From a proactive perspective, stopping cyberbullying before the damage is done can be rooted in pledging to a movement or a solution that aims to stop the spread of hurtful words. At the Tyler Clementi Foundation, the #Day1 program aims to do this by encouraging individuals to pledge to stop cyberbullying with their fellow peers. From schools to the workplace, with a teacher or a director leading individuals in a verbal acknowledgement in the harm of bullying and cyber bullying, the #Day1 program can help promote tolerance and understanding on “Day 1” in groups of individuals. Furthermore, taking a stand using #Day1 can help spread positivity and the spirit of being an upstander, not a bystander.
Technology can also be used to help address an issue that it has created. Another effective solution, ReThink, aims to proactively de-escalate cyberbullying online by empowering users to think twice before posting or sending any offensive content to anyone. When an individual attempts to post an offensive message online, such as “You are so ugly,” ReThink gives that individual a chance to reconsider: “Are you sure you want to say that? It could be offensive.” Globally acclaimed research shows that 93% of the time, adolescents using ReThink changed their minds and decided not to post offensive content.
In the midst of bullying or cyberbullying, however, how can one de-escalate the situation? Immediate actions vary based on one’s role in the situations. For victims, it can be critical to immediately distance yourself and ignore the bully. Scientific research shows that offenders often crave attention; by ignoring them, victims remove any incentive for bullies or cyberbullies to hurt others. Block them online, or walk away from the situation. There is never any shame in distancing yourself from a bully or a cyberbully. By walking away, you are elevating yourself above their hurtful words, and showing them you will not lower yourself to their antics. If you are suffering specifically from cyberbullying, save any evidence. Immediately contact a trusted adult or law enforcement with your evidence – do not try to tackle the situation on your own. An important facet of de-escalation is ensuring you do not intensify the bullying or cyberbullying. Though it can be intimidating or frightening, talking to an adult or trusted friend is the best way to de-escalate the situation.
There is, however, another possible role in a bullying or cyberbullying situation: the role of the upstander. When in a hallway or online, upstanders see the bullying or cyberbullying and directly address the bully or cyberbullying. In order to effectively de-escalate the situation while confronting the offender, upstanders have to be careful. As an upstander, if you see something offensive, do not attack the bully or cyberbully. Instead, state the fact that you believe their actions are negative and hurtful. Come to the root of the problem without insulting the offender: “I’m disappointed that you would use language like that, and I do not approve of your conduct.” Then, walk away. There is no need to engage or heighten the bully or cyberbully in a fight. Even one moment of advocacy can be enough to stop a bully or cyberbully in his or her tracks.
Bullying and cyberbullying are issues that affect millions of teenagers across the globe, and increasingly, it’s becoming important that young people speak up. As a teenager myself, I know that that we can only tackle this silent pandemic when we make the conscious decision to de-escalate hate on a local and global level. Find your voice – and use it to spread positivity.
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.