Virtual communication is part of everyday life for school children.
The virtual world is taking on an increasingly important role in the lives of children and young people. For today’s youth, smartphones and other devices of virtual communication have become increasingly present in everyday life. Friendships are fostered through online social networks, relationships often begin and end in the Internet, and personal status is established by posting on popular phone applications. While it offers possibilities to connect with each other, the social networks are also a platform for cyber-bullying and violence.
A few facts from the Israeli Internet Association:
Matzmichim does not want to advise against the use of social networks, but encourage children to use it correctly. Technology can be a positive part of pupils’ lives, but can also be used as a medium of mass circulation for spreading negative messages. Without guidance, youth have a hard time understanding the extent of possible harm caused through media. One touch of a button is enough to cause enormous and widespread suffering. Children run the danger of causing immense harm in a matter of seconds – often very hard to take back. Often, they only become aware of the extent of their actions when the damage is already done. Therefore, it is very important to bring up this topic among pupils and teachers alike – rather now than later.
Matzmichim gives youth a place to discuss their experiences and stories within the virtual world. Together we review various forms of virtual violence, give an opportunity to reflect on ethical behaviour online and equip children and adolescents with methods and tools necessary to reduce virtual violence.
Matzmichim is working with well-established data to understand where problems arise and how we can help reduce violence. According to a survey by Prof. Rolider (2014), children would rather report physical violence than report virtual violence, because they are scared of being excluded and cut off from the virtual world (e.g. banned by their parents). Along with this, according to Kelling and Wilson‘s Broken Window Theory, the feeling of responsibility and sense of empathy decreases as the number of viewers increase— someone always assuming somebody else might intervene which decreases a sense of responsibility. This could be a reason why virtual violence still largely remain without response and intervention from others online.
Virtual violence can occur at any time or in any place.
In contrast to physical and verbal violence, virtual violence is not restricted to a particular time and a particular place. Children have daily access to an infinite number of online worlds at any time.
The approach of Matzmichim (Uplifters) with regards to virtual violence
Instead of telling the students what is right and wrong, the aim of Matzmichim (Uplifters) is to reduce violence through supportive workshops and create a feeling of belonging. We understand that 40% of children regret something that they have posted online and therefore we believe it is necessary to work in a supportive, judgement free environment. We want to help youth find new and constructive ways to communicate on the Internet — in a way they will not later regret.
USE EXISTING VALUES AND CHANGE NEGATIVE BEHAVIOUR THROUGH THEM
By discussing specific issues, the students realize what behaviour is positive or negative online.
Here are three sample questions we ask students to discuss with each other:
These questions allow for students to open their minds to thinking about social media in different ways. Though each individual has their own thoughts and opinions, we have found that these questions still provoke similar responses. Often when doing this exercise we try to use the words courage and authenticity as powerhouses.
In order to keep pace with the rapid changes in technology we are continually adapting our programs on the subject of “Virtual Violence”.
Cyber-Bullying in special
Within the wide use of social media among children and youth, especially the topic of cyber-bullying takes place. Most of the adults within in the children’s environment claim to be unequipped concerning dealing with the upcoming suffering of young people by being bullied on social networks. Matzmichim (Uplifters) provides and developed tools and techniques to rise the awareness of the children and youth about cyber-bullying taking place. As well as showing parents, educators, social workers and so on, how to handle the sensible topic with the children. Furthermore at the same time increasing your knowledge about the current famous social media platforms, including apps etc, which is used by the young generation. Within the workshops out trainers include findings about the current research of cyber-bullying and by using methods of play to sensitize them for the potential impacts.
Matzmichim itself always takes care of being in touch with the newest research and goes with the fast ongoing changes among the use of social media and communication.