Guest Interview with Jennifer Hancock: Cyberbullying Prevention

The bully Vaccine project

For the month of October, during National Bullying Prevention Month, we are posting interviews we conducted with some of the most influential people in the cyberbullying prevention space. Our first one involves Jennifer Hancock, author of The Bully Vaccine. 

uKK: What is the nature of your expertise on cyberbullying?

JH: I teach people how to use operant conditioning to train bullies to stop bullying. Yes, it does work and yes, it works with cyberbullying just as well as with in person bullying. Actually, cyberbullying is easier to deal with because it’s impersonal.

uKK: What do you believe is the number one thing that can be done to draw attention to and prevent this trend?

JH: We need to start teaching people the techniques that work to get it to stop.  So much of what is out there is platitudes and generalizations. The tragedy is that there is an established protocol to get unwanted behavior to stop and this protocol works. It isn’t easy to do, but it does work. We need to start teaching it because telling kids, it will get better or “just ignore them” doesn’t work.

uKK: What online trends do you believe contribute to this trend, and how should those issues be addressed?

Cyberbullying is really just another manifestation of regular bullying. It’s verbal in nature and so follows the same dynamic as verbal bullying. The difference is that bullies can basically stalk their victims online in a way they couldn’t before and that makes it so much worse because what we are calling cyberbullying is usually a combination of cyberstalking (stalking is illegal) and cyberharassment (which may also be illegal) and the possible use of electronics to public and make public threats  (which is also illegal).  Stalking level harassment is really emotionally damaging and we should not underestimate the impact this stalking and harassing behavior has on the victim.

uKK: What steps can parents take to educate themselves and become better informed about potential incidents?

JH: The number one thing parents need to do is have open lines of communication with their kids. Parents also need to not freak out on their kids. But approach what is happening rationally and calmly and to productively help their kids. 

Kids don’t want to tell their parents about what is happening, because they don’t want to loose their access to the internet, which is a reasonable fear because most parents will limit their children’s access to the internet when they find out what is happening. Instead, you need to be a partner to your child and teach them how to navigate these situations and help them as they go along and keep the lines of communication open.

uKK: What is the best thing for a parent to do when finding out their child has been cyberbullied?

 JH: In my experience, parents may know their child is being bullied, but they don’t know the extent of it. I’ve had a parent tell me that a month after they started documenting things their child came home from school and wrote out three full pages of her documentation log. It included death threats. The parent knew her child was being bullied, but had no idea what EXACTLY was happening and so was unable to truly help her child.

It is critical that if the bullying is being done electronically that you and your child start documenting it. Take screen shots, dates etc.  Documenting everything will be a hassle, but it will help empower your child. This documentation will form the basis of any action you have to take to protect your child. It is the basis of any involvement you have with law enforcement or with a school.

uKK: What are some of the best resources parents can turn to in these situations?

There are several. First, people should buy my book. Next, they should find out what the laws are for harassment, stalking, and assault. There are websites that list the bullying laws in every state. Find out if what is happening to your child qualifies. Document everything that is happening. Get your child psychological counseling if they need it.

I provide free documentation logs at my website as well as lots of free training videos and free programs for parents and children.

uKK: What is the best thing for a parent to do when finding out their child has cyberbullied someone else?

I have a free online course – what to do if your child is a bully.  Basically – you take away privileges for them until they stop. It’s a lot like sleep training a child. You have to be firm and consistent and yes, it’s a huge hassle. Yes, your child will resist and become super obnoxious in their attempt to get you to give in. But guess what! You are the parent. Deal with it. Take away their ability to bully other kids until they stop. 

uKK: What is the best thing for a child/teenager to do if he has been cyberbullied?

Tell someone and start documenting what is happening. Everything. Don’t leave anything out. Help is available, you just have to ask for it and keep asking for it until you get the help you need. Don’t give up.

Many parents are still in the dark about cyberbullying. Become informed with our eBook: “10 Essential Things Every Parent Should Know about Cyberbullying.” Download your free copy today!

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