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Cyberbullying - Conflict, Appropriate Behaviour, Support [9-10]

Lesson plan


  • Learn about anger and healthy ways to deal with it
  • Examine how conflicts, particularly bullying, escalate online
  • Review safe and healthy digital communication
  • Discuss where to go for help and support when dealing with cyberbullying


Additional Information for Facilitators

This lesson should take approximately 75 minutes to complete.  Facilitators should review the answers and suggested responses for each activity so they can add additional information that may be specific to their school or community. Facilitators may want to consider what support resources are available in the area for youth that deal with cyberbullying.

The purpose of this lesson is to help youth understand the importance of thinking before they post and how what they do online has a long life span.  Once you hit send, you lose control over that content.  As adults we must decrease vulnerability and help youth understand when to hit send, when to hit delete, and how to protect themselves when they use technology.

Teaching/Learning Strategies

Introduction: Lesson Outline (5 minutes)

  • Provide an outline for the students about what you will cover today. In the class, students will talk about anger and anger management, examine how conflicts and bullying can escalate online, review safe and healthy digital communication, and review sources of support.

Activity #1: Handling Anger (15 minutes)

Strategy: Post-It, Pile-It

  • Tell students that there will always be times in their lives where they feel upset or angry. Everyone experiences a moment in their lives when someone hurts their feelings or does something wrong. The important thing is to know how to handle themselves in those moments. We are responsible for our own actions. Each action and the resulting reaction will cause a chain of events, and the outcomes can’t be erased.
  • Provide students with a small package of post-it notes and put them into small groups of 4-5 students. Tell students the instructions for this activity. First, you will read a question aloud. Students will independently write down answers on individual post-it notes. There should be one response to the question per post-it note, but no limit to the number of responses that students want to provide.
  • Once everyone has written their responses down, students will work in small groups to review the answers. One person will say one of their responses and place it in the middle of the group. Anyone else who has a similar response will put theirs on top. The next person in the group will say a new response and put it in a new spot in the middle. Once again, all other group members who had a similar response will place their note on top. This process will continue until all post-it notes are accounted for. Once completed, students should choose their top three responses and be prepared to share these with the class.
  • Read the following question aloud to the group: “When you feel upset or angry, how do you handle it?” Have them record their responses on individual post-it notes and complete the activity as noted above.
    • Responses will vary; possibilities are: argue, yell, go away to be by myself, talk with friends, exercise, cry, eat, take a walk, punch something, talk with parents or trusted adult, blog, etc.
  • Have groups share their top three responses. The facilitator will record the top responses on chart paper or the SMART Board. Ask if students have anything else to add to the list.
  • Looking specifically at the full list created on the SMART Board or chart paper, ask students to identify the “healthy” ways of handing anger. The facilitator could circle or star the “healthy” choices. Remind students that the best way to deal with anger is to walk away, take some time alone to think about how you’re feeling, or talk with a trusted adult or older person. Ask students to add any additional “healthy” options for dealing with anger to the list.
  • Debrief by telling students that sometimes when we are upset or angry, our first reaction is to text, post or send inappropriate or mean messages. Ultimately when you are angry, you want to take some time to figure out a way to handle the situation appropriately without resorting to using technology.  When we post something online, the content is out of our control and can have a long life span.  This can escalate our anger or make the situation worse.  It can make something that was insignificant, and could have been dealt with quickly, turn into something that might end a relationship.  Inappropriate and negative posts or texts about someone else are considered cyberbullying. When students are caught cyberbullying someone, it can have serious consequences for their future.
  • Remind students that sometimes in bullying situations, the peer pressure or “power” can make us caught up in the moment and we often forget to stop and think about the longer-term consequences and how bullying makes everyone else feel. It is important to remember that there are lasting consequences when we post or send information using technology. Real life goes on, but there is always a trace left behind online. Remind students that in the scenario with Damien, Jasmine and David, it is clear how easily things like this can happen online and how quickly situations can turn into bullying.
    • Facilitator should consider linking to recent stories in the news about youth who experienced negative consequences as a result of cyberbullying (e.g., charged, death, etc.)

Activity #2: Technology Escalates Conflict (40 minutes)

Strategy: Huddle Up

  • In this activity, students will have a chance to discuss how to handle conflict and think about alternatives to using technology when they are angry or upset. They will look at the options and present their scenario and outcomes to the class.
  • Put students into four groups for this next activity. Provide students with the instructions for this activity, as well as a copy of Technology + Conflicts = Problems (9-10.1 Handout).
  • Explain to students that this activity is called “huddle up”. To start, the facilitator reads a scenario aloud to the group, then groups will “huddle up” and collaborate on their response.  The facilitator should use the “numbered heads” strategy, where a number is assigned to each member of the “huddle” group.  They should think of all the possible responses as they answer the two questions on their sheet and record their ideas on the handout.  The facilitator will then call one number and the person in each group who has that number will share the answer for the group. This process will be repeated for each of the four scenarios.
  • Remind students that for each scenario, they will discuss with their group what impact technology had on the outcome and how could this have been different if the people involved had talked face-to-face about the problem. The facilitator can use Technology + Conflicts = Problems – Reference (9-10.1 Reference) when taking up the student answers. The facilitator should add any comments related to the legal or school-related consequences in their area for these behaviours.
  • Scenarios for Huddle Up:
    • Scenario #1: Isabella and Michelle have been friends for many years.  Last week Michelle was dealing with some personal stuff and shared it with Isabella in confidence.  Yesterday, Michelle found out that Isabella told another one of their friends about her personal problems.  Michelle was really mad so she immediately changed her status on Facebook to something rude about Isabella and then texted a bunch of their friends to say that Isabella was a gossip and couldn’t be trusted.  Isabella responded to the post by saying that Michelle was lying and had been talking badly about all their friends. For the next few weeks, texts and messages went back and forth between them and eventually they just stopped talking to each other.
    • Scenario #2: Jermaine recently posted a picture of himself online. Carlos, one of his good friends, posted something inappropriate under it. Then, within an hour, there were over 30 comments from other friends, each getting progressively ruder and meaner.  Many friends also “liked” various comments, usually the ones that were the most inappropriate and mean. Jermaine was mad that Carlos started the posts so he decided to post an embarrassing picture of Carlos to retaliate. He tags him in it and writes a really inappropriate comment.  The next day at school, Carlos refuses to talk to Jermaine.
    • Scenario #3: Jessica, Bianca and Karlee have been playing volleyball together since Grade 5 and are on the school volleyball team. Last month, Jessica was added to the starting group. Karlee and Bianca thought Jessica started acting like she was better than them, so they started texting each other about Jessica. They would message back and forth even while they were hanging out with Jessica.  Eventually, Jessica started feeling excluded and could sense that something was going on. This went on for weeks and Jessica continued to try to hang out with them, but felt uncomfortable. She would repeatedly come home from practices in tears and shared her feelings with her parents.  Jessica started to make comments online that Bianca and Karlee were the weakest members of the volleyball team.  Last weekend they were at a volleyball tournament and Jessica’s mom saw that Bianca and Karlee were excluding Jessica and yelled at them for it. All three girls were removed from the volleyball team.  
    • Scenario #4: Nathan and Raelyn have been dating for six months. Lately, Nathan’s friends have been telling him that if Raelyn really likes him, she’ll send him a picture of herself in her bra.  The other day, Nathan repeated this to Raelyn so she sent him a picture to prove how much she liked him.  She asked him not to share it with anyone. The next day, Nathan showed a few friends at school. After lunch, one of the guys he had shown the picture to suggested that he forward it to a few other guys in the class so Nathan did. They chose to forward the picture to others and eventually everyone in the class received a copy of the picture. A teacher found out and had to involve the principal. Nathan and Raelyn had to meet with their parents, the principal, their teacher and the police to resolve the issue. The picture is still being forwarded. Raelyn’s parents want to press charges for possession and distribution of child pornography.
  • At the end of the activity, explain to students that you really have to keep your anger, hurt, and/or frustration in check. Take time to calm down and avoid using technology to deal with a problem. The best options are to use the strategies to handle anger when you are feeling hurt or mad and to always practice safe communication when using digital technology
  • Conflict in life is normal, but how you handle it is your choice. Using technology escalates conflict and makes problems worse. Youth need to be aware of this when deciding how to deal with problems that arise.

Activity #3: Safe & Healthy Digital Communication (10 minutes)

  • Remind students when anyone posts or texts something, it can have a long life span. The content is out of our control. We need to be certain that we will not regret what we post. It is important that we always act responsibly, in a way that we will make us proud of our behaviour.
  • Provide students with a copy of the handout Safe & Healthy Digital Communications (9-10.2 Handout).  Tell students that just like in real life, there are rules for staying safe when using digital communication tools.
  • Tell students that they will have a chance to think about the appropriate ways to behave in real life and apply them to their online world. These behaviours can include how to speak to people properly, listen attentively, and handle conflict appropriately.   With a partner, students should complete the handout. This can be taken up before the end of the class or assigned to be completed as homework and collected the following day. The facilitator can use Safe & Healthy Digital Communications – Reference (9-10.2 Reference) when taking up student responses.

Conclusion: Supports

  • To conclude the lesson, remind students that the message they learned today about how conflict can escalate when they use technology is one that they should consider from now on before they use their phone or computer to respond to a situation.
  • Tell students that it is important that they never feel like they have to handle anything on their own. There are going to be times when people find themselves in situations that they can’t get out of – perhaps someone chooses to “sext” their girlfriend or boyfriend, or maybe they write a harsh text to a friend who said something sarcastic about them. We might be angry and write something inappropriate online, or we might get a text from a classmate that is spreading a rumour about another student. Whatever happens, there are always people and supports to deal with the situation before it escalates. At these times, it is important that we do the right thing.  When someone stands up against bullying, we call them an “upstander”.
  • Prior to leaving, have each student answer the following question: “Who would you go to for help when dealing with conflict or a problem?” 
    • Some responses might include: parents, older siblings, relatives, guardians, neighbours, teachers, educational assistants, guidance counsellors, crossing guards, police, principal/vice principal, older students, coaches, Elders, help lines, student services, in emergencies 9-1-1, etc.
  • Ask students to volunteer responses. The facilitator should generate a list of all the responses so that it can hang in the classroom to remind students that they can always ask for help.
  • To conclude the lesson and summarize the important points, each student should be provided with a copy of the handout, Cyber Safety Top Three Tips (9-10.3 Handout). A copy should be made into a poster and hung in the class. Be sure to review the handout with the class:
    • Tip #1: Rules for respectful relationships that apply offline also apply online. Remind students that it is important to know and remember that their real world rules also apply online. If they wouldn’t swear in real life, they shouldn’t do it online. If they wouldn’t say mean things to someone in person, they shouldn’t say it online. 
    • Tip #2: Stop and think before you post/send.  Remind students that they need to think before putting anything online or in a message/email, including pictures, messages, blogs, posts, information, links, etc.  Anything that is transmitted digitally or electronically potentially has a long life-span. Sometimes it is there forever. Really think before you hit send about the consequences, outcomes, and "life span" of the content.  Consider what information or image you want to have on the Internet long term.
    • Tip #3: Be fast to report and hit delete. Tell students that it is equally as important to be fast to hit delete. When you see or receive an inappropriate, disrespectful, hurtful, harmful piece of content about someone else, tell an adult and delete it. Don’t forward it on. Don’t keep it. Don’t share it.  If it is about you, print and save a copy.

Suggestions for Extension Activities

Students could…

  • Create and present role plays that show a conflict with two outcomes – one when the fight moves to the online world, and one where the fight is dealt with in the real world.
  • Develop guidelines for how to handle conflict appropriately online and offline. These could be posted in the classroom for students to review.
  • Present messages to younger students about cyberbullying and why it is important to stand up against bullying and cyberbullying.
  • Create “Safe and Healthy Digital Communication” guidelines reference chart that will hang in the classroom.
  • Develop Fact Cards that outline appropriate ways to communicate, whether it be a card about Netiquette, Active Listening, or another healthy communication skill.

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