Expert Tips: Creating Cyber-Mentors to End Bullying

How Cyber-Mentors Reduce Cyberbullying

Youth today spend more time on their digital devices than doing anything else except sleeping. It’s like home to them. According to a recent Common Sense survey, teens spend an average of 9 hours per day using media — which means they are digitally connected for most of their waking hours!

With this much time spent in cyber-life, it’s imperative for youth to learn how to incorporate their (positive) offline skills into their online lives. So where do we begin?

Teens and Their Peers

We all know how important peers are to teens. Just as in previous generations, young people want to be accepted and liked by their peers. Today youth connect with their peers online, so it’s additionally important to them to have virtual likeability – remember, online is a central part of their lives – so they check in on their social platforms to see how many LIKEs they have accumulated or who has commented on their posts. This is the new norm for youth today.

When those of us who grew up before “tech” were in elementary school, there was typically a buddy system. We looked after and took care of our buddy. It’s time to bring that useful practice back again — online.

A recent study reveals that cyberbullying is more common between friends (current or former) than strangers. So it’s high time for teens to become “cyber-mentors” for each other.

Teen-to-Teen Outreach Online: Becoming A Cyber-Mentor

What is a mentor?

A mentor is a person or friend who guides a less experienced person by building trust and modeling positive behaviors. A cyber-mentor guides a person or friend in cyberspace by modeling good social media etiquette and online digital behavior.

Cyber-mentors are friends who are there for you (offline and online) – for example, maybe a friend posts something questionable and it could reflect upon his or her online reputation negatively. That’s when a cyber-mentor steps in.

Or maybe a friend isn’t exactly less experienced online, but is just feeling less-than-adequate. You can also think of cyber-mentoring as an opportunity to step in when a friend is having a bad day and needs a cyber-hug.

Cyber-Mentors Meet Cyberbullies

Through cyber-mentoring, a teen can feel encouraged and empowered to make a real difference online. While reports of cyberbullying continue to make headlines, there are also many stories of teens and tweens breaking the mold and becoming upstanders.

Remember Kristen Layne who was cyberbullied for her weight when she posted a picture of herself on Facebook in a prom dress she was selling? It didn’t take long before a cyber-army of friends and strangers started sending uplifting messages of support to Kristen via social media.

A cyber-mentor, like the ones who supported Kristen, stand-up to the perpetrators of online cruelty, they post positive comments to offset online negativity, and they stop cyberbullies in their tracks.

It’s kids like these who determine what is cool verses not cool online.

Cyber-Mentors: A New Team Sport

Adults often worry about how impressionable teens can be, and how easily influenced by they are by their peers, and usually this is viewed as a negative thing. But it can also be largely positive too. Banding together to be cyber-mentors, teens can influence and encourage one another and become a very powerful, positive force when it comes to online life.

Being a cyber-mentor is easy and effective, and it can help make our teens’ (and everyone else’s) online experiences positive ones.

About the Expert

tcf-post2174-expert-sue-scheffFounder and President of Parents’ Universal Resource Experts Inc. (P.U.R.E.™), Sue Scheff has been leveraging her personal experiences to help others through her organization since 2001. She is a Family Internet Safety Advocate determined to save other parents from encountering the same challenges and issues she faced when searching for a safe, effective program for her own daughter during her troubled teen years. Sue Scheff established P.U.R.E.™ as an advocacy organization to educate parents about the schooling and program options available to pre-teens and teenagers experiencing behavioral problems. You can find her blog here. She is also available on Twitter or Facebook.

The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

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