Cyber bullying is known by many names: cyber harassment, online cruelty, social combatting, e-bullying, and others. However, the causes of these harmful behaviours all emanate from within. The solutions do as well. In week one, we discussed “The Vaccine of Being Present.” Today, we will dive into our second antidote, “The Vaccine of Being Available.”
The Vaccine of Being Available
While we wait for the legislative and judicial processes to catch up with and attempt to contain the viral spread of cyber-bullying and while more victims fall prey to the attacks of perpetual perpetrators, we have in our grasp another powerful vaccine. It is the vaccine of being available. In a society where the social norm oftentimes favours rights over responsibilities, many have succumbed to the belief, “It is not my problem, or there is really nothing I can do about it, or what can one person do anyway?” And, although there are many individuals who would step up and intervene, not knowing what to do or what might be effective inhibits them from doing so.
Thus, how do we move from a norm that has conditioned us to release ourselves from the responsibility of being there for another human being who is in trouble or hurting to one that urges us to be available and to act intimately and personally on the behalf of another?
We start by sharing our experiences.
We must set aside time to dialogue about our experiences of helping one another. We need to hear from those who have been rescued, supported, and encouraged and what they felt. We also need to hear from those who were willing to reach out to those in need and how that event impacted them. By sharing our experiences and how they connected us, we acknowledge our need for interdependence and we begin to validate the process openly.
We start by adults modelling being available.
Adults, or any individual in a position of power, leadership, control or influence must make known that they are willing and able to be of assistance to any individual in need of help. Recent studies have shown that students prefer to turn to adults for help, but many feel they have no available advocate. Teachers, leaders, counsellors, etc. need to make audiences aware of their willingness to have confidential person to person conversations, dialogues, or meetings. Posting office hours, contact information, or having an open door policy helps to remove inhibitions or barriers for those seeking help.
We begin by learning to reach out and trust certain individuals.
In a society where it has become more and more difficult to trust one another, those of us in positions of trust must prove we are worthy of being trusted. For the most part, our reputations tend to speak for themselves but at other times, we must prove that we are an available ally. For those who have been or are being injured, they must be encouraged to speak up and disclose their experiences. When possible, we should be ready with referrals or recommendations for those seeking help. Mostly, we can live by example showing that we are a reliable refuge for anyone searching for a trusted confidante.
We begin by demonstrating that there is value and importance in being counted on.
We need to let others know that we stand strong in our defence and protection of those who are bullied or cyber bullied. We must be steadfast in our commitment to fighting this virus on every front that we can. We must follow through with what we say we will do and when we will do it. In a time where loyalty is a foreign friend, we can become the companion who is counted on. Although it may be impossible to contain the cruelty of cyber bullying, we can counter it with a force of courageous compassion and potent infusions of advocacy and alliance. Speak up; speak out; and speak now.
Publisher’s Note: Holli Kenley is an American Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the author of “ Daughters Betrayed By Their Mothers: Moving from Brokenness to Wholeness” and “Power Down & Parent Up!: Cyber Bullying, Screen Dependence & Raising Tech-Healthy Children”