Being a Cyber-Mentor: A Role For All Ages

Posted on August 19, 2015 by Sue Scheff

Cyberbullying and online cruelty are growing concerns that don’t seem to be fading. Fortunately, also on the rise are awareness and prevention resources available to both youth and adults alike.

From organizations like to schools and communities that are implementing anti-bullying programs and clubs, more people are being proactive in creating safety nets for those involved in cyberbullying or who want to learn more.

According to one recent study, bystanders choose not to intervene in defense of a cyberbullying target for different reasons, usually if they don’t know the person, if it’s not a familiar setting or they fear the consequences themselves. The recent research helps explain why witnesses feel uncomfortable stepping in and sticking up for a person.

Time to turn bystanders into “upstanders”

What is a mentor?

A mentor is a person or friend who guides a less experienced person by building trust and modeling positive behaviors. A cyber-mentor will guide someone by modeling good social media etiquette and behavior.

Being a cyber-mentor is not to be taken lightly. Parents today should be their child’s role model, both online and off, but we also know that kids reach out to their peers and, in many cases, teachers. Encourage your students and your colleagues to be a cyber-mentor to someone who they know is struggling.

Did a student post a picture that you think isn’t in their best interest? Talk to them about it.
Share your thoughts with them without being judgmental, but give them sound advice about why you think it’s inappropriate.

How cyber-mentors can dampen cyberbullying

No one is immune to online bullying. According to Pew Research, 40% of adults have been targets of online harassment. This means even parents struggle with digital abuse and have the need for a cyber-mentor. In a recent study by Intel Security, 35% of children indicate that they have bullied people on social media. Let’s lower these statistics with cyber-mentors.

While there are many reports of cyberbullying constantly in the news, there are also many stories of kids stepping up to the plate to discourage cruel behavior. Kids have a lot of power and influence in thinking something is cool or uncool. Making comments to the perpetrator or posting positive comments to offset and dissuade the negativity is a very effective way to shut down cyberbullies.

So what can you do to become a cyber-mentor? What can you do to encourage others to become cyber-mentors? Peer-to-peer mentoring is not new, but with cyber-mentoring it’s now expanded to our digital lives.

In addition to adding digital citizenship into your curriculum, here are some ideas to share with your students and fellow educators as you head back to school.

• Pause before you send, post or publish.
• Consider your online reputation.
• Remember Grandma’s Rule.
• Use your keystrokes for kindness.
• If you don’t have anything nice to say, turn it off.
• Click-out if someone makes you feel uncomfortable.
• Tell an adult if you are being harassed online.
• Step up and be a cyber-mentor.

sue-scheffSue Scheff is a nationally-recognized author, parent advocate and cyber advocate who is concerned with promoting awareness of cyberbullying and other online issues. In addition to being a regular contributor on Huffington Post, she contributes to a wide variety of parenting and Internet safety publications and websites. To connect with Sue, or to learn more about her efforts, follow her on Twitter @SueScheff or visit her website.