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Hazelden offers schools a new package of
solutions to prevent cyber bullying

Schoolyard bullying was once limited to acts of shoving, hitting, taunting and
threats. With the latest technology, those who bully can now add high-tech strategies to their arsenal of weapons.

According to Dr. Susan Limber, Dr. Robin Kowalski, and Dr. Patricia Agatston, leading researchers in the field, cyber bullying is defined as bullying through email or instant messaging (IM), in a chat room, on a Web site, or through digital messages or images sent to a cellular phone.

Students can use Internet-based technologies to tell lies, spread rumors, make threatening comments, and post humiliating images and videos about each other. All of this content can be posted anonymously or under a false name -- and can be viewed at any time by anyone with Internet access. Cruelty goes digital, while perpetrators remain faceless. This makes it doubly hard for students who are cyber bullied to respond.

Cyber bullying gained a wave of national attention in 2007 when the 2006 case of Megan Meier became public. Meier, a 13-year-old in Dardenne Prairie, Missouri, hung herself shortly after receiving a series of hurtful instant messages on MySpace, a popular social-networking Web site, from 16-year-old "Josh" with whom she had developed a relationship. Instead, the fake account had been created by the mother of one of Meier's former friends, who wanted to see what Meier was saying about her daughter online. According to the New York Times, Meier had been described on MySpace as a "liar" and a "fat whore" and was told that the world would be better off without her.

Cyber bullying is so new that published studies are just starting to appear.

This early research shows that students who are cyber bullied and who also cyber bully others are more likely to be anxious, to be depressed, and to have low self-esteem. Teens who are cyber bullied are also more likely to have lower grades and higher absenteeism rates.

"Research has also shown a correlation between perpetrators of online harassment and substance abuse," adds Patricia Agatston, PhD, coauthor of Cyber Bullying: Bullying in the Digital Age. "Internet harassers were three times more likely to be frequent substance abusers."

High percentages of students are being affected by this behavior. A 2007 Pew Internet Survey found that almost one-third of teens had experienced cyber bullying. Incidents of cyber bullying are also likely to increase as digital technology becomes more sophisticated and affordable. When prevention and intervention are absent, the problem is compounded.

Hazelden offers three programs that can help educators and parents effectively address the serious issue of bullying--and cyber bullying in particular. The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) is based on the work of Dan Olweus, PhD, of the Research Center for Health Promotion at the University of Bergen, Norway. OBPP is the most researched and best-known bullying prevention program available today. With more than 35 years of international research, it is recognized as a model program by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Hazelden's publication of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program marked the first time that all the program materials became available from one source in a unified package. The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is a systems-change program that addresses bullying at the schoolwide, classroom, individual and community levels. Program materials include:

As companions to the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, or as stand-alone programs, Hazelden offers two products focused on cyber bullying. One is Cyber Bullying: A Prevention Curriculum for Grades 6-12 by Susan P. Limber PhD, Robin M. Kowalski PhD, and Patricia W. Agatston PhD (2008). This eight-session curriculum helps students understand the nature of cyber bullying, its consequences, and how to respond when cyber bullying occurs. The program includes a facilitator's guide along with a CD-ROM of reproducible handouts, posters, and materials for parents published in both English and Spanish.

Just out this year from the same authors is Cyber Bullying: A Prevention Curriculum for Grades 3-5. This five-session program, based on the latest research on cyber bullying among young students, presents age-appropriate activities that teachers and parents can use to help kids learn safe and respectful ways to use cyber technologies. Guidelines for class activities begin with scripts for stories about two students -- a skilled cell phone user named Texter and a Web-savvy girl called Internetta. This curriculum for younger students has a very strong parent component, so parents become more aware of the issue and how to protect their child.

"Probably the most effective way to prevent and address cyber bullying is to make sure that parents and educators have an ongoing dialogue with children about it," says Limber, a coauthor of all three programs.

With the addition of its programs about bullying, Hazelden has become the leading publisher of evidence-based programs for preventing school-based violence, says Pamela Foster, a content development editor for Hazelden's  publishing division.

"While in the classroom, it's very important that kids are taught about bullying," Foster says. "The cyber bullying program for grades 6-12 is based on models that have been proven to work in prevention, including the use of peer leaders. And one thing that's exciting about the program for grades 3-5 is the strong parent component. Kids learn about cyber bullying at home before it starts happening to them." 

For more information about these programs and other Hazelden publications, visit www.olweus.org or hazelden.org/cyberbullying. You can also call 800-328-9000 or send an email to info@hazelden.org.

By Doug Toft

Published in The Voice, March 2009

 
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