During our last activity session, we broke the girls up by age group to learn about either cyberbullying (girls under 12) or domestic violence. Chavonne Collins, one of our Programming Volunteers who has a daughter in the program, led the activity about cyberbullying with a resource from Health Powered Kids by Alliance Health. Kayla Stephens, a former GfG mentee and currently a Counselor/Advocate and Youth Educator at Hope's Door NY, used a presentation from her place of work to educate the girls about domestic violence awareness and prevention.
Below are some terms and tips about setting boundaries to prevent and deal with cyberbullying and domestic violence. Be sure to ask your daughter what she took from the activity session.
Tip 1: Create clear boundaries for yourself, and never compromise them for someone else.
We need to be careful about believing things we know not to be true. An example of a thought that may be easy to believe but isn't true is, "It's not a good idea to leave my current partner, because I'll never find someone who loves me as much as they do." A lot of the sports we play have boundaries, and if someone crosses those boundaries time and time again, then they deserve to be disqualified. The same should apply to people who we have relationships with.
Tip #2: Consider the healthy components of a relationship and the unhealthy/abusive components of a relationship when setting boundaries.
Healthy Components of a Relationship:
Unhealthy/Abusive Components of a Relationship:
Pushing, Hitting, Grabbing
A partner should always lift you up, not put you down. Though we are entitled to feel what we want to feel, we are not entitled to act how we want to act. Boundaries are a key component of a healthy relationship, because they outline which actions we are and are not comfortable with - what's acceptable or what's not acceptable for us.
Tip #3: Be wary of people who repeatedly exhibit cruel and/or violent behavior.
Abuse is when someone is repeatedly hurt, scared, or put down down by their partner. A key word in this definition is "repeatedly," which means that it happens over and over again. Abuse is nondiscriminatory; it can happen to anyone anywhere.
These are the Six Types of Abuse:
When someone uses financial leverage, they are holding something over somebody else's head because of something they did financially for them. For example, somebody may use financial leverage to try and convince someone to do something they don't want to do after buying them a meal.
Tip #4: Only accept friend/follow requests from people you know in real life. Set privacy settings so information about you (including images) is not visible to the public.
Just like the way you follow accounts with images that relate to an area of interest, such as classmates and celebrities you want to keep up with, clothing brands you want to shop from, and shows that you enjoy, you have control over which people who follow you align with your interests. If you are unsure of who the person is behind the photos on an account, not allowing them to friend/follow you is always the safest option.
Tip #5: If someone is being mean to you or someone else online, tell them to stop. Sometimes, quietly standing up for yourself or someone else is enough to convince a bully to back off.
Bullying is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Cyberbullying can happen in small ways, such as comments on posts, or very serious ways, such as threatening someone or spreading unkind or false information about them. It is important to set boundaries in order to clearly define which behaviors you will not tolerate online.
We always send a mandatory feedback form to the girls who attend our activity sessions, so we can learn what the girls got out of the meeting and follow-up on anything that needs to be explained further. The mentees asked some excellent, thought provoking questions in their feedback, so we've provided some answers to their inquiries below.
"What is the best way to go about confronting an abuser?"- Christina
How to confront an abuser can depend on the circumstance. It is important to seek help from someone you trust before confronting your abuser, as you may be putting yourself in danger. Some people you may want to consider seeking advice from before the confrontation are: parents, counselors at school, a teacher, a police officer, or a domestic hotline advocate. Hope's Door offers a free and confidential hotline to help anyone who may want to talk about domestic violence they, or someone they know, are experiencing. Advocates can offer resources and information to help you make a plan to confront an abuser or leave an unsafe environment. The phone number for this 24/7 hotline is 888-438-8700.
"Why do people cyberbully or bully, period?"- Kaylah
According to stopbullying.gov, "Children and teenagers who feel secure and supported by their family, school, and peers are less likely to bully. However, some youth do not have these types of support. Every individual is unique and there are many factors that can contribute to bullying behavior." This source shares various reasons why some youth may bully, and you can find a few below.
Some youth may bully to exclude others from their peer group, to show who is and is not part of the group.
Some youth who bully come from families where there is bullying, aggression, or violence at home.
Some youth who bully may have feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem, so they bully to make themselves feel more powerful.
Some youth who bully may be in schools where conduct problems and bullying are not properly addressed.
"Do all social media sites have block settings to help stop cyberbullying?" - Morgan
You can block people from interacting with you on many social media applications, such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter, and YouTube. You can find simple directions to block users on the websites of these applications, like this page on the website for the TikTok application. You can also block people from calling and texting you if need be.
"How long has bullying been around?" - Olivia
Bullying has been around for many years. According to stopbullying.gov, "All states have laws requiring schools to respond to bullying. As cyberbullying has become more prevalent with the use of technology, many states now include cyberbullying, or mention cyberbullying offenses, under these laws. Schools may take action either as required by law, or with local or school policies that allow them to discipline or take other action." This page on the website outlines how bullying and cyberbullying are defined in New York anti-bullying laws and regulations.
"What do you do if someone doesn't respect your boundaries?" - Lailah
It is important to make sure that you let others know what your boundaries are, when they have done something that doesn't respect your boundaries, and how it makes you feel when they don't respect you. As Kayla said during the session, when someone repeatedly does not respect the boundaries you have laid out for them, they deserve to be disqualified from gaining the benefits of being your friend or in a relationship with you.
"Are there any people that you know that have been in situations of domestic violence? Did they tell you about it?" - Leah
According to the Hope's Door website, "On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide (The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)." This means that many people may know someone that experiences domestic violence. If someone confides in you about domestic violence, it is important not to gossip about the information they share with you, since you may put them in more danger. It is also important to avoid victim blaming statements, such as "Why don't you just leave?" Some people may stay in an abusive relationship due to economic dependence, fear of isolation, fear of losing parental custody, and/or shameful feelings about admitting they've been abused.
"How do you keep boundaries?" - Serenity
Writing down a list of boundaries you want to have in place for various relationships can help you keep your boundaries. You will likely have different sets of boundaries for a parent, friend, and romantic partner. If you are clear with yourself about your boundaries, is it easier to ensure that you are upholding them.
"Why do people think it is okay to cyberbully or commit domestic violence?" - Ashiya
People may think it is okay to cyberbully or commit acts of domestic violence if they are not aware of the consequences that these behaviors will have on themselves and others. It is important for everyone to be made aware of what cyberbullying and domestic violence is so they can recognize that these acts can carry a long-term impact. For example, according to cyberbullying.gov, "Most information communicated electronically is permanent and public, if not reported and removed. A negative online reputation, including for those who bully, can impact college admissions, employment, and other areas of life."