Cyberbullying is an all-too prevalent issue, especially at a time when more children are going online than ever before: in fact, 22% of 8-17 year-olds have said that someone has posted an image or a video online in order to bully them.
The advice for children who are being bullied is usually very simple: tell a trusted adult. However, the reality is that this step is often not taken. Around a third of young people feel that their parents and teachers wouldn’t be able to help if they came to them with a problem, and these problems are exacerbated by the often anonymous nature of cyberbullies. Threats of escalation if the victim tells a trusted adult are commonplace, and many children turn to their peers for help without knowing if the person they’re confiding in is also their tormentor. It’s crucial, then, that we make sure that children have ‘trusted adults’ to turn to.
Why are trusted adults important?
Creating an environment where pupils have strong relationships with teachers and other trusted adults is essential for learning. According to Dr Pamela Cantor
, founder of Turnaround for Children, pupils who feel a sense of closeness and trust in their school environment get a release of oxytocin in their brains - a chemical that leads to greater receptivity. In short, pupils that feel a connection to their teachers are more likely to learn from them!
How does Natterhub help pupils find trusted adults?
Natterhub’s lessons get to the heart of this issue by making children feel more comfortable approaching an adult. Firstly, we help pupils to identify the way they’re feeling and find the right words to express those ‘funny feelings’ when something isn’t right. We identify the different trusted adults that may already exist in a child’s life - including teachers, parents and older siblings. Anonymised online polls with questions like ‘I have experienced cyberbullying personally’ will help to break the taboo around the subject. Finally, pupils learn the best ways to gather evidence of a problem, such as screenshots of their online conversations, so that they can be more confident that a trusted adult will listen and help them.
How do I make myself a trusted adult?
So what can adults do to make sure that children trust them? Here are three key things you should consider if a child comes to you as a ‘trusted adult’:
- Actively Listen. Actively listening to a child will encourage them to share more. It’s also the best way for you to figure out their emotional state. What is their body language saying? Do they seem to be in danger? Asking these questions will help you figure out what to do next.
- Try Not To Judge. If a child comes to you with a problem, you may be tempted to question their actions or decisions. However, this may leave the child feeling more isolated and unwilling to talk further. There may be time to discuss their actions later, but for now your role is to listen.
- Know When To Get Help. Nobody expects you to come up with a solution all by yourself. If you’re a teacher, you may need to contact a child’s parent or guardian, or a social worker in your school. In more serious cases, you may even need to involve the police.
At Natterhub we want to help children form good habits, and this is no exception. The more comfortable a child feels talking to a trusted adult about a problem, the more likely they are to do it in future, and the more confident they’ll feel in navigating the digital world on their own!