Cyberbullying: We Still Need to Be On Alert

Truth be told, tracking down any solid numbers on cyberbullying has proven hard. I know because I have spent the better part of the night searching for them. In all of this, I have found many conflicting statistics on the subject. This is mostly because the surveys being run are among smaller, control demographics.

One thing that I can say for certain simply based on recent news stories is that issues of cyberbullying have been on the rise over the last year.

In Pennsylvania police are investigating the death of a 9th grade student, Julia Morath, stating that bullying may have pushed her to commit suicide. In Michigan, 11-year-old Tysen Benz committed suicide after being pranked on social media. And in California, two Marines (out of almost 500 being investigated) are facing punishment in a sex-shaming and cyberbullying incident.

While great strides have been made over the past decade to put an end to bullying, these stories only stand to prove that we need to continue working towards safer schools, communities and cyberspace for our kids.

Now, more than ever, is a time when parents and educators need to come together to bring this topic back into the spotlight in schools and encourage students to be on the lookout for bullying behavior and work together to put an end to it.

So many times issues of bullying are a flash in the pan conversation. While assemblies, rallies and awareness weeks are a great start they should never be an end game, they need to be the start of something bigger.

One of my biggest goals for 2017 is to find ways to continue to work with schools and communities to continue the conversations begun during my visits.

With the school year winding down over the next few weeks, I encourage teachers to find ways to bring lessons on bullying into the classroom before students are set off for the summer months. All too often we start to see incidents of cyberbullying spike while students are on break from school.

Bullies don’t take a vacation.

Plant the seed in their heads now to take care of themselves and their community during this time outside of school.

Now is also a good time to start looking at programs to bring in during the early months of the coming school year. September is “Back to School Month” as well as home to “Suicide Prevention Week.” October is “Bullying Prevention Month” as well as “Cyber Security Month” as well as home to “World Day of Bullying Prevention”, GLAAD’s “Spirit Day” and “National Character Counts Week.”

Take advantage of these opportunities to get students energized and use them as a launching point for continued conversations throughout the year.

From there it is important to keep that conversation going. Have student create posters to hang around the school highlighting the messages they learned. Find teachable moments from the news to help keep them aware of issues happening in real-time in the real world.

Over the coming weeks and leading into the new school year, I will be posting more on this and many more topics so please be sure to follow or subscribe to stay updated!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

 

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Social Networking in the Classroom: Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go is everywhere and what better time than summer to launch the biggest gaming app in history? Kids, young and old, are getting out of the house and exploring their world in a whole new way.  An entire generation of students that have become so comfortable sitting at home interacting with the world through a tethered device and getting out of the house and  on the move. But summer has a way of ending far too quickly and based on my email inbox, teachers are already wondering what impact the app will have in the school environment.

Please note that I am a big fan of the game and have been playing, casually, with friends since its inception but I do share the concern of the app being disruptive to the learning environment.

If it were up to me, come the beginning of the school year, geofences (the same use to block YikYak) would be placed around schools to help reduce the number of issues.

I have been repeatedly told that I’m not in charge… so I guess I’ll go with plan B. How can educators take advantage of the craze and utilize Pokémon hunting in the classroom?

I have managed to spend an entire day tearing the internet apart to find some of the best ideas for pulling the educational benefits from the game.

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We discovered the Susan Russell House in Somerville in what I can only assume was Pokemon Go’s attempt to get me eaten by a wildly haunted house.

One that I would like to highlight came to mind while I was playing the game with a friend during a recent trip to Gloucester, Massachusetts when I noticed that PokeStops seemed the center on art instillations and historical landmarks. As a result we discovered hidden gems that we never knew existed in a town where we spent a good chunk of our youth.

Have students keep a log of where they have hunted and things they have learned on their
adventures. Many PokeStops offer a brief tidbit of information about the site. Encourage students to learn a bit more about each place they visit!

Here are some additional resources and ideas I really enjoyed reading and could offer some ideas for teachers:

How Pokémon GO Can Teach Social Skills to Children and Young People with Autism
Explore Everything with Pokémon GO (Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences)
Everything Librarians Need to Know About Pokémon GO
Three Ways Playing Pokémon GO Can Make You Smarter
Three Ways Pokémon GO Can Create Meaningful Learning Opportunities

Additional readind:
Pokémon GO’s Mental Health Benefits Are Real

And of course be sure to check out Monday’s Entry: “What Parents Should Know About Pokémon Go

Happy hunting friends!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Twitter Polls Become Cyberbullying Tool

In late October of this year Twitter introduced a new way for its 500 million users to interact with one another by launching Twitter Polls. While Twitter has always offered ways for users to gather information and opinions TwitterPollsthrough hashtags or simply having users cast their vote through either retweet or favorites, this new polling option offers an easier alternative. While the poll questions and tallies are public information, who voted and how is kept anonymous.

Unfortunately, teens across the world have twisted this new option into a new form of cyberbullying.

Since being launched, reports of cyberbullying through Twitter polls have surfaced in middle and high schools in Utah, Montana, and Michigan.

How the Polls Work

The Twitter polling system is rather simple in nature. Users ask a question TwitterPolls02and can add up to four options as an answer. Once the poll has been broadcast the ability to respond remains active for 24 hours before polling is closed.

How Students Are Using It

In some cases, students have stated that the polls being posted were just jokes but soon they took a turn for the worse. Some polls being posted included: “Who is the Ugliest Girl In School”, “Who is Dumber: John or a Brick”, “Who is the Biggest Slut?” While the polling closes after 24 hours, the results remain on the account.

Is This Cyberbullying?

Absolutely! Bullying is defined by actions that are deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviors intended to harm another. Cyberbullying has been defined by The National Crime Prevention Council: “When the Internet, cell phones or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.” These polls have added an entirely new level to this.

Who Is Responsible: Parents or School?

I’ve spent the last hour pouring over all of the articles regarding this subject and there seems to be a common theme- no one wants to take responsibility over the issue. One school principal currently dealing with this issue had this to say in one story, ” the school has no connection to or control over the polls. That hasn’t stopped parents calling the school with concerns about what is being posted. He said he hopes Twitter can shut the accounts down before one of the polls leads to tragedy.”

I bring this up because it seems to be a common theme when it comes to social media, bullying and the law.

It’s important to first remember that each state has a different law when it comes to bullying both online and off. To learn more about your state’s law, I encourage you to visit bullypolice.org for a breakdown.

From there I want to remind both educators and parents that when it comes to raising our kids it takes a village. It’s corny. It’s overused. It’s true.

It’s important that communities work together to educate and prevent these issues from coming up in the first place.

Rather than turn myself into a broken record, I’m going to point you to an entry that I wrote last year regarding internet safety: Teaching Internet Safety: It Takes A Village. While a bulk of this entry talks about internet safety, I think the lesson can be applied to situations surrounding bulling. From there I’ll also recommend another entry for parents: Fight The Bully: What Parents Can Do.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Teaching Internet Safety: It Takes A Village

There’s a quiet debate taking place in the hallways of schools across the country – no – around the world. Who is responsible for teaching kids about Internet Safety?

I’ve travelled to hundreds of schools around North America and I’ve had this conversation regularly with school administrators, counselors, parents and even students. It would seem the problem is that, on all fronts, people feel they don’t have enough information or education about what it means to be safe in the online world.

As a result parents are looking to the educators, educators are looking to the parents and our student are stuck in limbo trying to navigate between the digital world and the real one.

When I first started talking to people about internet safety six years ago, I would have gladly put the responsibility of internet safety squarely on the shoulders of the parents. In reality, parents are the ones providing their kids with the mobile technology that is getting them into so much trouble. But there has been a shift over the last few years as more and more schools are moving to a 1:2:1 environment where they are providing the students with the technology.

ID-100189110So who is responsible for teaching internet safety and digital citizenship to our kids? We all are.

I’m not one for clichés but in this situation it fits. I turn to the oft quoted African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.”

In a recent survey conducted by internet security company AVG is was reported that parents rely too much on schools to teach their kids about internet safety according to 82% of teachers interviewed. The research brings to light the argument of who is responsible for the education of our kids when it comes to the digital world. Many teachers surveyed feel that the pressure comes from parents who don’t know enough about the online world to educate their kids.

This is an argument that needs to stop.

Rather than passing the buck I think it’s important to start working together on this topic and sometimes it helps to reach outside the box for help.

I look at education and policy like the circus act of the spinning plates. The perform sets up his first plate and gets it going. Then on to the second, the third, the fourth and onward. You get everything going and it looks great. To keep things going you have to go back to the beginning and keep that first plate from falling. You can’t just set things up and rely on them to take care of themselves- you need to keep it going.

Get the Conversation Started

It’s in the beginning that I recommend the outside help. Bring in specialists to work with each level of the conversation.

Educators

For educators I recommend taking a part of an in-service day to get the conversation going. Work with your outside presenter to come up with the best lesson for your educators. For me, I work closely with schools to customize each program to fit the conversation already taking place. I want to make sure everyone has the appropriate tools to great the best digital citizens possible. I’ve even stopped running my “scripted” program to have full-blown candid conversations about the topic. By working together to have this conversations with one another, we are developing the tools to bring these lessons to students.

Students

The outsider is the perfect conversation starter for students. If I had a dollar for every time I have heard the following from an BkPkF-LIgAELD-1educator I’d be a rich man. It’s simply this: “we tell our students these same things all the time and we never get through. You did it in an hour.” The next thing from them is usually asking me what my secret is. The truth is, there’s no secret. I’m just an outsider.

It’s important to use workshops and assemblies as a preventive measure rather than a reactionary one. Setting the stage early is key. Once the lessons have been taught, students are more likely to take a few moments to think before they act in the online world. They might take the time to type out that hateful message, but they’re also going to think twice about posting or sending and in most cases it’ll get deleted before the act.

One students, after hearing my assembly program, started a campaign in his school entitled “What would Josh do?” Using the lessons learned from the assembly, he created posters that were then hung around school depicting different scenarios often found in the online world (sexting, bullying, etc) and simply wrote “What would Josh do?” on the bottom. He also included my Twitter handle and e-mail address, giving his fellow students the reminder that I am always available to answer questions.

It was a brilliant idea that sparked a movement for his classmates. I spent a lot of time responding to their questions via social networking and that’s something I’ll never have an issue with. It tells me they’re thinking about what we discussed.

Parents

Get the parents involved as soon as possible. I love parent nights. Over the last six years I have conducted well over 100 even programs talking to parents about the online world. These are essential in bringing the conversations into the home environment.

What I always recommend is booking both students and parent nights back to back.  The reason being that I use a lot of the same material presented to the students in an effort to facilitate the at home conversation. Simply saying to your child, “Josh talked to us about this- what did he tell you?” and from there having a thoughtful conversation. I also given parents additional information and tools not presented to the students in order to give them what they need to bring more light to a topic. I won’t always be around, but you will.

Keep the Conversations Going

You’ve got the plates spinning and now it’s time to keep them in the air. Don’t just look at this as a one and done conversation. It needs to happen early and it needs to happen often.

For educators, take some time during each in-service day to discuss the online world. Keep tabs on news stories from around the world. Use current events to talk to students about what is happening to people their age. In the last year along I posted stories about how sexting is getting many teenagers into trouble, how apps like YikYak are landing students in jail and how one tweet can change your entire life.

I’m, of course, going to recommend following my blog and tweets to keep up with the current events (because I can) but just watching the news each morning will give you what you need. Honestly, if I hadn’t been watching the news at the gym, I would have never known about the eraser challenge.

Blogging is key. I recommend that the school take a look at blogging platforms (I offer my recommendations in last year’s Social Networking in the Classroom series) and use them. Get your principals, school counselors, resource officers and teachers blogging. Get your parents following those blog posts and tweets.

As you hear about a news item, write about it! Or share what has been written about it. Keep those conversations going and keep everyone in the know. Even if it’s not happening in your school, your district or even your state- it’s important to keep tabs on the world. We are incredibly connected today and so are out students. They have access to a wealth of information, articles and videos- you should be just as connected.

Don’t Be Afraid to Bring it Up

Last year I visited a school district right around the time that YikYak was causing problems in schools. In a candid conversation with the principal prior to the start of the assemblies I mentioned the app and the issues coming up around it. He point-blank asked me not to mention it to his students at all since it hadn’t become an issue in the school. His reasoning- if we don’t talk about it, they won’t know about it.

Not the case at all.

As we are hearing news stories, so are students. Just because they aren’t talking about it doesn’t mean they aren’t using it.

By bringing the conversation to the table as educators and parents, we are telling our kids that we are aware and on the lookout for these issues. This is enough to make them think twice when they find themselves in a situation.

Get the Students Involved

Remember that campaign I talked about earlier? What would Josh do? A student came up with that. It’s funny, it’s relevant and it’s hilarious (not to mention flattering).  Some of the best experiences I’ve had as a speaker have come from events where the students were heavily involved.

Give them an opportunity to impress you.

One district in Indiana hired me to come in not because the school wanted it, because the students did. With the help and sponsorship of local businesses, student created  their own digital citizenship week. They had poster and video contests, pep rallies, assemblies, t-shirts. They went all out. The students did the leg work with the support of their local community, their parents and their administrators.

Get your student body involved in the conversation because, at the end of the day, this is their world.

Keep Those Plates Spinning

It’s important to have this conversation with everyone as early as possible. Start the school year off on a positive note and keep that song going. Get students excited about the idea and find ways to keep them energized and engaged.

Keep your educator blogs going with current events and bring those conversations into the classroom.  If, as an educator, you use current events as a part of your curriculum keep an eye out for news stories involving the digital world. Use them to facilitate thoughtful conversations with students. Ask them if they think how people are being punished is fair. Ask them what they would have done in that situation.

Share these stories with parents and fellow educators in your own social media feeds (yes, I encourage you to join twitter and use it often!).

Bring your specialist back! I work with many schools that bring back regularly, if not every year it’s every other. It’s a chance for students to see a familiar face and hear a familiar (always updated) message. It’s a great refresher and reenergizer for all.

I had no intention of this entry being so long when I started writing it! This is just a stepping stone to what it takes to get things going. I would love to hear thoughts and feedback from others about what they feel about this topic and how we can work together to get things going in our communities!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Image of Young Mother And Daughter Looking At Laptop courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

School Counselors Rule The World; or, Lessons Learned at ASCA 2014

It has been almost two weeks since I attended the American School Counselor Association’s National Conference in my new hometown of Orlando, FL and I must admit I’m still on cloud 9 from the experience.IMG_20140630_162414

In the six years that I have been working as a speaker I have only attended 3 conferences as an exhibitor. Two of which were the ASCA conferences.

Why ASCA? The answer is very simple.

School Counselors rule the world.

Back in 2010 when I was still a newbie at the world of educational speaking I was contacted by the guidance department at a school close to me. They wanted to discuss the possibility of my coming to speak to their students. Nothing came of the meeting but at the very end, the department head said something I would never forget, “Your message is great, you want to get it out there, schools counselors are going to make it happen.”

Since then I have given workshops at the New Jersey, Georgia and Arkansas School Counselors Associations state conferences and exhibited at two national conferences. All were loads of fun but 2014 takes the cake.

Over the course of three days I met well over 1,000 amazingly fun individuals who stopped by my booth to chat, get a treasure hunt stamp, play a game or steal a piece of candy. I couldn’t have had more fun.

I found a new inspiration during the course of the weekend and I think the conference as a whole was an illuminated bulb above the head of everyone present. I was grateful to be along for the ride while tweeting, instagraming and facebooking along with the crowd.

Michelle Obama speaking at the American School Counselor Association National Conference in Orlando, FL. Image Source: ASCA Facebook Page (modified by Gunderson Productions)

Michelle Obama speaking at the American School Counselor Association National Conference in Orlando, FL.
Image Source: ASCA Facebook Page (modified by Gunderson Productions)

One of the best moments of the conference for me and, I think, everyone was getting to hear the first lady, Michelle Obama, speak to a crowd of 2,000+ attendees and exhibitors. The energy in the room was nothing I had ever felt before.

It’s not the same but please take a moment to watch by visiting the ASCA website here.

The words spoken by the first lady rang true to everyone involved. Though I am not on the front lines everyday like the 2,100 amazing counselors in attendance, I am still an educator. Over the last six years I have seen how much schools struggle. I have worked with amazing and dedicated counselors across the United States and Canada who want nothing but the best for their students.

I am thankful for the passion that I witnessed over the course of three days. I am happy to know that there are such dedicated people out there doing everything they can to make a difference in students’ lives.

With this new found passion and inspiration, I’m looking forward to what the 2014-2015 school year has to offer. I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with the amazing people that I met along the way and working with them to create smarter digital citizens and tackling bullying in schools all over the world.

Thank you all for the amazing experience!

I also talked with many attendees that had expressed an interest in starting their own blogs but didn’t know where to start or felt they didn’t have enough to say. I have been branching out and looking for contributors for this blog- looking for passionate individuals to share knowledge of the online world. Additionally it would be great to have input from those working with colleges and universities and what impact a student’s digital footprint has on their future.

If you are interested please feel free to get in touch by e-mail at learning@joshgunderson.com

Until next time!

-Josh

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Social Networking in the Classroom: Talking to Students about Sexting

The issue of sexting is starting to come around again big time and causing a lot of problems for schools. Problems arose when 10 students, aged 14 to 18, at Walpole High School in Massachusetts found themselves being questioned by police regarding illicit messages being sent around the school.

ID-10092889One important piece of information to highlight from this Fox 25 report is that in Massachusetts and many other states, sexting falls under child pornography and comes with many serious consequences including federal charges and possibly having to register as a sex offender.

Police in Walpole are not planning on bringing such serious charges against these first-time offenders but there will be action taken.

This series of events is a great learning opportunity not only for the students involved, but for students, educators and parents everywhere.

I highly encourage teachers to look into this story and take advantage of some great resources that are available online.

One lesson that I have found that I really enjoyed is linked below. Both are from Common Sense Media which offers lesson plans and other great resources for educators and parents.

The first link is to the Lesson Plan which can be downloaded as a PDF.

Overexposed: Sexting and Relationships

The second link is a video of this lesson in action in the classroom, offering some great tips and ideas for working with students.

Teaching Students about the Dangers of Sexting

Additionally it’s important for students to realize both the legal and non-legal ramifications of sending illicit images and messages through social media. Realizing that having to register as a sex offender for this type of offense is not something that goes away easily. It will affect every aspect of their future including where they live and getting a job.

On the non-legal side, there is the embarrassment and reputation damaging factors. Looking into current events with high-profile offenders like Justin Bieber, Anthony Weiner, and Tiger Woods can offer a great warning for students.

Social Studies teachers can look into current events including those at Walpole High School to enlighten and educate their students. I suggest following this story and others to the outcome to see what kind of harm can come from just sending one photo.

There are also many educational programs available if you think an outsider might have better luck reaching your students. More information about my programs for students, parents and teachers can be found on my web site at www.joshgunderson.com.

Any questions can be directed to info@joshgunderson.com

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Image courtesy of Adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Social Networking in the Classroom: Blogging, Part 3

This marks the 3rd and final entry in the Blogging in the Classroom Series! To catch up on the previous entries you can see Part 1 Here and Part 2 Here! As always please feel free to share comments below or by shooting me an e-mail at info@joshgunderson.com. Want to catch up? Check out the archives link! Next week I will continue with Part 3 which includes some great ideas to get your classroom blog rolling!

What it comes to blogging in the classroom I feel like the ideas are endless! I have to be honest that I’m a bit jealous that this platform wasn’t available when I was in high school! Across the curriculum there are a number of ways blogs can be introduced to the classroom. A student can use one blog over the course of the year, or even over the course of their career at an education institution. This creates an amazing portfolio of their work!

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Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So what are some ideas to get your kids writing!

Use Regular Writing Prompts
Put up a weekly or biweekly writing prompt for your students to respond to, setting a due date for the responses. Have them comment on one another’s responses to get a conversation going. Depending on your blogging platform, you can moderate comments before they are visible to ensure that nothing inappropriate comes through.

Respond To Class or Homework Readings/Discussions
Run out of class time? Post the topic of discussion onto your blog, letting the students know, and have the discussion continue. Ask students to discuss how a current reading applies to a student’s own life. This would be great for history classes and discussing how past events may mirror current happenings.

Current Events
Post a link to a current news article and ask students to respond with their thoughts and ideas. This is especially great if there is something that is going on that may affect their world!

Book Reviews
Ask students to write a review (positive or negative) of a book they read for pleasure, summer reading or a book your reading in class. If it’s a book they read for pleasure, perhaps offer extra credit for a review?

Free Write
Rather than investing money into notebooks (think of the trees!) have student do their free writing on a blog. This allows you and their fellow students to respond to their thoughts. Again, depending on the blog platform you choose, students can set entries to be viewed only by you.

Photo Blogging
Great for art and photography classes! Encourage students to share their projects only by uploading their photography or scanning in their artwork. Like with writing, this allows students to build an online portfolio for themselves and to share their work with the world!

Review Fieldtrips and Assemblies
As homework following a fieldtrip or assembly, ask students to react and review what they learned or saw. Did they take pictures? Ask them to include those moments in their entry as well. This allows students to work on their writing skills as well as getting feedback on these activities.

These are just a few ideas! A simple web search can find you loads more! Talk with your fellow teachers about how they would use blogging in the classroom and work together to create a blogging community!

Are your students already blogging in the classroom? Share your ideas for blogging in the classroom in the comments section below!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.