Last week, we had the opportunity to get a taste of what Parkside Pride is all about. We spent two full days at Parkside Middle School talking to students about practical skills they can use to combat cyberbullying. We discussed and practiced conflict resolution, empathy, and emotional regulation skills, empowering teens to shift the digital spaces they encounter for the better.
We asked the students to raise their hands if they had ever had a small disagreement blow up into a HUGE argument before, and almost every student raised their hand. This is a common experience for many people and is one of the reasons we discussed conflict resolution skills as a method of preventing cyberbullying. Conflict is something everyone experiences and is impossible to avoid completely, so giving students the tools they need to manage it is vital to preventing cyberbullying.
We approached this complex topic by breaking it down into simple steps. For example, we discussed the importance of talking in person or by face time when in conflict, as doing so helps to prevent miscommunications. We fleshed out each step for the students and discussed how using conflict resolution skills can be the difference between a small disagreement staying small or blowing up into bullying.
Many of the students had insightful questions for us after the program. There were questions about navigating manipulative friends, how to set boundaries respectfully, and what to do when you feel overwhelmed during the conflict. However, what struck us most was the courage that many students had to put themselves out there and share their own personal experiences with others. Students realized that they were not alone in their experiences. They also discovered that talking to their peers was safe and that their struggles would be met with empathy.
We encourage students to work on their self-confidence as a method of preventing cyberbullying. It may sound far removed from the issue, however, people with good self-confidence are more likely to engage in helping behaviors than those who don’t. Engaging in helping behaviors turns bystanders into upstanders and prevents cyberbullying. It also further boosts your self-confidence. Pro-social behavior, like helping and giving to others, boosts your self-confidence because your brain releases a gush of dopamine when engaging in these behaviors. It can also bring a sense of accomplishment and sense of purpose. We discussed actionable ways to boost self-confidence, like surrounding yourself with people who treat you well and having positive self-talk.
To give students the tools they needed to engage in positive self-talk, we framed the issue as changing their internal monologues. To do this, we began by asking if the students ever had negative thoughts that seem to come out of nowhere or thoughts that feel like they spiral out of control. Almost all of the students could relate to these experiences. We watch a video that explains how to take control of these negative thoughts and replace them with more helpful, positive thoughts. Check out the video here -> https://vimeo.com/781053558/89953d1620. Students’ eyes light up as they realized that they have the power to change this kind of pesky negative thinking.
Thanks for having us Parkside, we look forward to seeing everyone again soon as we continue to work together to make digital spaces better for everyone!