How to address violence in the news with your students.

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TOPIC: Cyberbullying, Digital Drama & Hate Speech

How can I connect positively, treat others respectfully, and create a culture of kindness?

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Lessons on this topic will teach students about the effects of digital drama, cyberbullying, and hate speech on both themselves and their larger communities. They will explore the roles people play and how individual actions -- negative and positive, intentional and unintentional -- can affect their peers and their broader communities. They are encouraged to take the active role of upstander and build positive, supportive online communities, and they will learn how to cultivate empathy, compassion, and courage to combat negative interactions online.

Our Instructional Approach

A Spectrum of Behavior

Students will examine different types of unkind language to develop an understanding of what distinguishes unkindness from cyberbullying, digital drama, and hate speech, including how each issue affects others and the required responses for each.

While these types of language have meaningful differences, they also overlap, and students will need support to distinguish among them. The difference between cyberbullying and hate speech, for example, is not just the specific words that are used but the context in which they are used, the relationship between the people involved, the frequency of use, and potentially many other factors.

A Safe Space

Students will be exposed to the important, but sensitive, topic of hate speech. Through direct engagement with specific examples of hate speech, students will develop an understanding of what distinguishes it from other kinds of hurtful language and will explore productive ways to respond to it.

Because hate speech is intended to elicit strong emotional reactions from those who hear it, students are likely to find these examples offensive and uncomfortable. This is an important but challenging part of examining and confronting this type of language when it appears. For this lesson to be effective and for students to feel safe, attention should be paid to the lesson-specific recommendations related to prework and expectation setting. Generally speaking, classrooms that have an established culture of empathy and mutual interest that both teacher and students have agreed to will have the most success with these lessons.

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