people in schools who were classed as deficient in some way. A social-ecological model of bullying has really fundamentally reframed bullying as a set of behaviours. So I no longer talk about bullies or victims, I talk about people who do bullying behaviours and people who experience bullying.
Chrissie: Ok, yeah.
John: Because that frames bullying as a behaviour, and the thing about behaviours is they happen in contexts, and in environments. And so the power of a whole school approach is that a whole school approach is required to change the environment. Once we change the environment of a school to make it so that bullying behaviours are no longer possible, we produce the end of bullying, we reduce people being labelled as bullies or as victims, and that’s a critical bit. The way that we then go about doing that is to ensure that everyone in the school has a clear, shared understanding of what bullying means in that school community, and that can actually be a harder task than it sounds, because frequently when we talk about bullying it’s actually a technical term and we use it so much in our everyday language that we sometimes miss some of the, we don’t use it precisely in the way that it’s intended. That’s to say that all of the bullying research which will talk about what bullying can produce for young people is premised on the idea that bullying is three things. It’s repeated, so it’s not a one off fight or aggressive incident. It’s produced in a power imbalance. So it’s produced in a situation where someone has more power than another person. So they might be more socially kind of competent, they may have more social friends, they may be more academically able, they may be more physically able, whatever relevant dimension there is a power imbalance involved in the aggression. And, the third element that is critical in bullying is that there is an intention to harm someone. So bullying is about harming someone and making sure you do that. It’s not bullying if you unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings repeatedly. That’s probably slightly clumsy behaviour but it’s not bullying. So A, understanding that bullying isn’t this whole raft of kind of aggression that schools face, it’s actually quite a specific sub-set, and quite a small sub-set of the aggression that schools will see actually makes this issue much more positive and easier to deal with, and, equally, that really sharpens the need for us to do something about this particular set of aggressive behaviours because they are associated with a number of very significant negative outcomes for young people that can be prevented.
Chrissie: Ok, one of the things that we were talking about earlier was just in terms of this whole school approach, what could be associated with that is very much a kind of almost like a one-size fits all approach to ok we’ve got this policy and we’re going to roll out these lessons or these particular activities to everybody or certain things for certain year groups, and then at the moment I’m involved in a piece of work with the Ministry of Ed looking at those bullying guidelines and actually trying to illustrate them. So what would be, so looking at and trying to pull together different students experiences of what it’s like to find yourself in a situation where you may be experiencing bullying, but also where you found where you’ve actually been bullying yourself, and just a kind of a more inclusive approach to that storytelling. So for example, maybe for a student with Downs Syndrome who is active on Facebook. Their experience of being on Facebook may be that actually some of the comments or conversations that they’re in, you know they may be, people may actually be getting at them or their friends on Facebook may actually be having a laugh at their expense, but they don’t actually realise because a characteristic of Downs Syndrome is to think well of the people that you are going to interact with, and bringing out into the open actually different experiences of students, and also for a student that sees that kind of bullying behaviour online suddenly what do you do? What do you do if you see your colleague, what do you do if you see a student in your class who has Downs Syndrome whose being got at on Facebook actually what do you do, do you talk to the student, do you talk to the teacher? And another example that’s come out really strongly, and there’s some great support information online, is around students with ASD. There’s a great resource from the UK childnet.com that has a whole range of supporting resources that are actually kind of symbolic representations rather than text and stuff like that, how do you know when bullying behaviour is coming at you? And also that the way you behave can actually be misrepresented, because you come across as very direct, and actually a person on the other end of Facebook, or in a Skype conversation, or texting actually thinks that they are being attacked. The conversation in schools and schools with students actually seeking those diverse perspectives. So John for you, maybe in other areas around gender, that space, what’s your experience in that space?
John: Just picking up on what you’ve said though in that other bit, what’s so critical about an effective whole school approach too is you’re right, it needs to include the whole school in the approach, and that’s something that’s enormously exciting and transformative and involves young peoples voice as critical players in the mix. All young people, including those with specific needs. And then, within a whole school approach what’s also critical in drawing on some of the curriculum focus is empowering people to be responsible citizens in that school, and to say actually, in my school, we know what bullying is, we know what it looks like, and we know that it’s not acceptable in this school and we are going to do something about it. We know that the teachers that we share this information with are going to know how to handle it appropriately. We’re not going to be put into some ridiculous situation where we are thrust into a room with someone who is doing bullying behaviours and told just to sort it out or, the processes in the school are going to be effective to give people confidence, people have ownership, and pride in their school about what it means to be at this school. You’d ultimately also want everyone in the school to understand that actually with people with specific needs, particularly around ASD for instance, that some of the behaviours may come across as bullying but aren’t necessarily bullying because they don’t meet that criteria of intending to harm someone else.
John: And that’s one of those really powerful things I think about the PB4L programme, or any bullying intervention that also addresses conflict management skills and social development skills, because that’s something that is also critical. You can, the way that a school environment is set up also can produce bullying in more subtle ways. If there are particularly competitive elements in a school culture that get established that create additional opportunities for power hierarchies in schools, that’s particularly, that’s going to be a pressure point for bullying. And, equally, if learners in the school community aren’t well equipped to manage conflict well, there are going to be situations where there are always difficult people in our lives, and we experience them as adults as well as young people, this is a perfect opportunity to give young people those skills to manage situations that will be challenging, not necessarily because it’s the fault of the particular person doing it, that may actually be an aspect of their identity that is unchangeable, and that’s really then our responsibility to accept their identities and to work with them. Because that’s one of the things we value in future-focussed education is diversity, and diversity means everyone. It doesn’t mean just the people that we particularly would prefer we are diverse with, but all learners, and everyones particular identities. And identity is something that is immutable, you can’t change it, and I think that’s critical, and so then when we think about a project that I’ve been working on with the Ministry of Social Development and Rainbow Youth has been exploring how norms around gender and sexuality create a particular set of environments in schools that place people outside of the norm and therefore risk them being prejudice for not taking the party line on what gender is supposed to be. Not doing masculinity in the correct way, or not necessarily doing masculinity or femininity but doing a combination of the two or neither. All of these aspects are really challenging and really emphasise the value of creating critical discussion and taking whatever opportunities you can in school to critically think about what norms are operating in my school, in my classroom, in my family, about everything. And in particular, which norms are producing negative outcomes for some people and some identities in my school and in my classroom, and that’s really powerful, because if we have those assumptions that actually everyone is going to be attracted to the opposite sex, or everyone is going to be the same gender as their sexual designation, or everyone is going to have a binary sexual designation. We fundamentally ignore intersex identities. We really risk, you know, alienating significant people, and producing an environment which at the very least does not give them a space to be included and supported, and at the worse, creates an environment where they will be actively prejudiced and biased against by the systems and structures of the school.
Chrissie: So that’s that point when that bullying behaviour can really kind of pop out of the woodwork because you’ve created that environment that is conducive to it happening.
John: Exactly. I think that’s the bit that took me a while to understand because I can get quite purist in my kind of theories and frameworks, but one of the thrusts that I really came to realise in this is that the prejudices and biases that live in our schools and live in our society create the social norms in which power is produced in school. And so that power bit that then comes in again. And so if you are in a school where you think it’s perfectly obscene that someone would have a relationship with someone of the same gender, or that someone would want to change their gender, or may not fit into a binary sense of gender, of course you are going to feel quite comfortable repeatedly harassing that person, because for you that is just purely abhorrent.
Chrissie: Yeah. That’s almost that kind of oh they bring it on themselves kind of scenario really. Yeah. I mean I think that we commit to diversity and to acknowledging that everybody’s different, but that actively seeking diverse perspectives, actually what does this look and feel like in somebody else’s shoes, to me that’s a really key thing that schools can do. And to look at, and often if you find yourself in a minority or in a margin, your experience of sharing your voice is generally not very positive. So I think schools, everything that we can learn together about removing barriers from kids sharing their voices and creating opportunities that really support that engagement and those different perspectives is key to some integrity around a whole school approach.
John: Entirely. One last thing too that I want to just emphasise, when schools set up particular norms and support particular norms, it also puts everyone in that school in an uncomfortable position. Because it’s those norms that create me as someone who will be prejudiced against someone else, and that limits my ability to get the most out of my schooling, and out of my schooling environment, and it also creates a very negative experience of the world to realise actually that, you know, there are only particular things that you can be or do, regardless of whether or not they actually harm someone, because so many of these norms don’t actually harm someone and things that we’ve inherited from times gone by. You know and I’m curious about some of those norms that exist around learners with specific needs and how they create an environment in schools which isn’t conducive to all learners either.
Chrissie: Yeah, I mean that’s a really good point. Something that I’ve seen in some schools where they are looking at policies around BYOD is some schools may have what’s called a Special Education Unit or a Learning Support Unit, and they’re kind of exempt from kind of learning around the students in there, and also the staff associated and that support those students actually are not part of the same professional learning that everybody else is. So just kind of bringing that into the open and actually talking about that, and also talking about our expectations of, in our heads as teachers, are there some students that we think oh actually that student will never participate on Facebook, because they don’t have the ability or the capacity to do that, and actually exploring some of that thinking. What are expectations of students, actually what do we know about students lives outside of school, and connecting really closely with parents and whānau around actually what does happen at home, and bringing that conversation into the mix.
John: One of the things that’s really important for learners with specific needs too is that the Internet and mobile phones and that communication may play an even more significant role for them, because when you’re in a community that is marginalised or where you’re not part of the dominant cultural group you need to go, you need to actively seek out your community and the Internet provides an incredible opportunity for those in marginalised communities, in non-dominant communities to find others who share their voice, others who agitate for what’s important to them and their identities, and so that’s a critical part of this pie when we think about learners with specific needs. And Chrissie just before we sign off, mentioned an example about a learner with Downs Syndrome and their experiences, I didn’t feel like we covered that off well enough. Can you just talk a little bit more about that and we could finish up that part of that conversation.
Chrissie: Ok. There’s huge diversity in the classroom and students with all sorts of, that experience learning in different ways. And so something like Downs Syndrome, a characteristic of that is that you can see the world kind of that people will respond to you positively. That’s kind of like your default. And so online, trying to read what’s happening, being aware that maybe someone’s getting at you, or you are the butt of somebody’s joke, as the child with Downs Syndrome, or the young person with Downs Syndrome, you may not be aware of that, or you may have kind of an uncomfortable feeling something’s not quite right. Or as another student in the class you may see that happening on Facebook, and so actually bringing examples like that into the classroom and talking about it specifically. So not just talking to the student with Downs Syndrome, but actually talking to everybody in the class, and looking at what can you do. Looking at examples of you know, when you make a comment like this what do we think. How will that be taken out of context? So it’s not like there’s this magical resource that you’re just going to give to your student with Downs Syndrome or give to your class, it’s actually about facilitating a conversation. There are some fantastic resources online. So childnet.com has a great resource, particularly for students, focussed on supporting students with ASD. That’s got some great examples of ways that students could use to help them recognise their own behaviour and that of others. So that’s using, they are called board makers symbols, so it’s kind of symbolic representation with pictures. The thing is actually to actually use those resources and offer them to all the students in the classroom. Because that use of visual image can be really powerful for everybody. Lots of the kind of cyber safety, digital citizenship material is either in text, or it’s in kind of fast paced video that’s kind of a bit hip, and actually finding other ways to facilitate conversations, so supporting with text, supporting discussions, really simple graphic material, and not just with young students. It’s actually co-constructing with students ways that they can manage themselves and how they can support others, and also looking at I think a really specific thing for students who experience learning in different ways is, you know what are their barriers to actually saying how they are feeling. Because some of us can just blurt out what we think, but for others saying that orally is really difficult. So in schools, looking at ways that maybe students can communicate actually something’s not ok here, how can I tell you that?
John: That is just so inspiring and helpful, because what you’ve done is really emphasised the principles of UDL that actually you know we can use resources to benefit everyone, in the same way with the Te Kotangitanga kind of approach, and you’ve emphasised that way of giving young people many ways to share what’s going on. Also what’s critical in that too is I think also acknowledging that digital communication is tricky too you know. It’s not necessarily a deficit to not really get it. It’s actually, it’s incredibly ambiguous at the best of times, and so this is an important skill for all of us to learn and share, and the one thing that we get a lot that particularly young people working in this space will talk about is if you’ve got people you can share this stuff with to get second opinion, you know get other eyes across it, and like you say if you can use different ways of sharing that material to get some support that can be great. Because what can look on the face of it as a very curt or threatening message may simply be a quickly penned out thing, or something that was sarcastic and didn’t get read sarcastically. It is an enormously challenging environment to read anyway.
Chrissie: Absolutely. Yeah, I mean just as a tiny example, as a Mum sending a text with a full stop on the end, you know my daughter will respond with “why were you so grumpy?”, because it’s got a full stop on the end you know, and you have no idea, that use of symbols and emoticons, you know as teachers and parents trying to keep up with the play with that to a certain extent, you know, one does one’s best. But actually you can’t always know, so actually creating those spaces using a myriad of different tools and resources and actually creating multiple opportunities for children and young people to share what’s important to them and the support that they need.
John: I think that’s great, and also what’s critical in that too is that finding a way to accept a certain level of noise too within this space, and creating that sense, because there can be quite a lot of panic for parents around is my child being cyber bullied, when actually cyber bullying is, you know, repeated, intended to harm, and it may not necessarily be those things, it may simply be just some really clumsy communication happening here. But it’s not until young people are supported to be able to share that in ways that will work for them that we can kind of get to that place. So I really appreciate your thoughts on this.
Chrissie: No, it’s brilliant. So just before we go, there are some great resources online that will be good for people to know about. Alongside the Netsafe website there is childnet.com which is a fantastic UK resource, and on there is something called the Star toolkit for teachers, which is support for teachers working alongside students with ASD. There’s also the anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk which again, really fantastic doc. It focuses on cyber bullying, but it’s again it kind of looks at it through the lens of students with disabilities, and then also Netsafe has a great example of their kind of cyber safety resource in New Zealand Sign Language, which is like kind of flagship resource. It’s fantastic to see resources like that being made. So there’s good stuff out there.
You’ve been listening to a CORE Education podcast. Pushing the boundaries of educational possibility.
Here are the resources mentioned in the podcast. Consider adding them to your school’s digital citizenship kete or use them as a springboard for conversations with your students and the wider community.
- Star SEN toolkit — “Practical advice and teaching activities to help educators explore e-safety with young people with autism spectrum disorders”. Developed by Childnet.com and recommended by Netsafe.
- Know IT All for teachers – SEN — E-safety advice and resources for teachers and professionals working with children and young people who need additional support to learn. Developed by Childnet.com and recommended by Netsafe.
- Cyberbullying and children and young people with SEN and disabilities: guidance for teachers and other professional.pdf
- Cyberbullying advice and information NZSL — a NZSL translation of Netsafe’s cyberbullying information and advice for young people brochure
- Bullying prevention and response: A guide for schools — Ministry of Education
- Cyberbullying advice and information — Netsafe
Competition: Book prizes for your school
We have 5 copies of The Impossible Quest — Escape from Wolfhaven Castle by Kate Forsyth (Published and supplied by Scholastic) to give away to 5 schools.
To enter, just make a comment below on this blog post, and let us know the school you would like the book sent to.
What we want to know is:
What further resources and support would be valuable to you and your school?
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