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About The Cyberbullying Toolkit for Tutors & Mentors
Since we launched our organization in 2003, we’ve found that children share concerns with their volunteer tutors and mentors that they do not tell anybody else.  Given the rise of cyber harassment (1 in 10 U.S. teens have been bullied online or via their cell phones), it’s essential that volunteer-driven tutoring and mentoring programs equip their volunteers with the resources they need to respond appropriately when students come to them with news that they’re being cyberbullied.

We worked with teen and Net-Generation expert Vanessa Van Petten ( to develop the following toolkit.  The toolkit:
  • Offers volunteer tutors and mentors specific steps they can take to help students address online harassment, and
  • Arms volunteers with guidance they can provide to school administrators, parents and guardians if they're unfamiliar with appropriate steps to follow.

The toolkit has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education's Mentoring Resource Center, the Afterschool Alliance, and the State of Montana's Prevention Resource Center.

We'd love your feedback on this resource!  Please send your thoughts to


The Cyberbullying Toolkit for Tutors & Mentors

Authors: Vanessa Van Petten (lead author) & America Learns
Topics: Cyber Issues; Conflict Resolution
Level: First Grade - Twelfth Grade
Arrangement: One-on-One; Small Group
- This list of cyberbullying response actions to share with your student's/mentee's parents

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Use this strategy to help determine what you should do when your student tells you that she is having trouble with somebody or is in an uncomfortable situation online or via cell phone messaging.

These situations can occur via a number of media: social networks (Facebook, MySpace), instant messaging services (AIM, Google Talk), Internet chat rooms or even online games.  As a result, your student may feel threatened, attacked, uncomfortable, ostracized or left out. 

Here’s just a sample of what your student may be a victim of.  Somebody may have:

- Written a nasty note or rumor on your student’s Facebook wall for everyone to see;

- Put up embarrassing pictures of your student on her school’s social network;

- Digitally imposed your student’s head onto a naked body and passed it around like it was real;

- Submitted your student’s name and picture to a site like “Hot or Not” for strangers to rate how ugly she is;

- Created a website or blog dedicated to how much they hate your student;

- Bated your student into writing a mean or weird instant message and then posted it all over MySpace or the school;

- Created a fake user account, pretended to be hot, flirted with your student, and then broke up with her, told her that s/he hates her,  or told her that she is too ugly for him/her;

- Sent mean cell phone text messages, images or videos directly to your student or to others in school about your student ; or

- Harassed your student’s avatars or video game players on gaming websites.
Step 1: Understand Two Important Aspects of Online Bullying Culture.

It’s Instant & Ongoing.
Before, if you got into a fight at school or found out you were not invited to a party, you were able to come home, vent about it, get a snack, cool off, and have some space and time to think about how you were going to act in school during the next several days.  While feelings of hurt or embarrassment may come home with you, there would probably be a break from the action that led you to feel that way. 

Now, if somebody is mad at your student, that person can instantly send a text message to a social networking profile to post a mean comment.   The second something happens, everybody in the school can know about it because they all get alerts or texts from automated news feeds or plugged-in friends.  Teens are posting and checking these updates from cell phones and computers CONSTANTLY, so before what took a few days to spread (or what didn’t spread at all), can now take just a few minutes.   And since these messages can be posted and read at any time, they can follow your student wherever she goes, on and off campus.  It’s more challenging to find space to cool off and reflect.

It May be Permanent.
Postings on a Facebook wall, text messages and e-mail messages can be deleted.  Other things, such as photos or social network announcements, can be posted forever or until the writer removes them.

Also, even if somebody posts an unflattering picture for five minutes on a school network before it’s removed, others can easily download, repost it, and/or pass it around by e-mail undetected.  And don’t forget the power of Google.  The search engine allows you to pull up past versions of a website, so even if items have been removed, they may still be accessed from historical copies of the site.

Step 2:

Pinpoint Your Student's Role.

Discuss the situation with your student to discover her role in the bullying.  Generally, you’ll find your student in one of four roles:

Your student is being targeted, threatened, attacked, ostracized, left out or abused in some way.

Your student is bullying somebody else or is “flaming.”  Flaming is when multiple students throw attacks at one another.   When flaming occurs, every participant may be a victim and a bully.

Helpful Bystander
Your student is witnessing someone being hurt or attacked online, and has tried to resolve or mollify the situation (e.g., trying to calm the bully or telling the victim to leave a Facebook group, chat room or gaming area).

Harmful Bystander
Your student is observing or knows that bullying is going on, but is not reporting it to anyone other than you.

Here’s a list of questions you can ask to help determine the role your student is playing:

- What, exactly, is happening?

- How do you know the person or people involved?

- Have you seen this person or these people in person?  How often?  When was the last time you saw them?

- How long has this been happening for?

- How frequently does it happen?

- Who else knows about this?  Have you mentioned it to your family?  Have you mentioned it to any of your friends?

- Is anything similar happening to people you know?

- How safe do you feel as a result of what’s going on?

- Do you think that the person or people know your real name, address, phone number, and school?
Step 3:

Immediate Actions to Take if the Incident is “Playground Gossip” Online

Most online bullying and gossip is “playground gossip.”  In practice, it looks like a onetime “dis” or insult such as a curse word in an instant message or a ”de-friending” on Facebook with the intention of hurting feelings. These actions were caused by somebody the student knows, such as neighbors or school acquaintances.

If this is the type of issue your student is dealing with, talk with her about how she’s feeling and how she could address the issue (America Learns Network members should check out various conflict resolution strategies for additional tips on discussing this issue). 

Also encourage your student to:

  1. Not engage the bully immediately: Make sure your student does not retaliate or respond to the bully while full of emotion as doing so may provoke the bully to continue or increase the severity or rate of his or her actions.  Since Web and cell phone communications do not usually happen while the attacker and victim are face to face, your student will likely be able to take the time she needs before (and if) she responds. 

  2. Save all correspondence with the bully (you can do this together): This includes printing instant message conversations, printing and saving all emails, and taking screen shots of harmful comments on Facebook or MySpace before removing them from one’s profile.  Encourage your student to also note the time and date of all incidents, the screen names the bully used, the bystanders of the situation, and the names of any chat rooms or games involved.

  3. If the incident was Web-based, to temporarily stop using that particular social networking site/forum/program/game.  Encourage her to spend some time reflecting on what happened and deciding what, if any, actions to take.

We encourage you to also contact your supervisor about this in case it’s a part of a larger trend that you may be unaware of, or if it’s the beginning of a trend that you may not be around to learn about.  Encourage your supervisor to either tell your student’s parents about it or ask your supervisor if you can inform the parents or guardians.

Step 4:

Steps to Take When the Situation is More Serious

If the incident is anything other than one-time playground gossip, or if it’s any action that was done by somebody your student doesn’t know, report the issue immediately.  Be sure to tell your student that you’re going to report the incident because you want to do what’s best for her.  Be sure that you keep her updated of what’s going on, and try to include her in as many conversations as possible.

Here’s the list of individuals we recommend that you connect with:

- Try to connect with your supervisor first.  Work with her to determine who will notify your student’s parents or guardians
.  If your supervisor and the parents are not sure of next steps, consider sharing this list of actions with the parents.

- If your supervisor or your student’s parents are unavailable, try to notify a teacher or school counselor of the incident.  Oftentimes, teachers and counselors have been instructed how to address these issues. 

- If you can’t reach your supervisor, your student’s parents, teachers or counselors, notify the administrators of the organization you tutor or mentor through.  

Once you contact the appropriate individuals, if they are not sure of next steps, share the list of actions with them.

Additional Resources:

Check out additional articles on cyberbullying at  Following are some links to other articles written by Vanessa Van Petten.  She’d love her you’re your feedback on them. 

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