Ep.23 Dr. Danielle Law-Addressing bullying with compassion.

Listen to Dr. Danielle Law's wisdom on why bullying happens and how we can positively influence bullying with compassion! We talk about her research on bullying and find out some surprising things about cyberbullying and physical bullying. This is a must listen for anyone interested in having a greater understanding why bullying happens.

Gissele: welcome to the Love and Compassion podcast with Gissele. Don’t forget to like, and subscribe to our podcast or write a review to see more of that. Today, our topic is on cyber bullying, cyber kindness, compassion, and youth mental health in social media. Our guest is an associate professor in psychology and youth in children’s studies at Wilfrid Laurier University.

She’s also director of a child and adolescent research and education lab where she guides a team of students on various research and outreach outreach projects. Her research broadly focuses on child and adolescent social, emotional growth. As they develop into this technologically advancing world.

 She also does work on how to promote cyber kindness through social, emotional learning, emotional regulation and compassion. Please join me in welcoming Danielle Law.

Danielle: Hi Danielle. Oh, hi. Thank you for having me. I’m doing well, enjoying the sunshine. Yeah. Thank you.

Gissele: Welcome on the show. Thank you. I’m very excited to talk about your research on cyber bullying and your insights on how compassion may be really helpful and kind of in this technological world. Um, can you share a little bit about what got you interested in bullying in specifically cyber bullying?

well, a bunch of different things. Kind of happened in my life that brought this into its being, I was actually socially bullied in junior high. Many people are, and they experienced these things. So at that time it was more about thinking about why do people have to be mean and why are they being mean to me?

Danielle: Right. But then as I got into grad school and started looking at, some of the. Ways that people are interacting with technology. And so this is back in 2004. So before social media was really a big thing before cyber bullying was even something that we thought about. I was thinking more about how does technology impact our lives in general.

But then when I started my PhD, I was hired by the Vancouver school board to be their project coordinator for their facing up to cyber bullying project. And this is when I really started to learn more about what cyber bullying is, how it impacts kids. I was working a lot with the high school students and realize that this was really an understudied area.

In fact, nobody was doing it at this time. This was in about 2006, 2007. And as I was working with these teenagers, I started to realize that we really have to learn more about what this is, if we want to give good advice on how to help them. And so we were kind of flying off the seat of our pants, I guess, trying to figure out what we could do.

And we ended up, creating, a manual for teachers and a DVD that was created by the teens on how to educate younger kids about what’s going on online. And what does responsible internet use mean? But a lot has changed since then. So, anyway, this, this experience with the school board and then my own personal experience with bullying in general.

Led me to want to study this area more and just understand what are the things that are going on here. And how is cyber bullying different from, traditional bullying? Is it different? And, yeah, that’s kinda what led me down this path.

Gissele: Wow. Thank you for sharing that. It’s so funny. We’ve all kind of had these experiences that kind of have an impact still for, for some of us still have an impact in our lives.

And in your case, it had a positive impact in that you became a researcher in that area. Can you share a little bit about what the difference between physical bullying and cyber bullying?

Yeah, so, bullying in general. So the definition of bullying is that there must be intention to harm. So just because someone.

Danielle: Does something mean to someone if they didn’t mean to harm them, like it was a perceived harm. So for example, if you bump into someone in the lunch line, someone might feel harm, but the intent of the person who bumped into them was not harmed. So, that would not be considered bullying. So there must be intention to harm.

There must be a power differential. So maybe the person is bigger than the other person or louder. And then also it’s repeated over time. So those three components, intention to harm a power differential and repetition over over time, is kind of the, the accepted definition of what bullying is.

And then when we incorporate technology into that, and we start doing these things online or using different forms of technology, then it becomes cyber bullying. So when it comes to traditional bullying, I think many of us kind of know what that is, but traditionally the person is usually bigger or stronger than the person being harmed.

They are usually louder. They might exhibit a lot of confidence, and. It’s usually happening in front of a lot of people. So they’re engaging and embarrassing, the person being harmed in front of a group that’s physically there. And, but the audience is limited. So it’s limited to the people in the hallway or on the playground or in the classroom.

cyber bullying is, is different in the sense that anyone can post, right? So you don’t have to be the bigger person or the louder person anymore. Any smaller person or quieter or shyer person can post online and it can happen at any time. any time of the day in the comfort of your own home and no one, your parents, adults can’t really see that it’s going on.

Danielle: Right. But hundreds or even thousands of people can now see the post and make comments. And it’s also oftentimes harder to take the posts down. And there’s a lot of anonymity, too. Right? You can create an account. I’m not use your real name and people don’t won’t necessarily know that you’re doing it, but you still can see the feedback.

You can see how many people viewed it. You can see the comments and that can; give you that positive feedback to maybe want to engage in it more. While there are some differences when it comes to cyber bullying and traditional bullying, the underlying cause of, of bullying and aggression is actually not the technology.

So the technology is not causing harm, right? Like we often want to say social media is the cause of cyber bullying or it’s because of the internet. Right. But technology is simply providing another venue for people to express themselves. And oftentimes, like a lot of the research shows that traditional bullying experiences among the same people are also occurring online.

So it’s not like these types are doing it offline and these types are doing it online. It’s all intermeshed because our phones are in our pocket and it’s part of our everyday. Second right. Every day, minute. And so, there’s no online and offline anymore, right? It’s just, this is the world. And now we have, this technology that allows us to express ourselves online.

And, yeah, we, it’s not necessarily the technology. It’s mostly about broken relationships. Right? So what a lot of the emerging research is showing now is that bullying is not a technology problem. It’s a relationship problem. And so we need to be focusing more on, on healthy relationships, how to cultivate healthy relationships and healthy communication and less on the technology.


Gissele: And thank you for mentioning that. That is so powerful. It, you know, it, it does make me think a lot of the times we tend to see things either as good or bad, like technologies either good or bad technology can be used for good and can be used for bad. I think what you said is so powerful because it is about relationships.

It is about how do we get kids to understand the importance of healthy relationships, the importance of kindness and compassion. so how do you think we could start to address or what are some of your thoughts around how we should be addressing some of those healthy relationships? So some of the relationship issues, maybe within the school system?

yeah, so that’s a really good question. And there are a number of things that are happening in this area. And social, emotional learning is, is one area that more schools are starting to embrace, which is trying to help, encourage students to develop better cognitive capacity and social and relationship and behavioral regulation.

Danielle: So how can we help, young people, but also adults become aware of the feelings that they might be having, how to engage with those feelings and then how to respond to something that they may not like. So, oftentimes, especially in these kinds of these bullying types of relationships, we might feel harmed in a certain way, or we might feel like we want to do harm to someone and.

Rather than pausing, we immediately react. So we have this, this tense feeling and we react and we say something mean we feel disconnected, or we feel like we want to boost our self esteem. And so we react and when we might do something mean to somebody, but ultimately what social emotional learning will try to do is, is help individuals to pause.

And rather than react, it would be more about responding and recognizing, okay, I’m having these feelings. how do I interpret those feelings? And now how can I respond in a different way? That’s not aggressive. And so, I’m working on a few projects right now, looking at, social, emotional learning and lots of people.

this is, well-documented in the field of how social emotional learning is, is beneficial for, creating a sense of belonging in schools and helping to maintain and cultivate healthy relationships in schools and also into adulthood. So many children who engage in social, emotional learning kind of workshops and training and have that culture built into their school at grade three.

Danielle: Actually do a really, really well later on into their teenage years, they perform better academically. They have better mental health. they have better relationships and they’re just better able to understand themselves and others and show kindness and empathy. Well, after that time, when they were in elementary school.

And so this is what we’re trying to encourage now is, is this idea of creating sense of belonging through social, emotional learning,

Gissele: Which is excellent. I’m just curious as to, is there any possibility to have these inner it’s a school system considering having these kinds of trainings or courses for kids that are older?

Because I mean, you’re talking about a younger cohort that could be followed and potentially that will translate and kind of how they treat themselves and others in different environments. But what about the kids that are engaging in. Right now, what sort of strategies they using for them? Cause I think one of the things I’m going to be Frank that I worried about was that the school system’s approach to bullying has been it’s it’s, you know, as I know, some of your historical papers had said very traditional, like they use the same structured approaches and it was always a power over that.

Gissele: There was a perpetrator versus victim in the end, it was to really just put power over on the perp, suppose that perpetrator or to suspend them, to kind of alienate them from the school and that doesn’t really address the problem. So I’m wondering sort of whether there are some new strategies they’re considering for cyber bullying or how are they bringing that social, emotional piece into the schools

Danielle: now?

Right? So, schools do things in different ways, so, and different schools have different cultures and different types of communities. As you mentioned, there is this kind of, zero tolerance, culture that we have in that zero tolerance to bullying culture. The research has actually shown that they don’t work, because we’re basically punishing and taking this punitive approach and telling, maybe suspending kids, but not actually addressing the problem.

So not addressing what is the root cause behind this aggressive behavior. Right? And, and then we try to apply that kind of, principle to online. So we’ll say, oh, well, if, if, aggressive behavior is happening online, then we need to take these devices away. This is the way to eliminate it is to take away the devices.

But the problem with that is it’s a band-aid solution. It, it doesn’t teach kids responsibility and. a lot of young people, especially those who are being harmed are less likely to tell an adult that they’re being harmed because they’re afraid that the adult will take away their device. And so now you have this person who is being harmed online, who, doesn’t know where to go to and doesn’t feel like they can talk to an adult about it.

And because of fear or they’re scared if they tell an adult they will be punished because we have to remember that their entire social world is online. And even if we think about our own social lives as adults who are also constantly on our phones, our social lives are online. What if someone told you that they’re going to take your phone away?

Right? And so it’s the same thing for, for teenagers. They don’t want to be punished for expressing the struggle that they’re going through and. Of course, we don’t want that to happen. We want them to share with us. And so we need to focus less on and it’s understandable why adults want to do this? They feel that anxiety.

And it’s like, okay, well, the way to protect you then is to take away the technology. But we have to remember, it’s not a technology problem. It’s a relationship problem. So how do we cultivate healthier relationships then without taking away devices, maybe set boundaries, but not take them away. And it’s slow moving as we translate research to bring them to practice.

So more research is showing that we need to be focusing more on these relationships, but it’s slower for schools to adopt these things. And so, I mean we. I think at pro D days and stuff like that, they might have workshops on these things, but I’m not sure to what extent they are implementing some of the strategies that the research is suggesting.

Gissele: Can we talk about the reasons that people bully? I really kind of sit and think and just like you, when you were younger, you think to yourself, what makes a person want to hurt someone else? and when I’ve spoken to young people who have been both the victim and have bullied other people, there was elements of belongingness.

There was elements of, expressing hurt and wanting the hurt to be, shared with someone else. So what have you found, what have been the main reasons why people bully in, in particular?

There are a number of different reasons which you touched upon. One reason is,it’s a self-esteem. So what research has found is bullying in general is that there are two factors that can influence someone to harm one, another person.

Danielle: And one is that self-esteem is high. So people with very high self-esteem are likely to harm others because they want to maintain. That feeling of having self-esteem. And usually that comes with being higher up on the social hierarchy. So they’re very popular. They have self-esteem high self-esteem and they want to maintain that.

And so they harm other people in order to keep that high status and really there’s fear, right? I’m scared that someone, that I’m going to be bumped down the hierarchy and become less popular and less people will like me and have a disconnection with others. So in order to maintain my status and maintain what I think is connection, I am going to hurt other people, right.

And then the another reason is lower self-esteem. So people with very low self-esteem might hurt other people to elevate themselves and to make themselves feel better. And oftentimes in bold, whether it’s high self-esteem or low self-esteem, context, there’s when you hurt somebody else. There’s often people watching you, right?

You’re very vocal about it. You’re loud. So if it’s happening, you know, traditionally you’re loud, there’s usually a group of people will crowd around you or people will turn their heads and watch you. If it’s online, people are liking making comments. You can see how many people viewed it. This gives you, a sense of power and it’s, it gives you some positive reinforcement.

So like, look at how many people are liking the answer, right? And so you feel good and the reward systems and the brains start to activate because like all these people are giving me praise for doing these mean things. I feel so good about myself. And so you continue to do it. And so, but the bottom line is when it comes to self-esteem, it’s that there’s.

There’s something going on inside where you feel disconnected and you feel fear whether it’s low or high, and that’s either trying to maintain it because you’re scared it’s going to come down or trying to elevate it because you don’t feel connected in the first place. So that’s one reason. And I mean, sort of along the same lines is in a family context, right?

So children might feel disconnected from their parents, so they might take it out at school or maybe they’re being harmed at home and they feel that disconnection because of the harm. And so, they might take it out on others and for whatever reason and however well-intentioned parents might be. They might be inadvertently creating disconnection, whether it’s being overly critical of their children or, children are not misinterpreting feedback.

And so then they try and project it to other, on other people. And again, it goes back to that feeling of, I don’t feel connected here, so I’m going to try and get connection this way. And I get that connection by being mean to others because I get positively reinforced for doing so. Right? And then, Yeah, it, it kind of feels good, right.

To feel powerful because when we feel powerful, when we feel like we’re on top of someone and like I’m saying something harmful and other people are cheering us on again, it’s we feel rewarded. And, we get a dopamine rush and, the, those areas of the brain that have to do with like the reward systems of the brain, just feed on that positive reinforcement.

And so we just run with it and continue to engage. But I think the biggest, like the common thread among all of these things is this desire to feel connection and to feel belonging. And when we don’t. We take it out on other people and get this false sense of security and false sense of connection because we see people cheering us on when they’re liking our things and commenting and watching us.

Yeah. Yeah.

Gissele: Thank you so much. That was such a powerful answer. there were so many things you said that I think are so important. I think I’ll start with the self-esteem piece, which is, you know, as you were talking, I was thinking truly empowered people and people that truly love themselves who have an amount of self-love.

We understand that there are enough don’t really need to disempower someone else. And so high self-esteem has usually been regarded as something that people think they should obtain, but really it does come with that fear piece. so how can we really focus on helping young people. Feel empowered and feel truly connected to themselves and to other people and how important that piece is.

The other piece that I thought about as you were talking was, and I wanted to ask you about it was the bystander effect, the bystander effect, and that the people who contribute. So what have they gained from doing that? Like what did, like, because like, I guess what I’m struggling with is can they not see that that’s hurting someone?

Gissele: What are

Danielle: your thoughts? Good question. Well there are several, I guess reasons that, bystanders don’t do anything. So a common reason is. One, they might just simply find it, entertaining. And so they want to contribute and they themselves might gain, especially when it’s online and they can make comments.

And then people are starting to like what they say, then they get positively reinforced. Right? So if they think they’re being quippy, someone might respond, right. Someone might respond to the lake or a comment, or I agree. And then this fuels them to continue. And they’re no longer even thinking about the original, a post they’re thinking about, oh, people liked what I had to say.

And so now I feel good about myself. So there’s that, but also many people do feel like they should stand up to, in a bullying situation, but are scared. So a common response is I don’t want to be the next person, the next target. And so out of fear, they don’t say anything because they don’t want to be a target.

and also they think if they tell an adult, the adult won’t know what to do. And so there’s a lack of trust. They don’t think adults will know what to do. They think adults are going to punish them or make it obvious that they’re the ones who told, and then they get labeled as a tattletale. They think devices are going to be taken away.

Danielle: So then they don’t tell an adult or they’re reluctant or slow to tell an adult. And another reason too, is that, they think it’s none of their business and because they think it’s none of their business, they, they just, they don’t want to jump in.

It’s like, oh, well, they’ll handle it. This is not my thing. I’m just gonna ignore it right. Or avoid thinking about this situation. The interesting part though, is while there’s all this fear about not telling, or about avoiding the situation is that a lot of studies have found that we, you just need one or two people to stand up to what’s going on and say, no, what you’re doing is not cool.

That disempowers the person doing harm. Because typically when they’re getting a lot of likes, when they’re getting a lot of positive feedback, it’s rewarding them. And they’re like, look at how much people love me because I’m doing this right. But as soon as people start saying, no, what you’re doing is not cool.

Suddenly that’s, that’s the reinforcement. They don’t want to hear. They don’t want to hear that they’re there, that there’s a dis they’re disconnecting, right. Suddenly, what they were, what they thought was creating connection with the people, their fans, right. Is they’re getting that disconnect. Now when you say no, what you’re doing is not cool and that can diffuse the whole situation.

Gissele: Yeah. It got me thinking about checking in with how they’re feeling about things, or how they would like to be supported. So compassion plays a key role in stepping in, right? Because when you see someone, you have to put yourself in their situation, you have to be aware that they are, they might be experiencing some real discomfort and sort of saying, Hey, you know, are you, are you in on the joke or are you actually feeling really disconnected right now?

 Because people might have different views on whether or not they want to be saved or not. Right. And so I think, stepping in is a part of compassion in terms of just being aware and wanting to assist someone who might be being socially isolated and separated from the group.

How do you think compassion can really be helpful in terms of perhaps addressing cyber bullying?

I’m going to talk about it in terms of bullying and cyber bullying together. Just because I think it’s, it’s not just about the online part. I think it’s about relationships as a whole and. if we think about why people are aggressive to others and it’s, and if the root is feeling of disconnection, right?

Danielle: It’s disconnection from self, and it’s also disconnection from others. So you don’t feel, and this is all happening subconsciously, right? So we don’t know that we’re, you know, feeling disconnected from self. But if we take a bit of time to reflect on why we want to harm someone and recognize that when I’m harming them, I feel a false.

Sense of connection with the external feedback, then we can realize, okay, if it’s about feeling disconnected with myself, how can I feel connected? How can and that disconnection with self is I don’t, I’m not, I don’t really love myself. Right? I’m critical. I don’t think I’m good enough. Maybe I feel unworthy.

I think I’m not good at this or that. I don’t think I’m smart enough. Beautiful enough, whatever enough. Right. And when we have that self-critical voice in our mind and we have that disconnection with ourselves, we think we can make it better by getting other people to, to praise us, to like our comments, to whatever.

So I think the first thing is we need to exercise self-compassion to, help us to love ourselves and not speak. Rudely and disrespectfully to ourself. So it’s recognizing, oh, I feel so anxious right now. Or I feel like I’m not good enough. I’m not eloquent enough. I’m not, you know, I’m worthy enough, not good enough, but rather than saying those things, it’s speaking kindly and saying, you know what, it’s okay.

We, we all, and it’s tapping into that, that common humanity piece of self-compassion right. Where, where we acknowledge that lots of people, everyone actually, at some point struggles doesn’t feel good enough. Doesn’t feel smart enough. Doesn’t feel kind enough. Doesn’t feel like enough and re remembering that everyone feels this way.

Not just me. I’m not an outlier. I’m not weird. I, and I’m now I don’t, I don’t need to prove myself because we’re all alike this and that’s okay. And so I’m feeling these things. I don’t feel accepted, but I can accept myself and, and then now move forward with, okay, how can I, how can I love myself better, accept myself better.

And, bring that connection within ourselves, you know, to light. And this is obviously easier said than done. And it’s something that we need to, you know, teach people and, and, and guide ourselves and others towards. But I think the first aspect is, is trying to remember to love ourselves and speak kindly to ourselves as we went to a good friend.

And then I think that helps us to rather than say aggressive things, to feel a sense of connection, say kind things to get a sense of connection. So same goal of wanting to connect with others, but one is doing it in an aggressive way and one, and getting a false sense of connection. And one is doing it in a kinder, more compassionate way to get hopefully a more deeper and more genuine, sense of connection.

Gissele: Yeah. One of the things I learned in my own self-love journey was about how, I can always come home to myself. Even if the environment outside wasn’t exactly, out-picturing what I desired or something that may have regularly have caused me conflict. .

And the more that I did that the more that I could give to people from my overflow. So I think what you said is, so spot on about trying to give to others, what you were also saying about, gossiping in about how, I didn’t realize was it’s considered social bullying and yet it happens in workplaces so often.

Danielle: Yep.

 I see gossiping as a way to connect with someone, but without really sharing anything personal about myself, I’m asking personal information from someone else as a way to connect with you.

we don’t always address the gossiping piece and see it as explicitly as bullying,

Danielle: right? Yeah. We often think of bullying as a kid thing. Right. So bullying happens with kids. Harassment happens with adults and, and it often goes unaddressed because we think adults can handle it themselves, right.

With kids, we, as the adults need to go in and well, the typical responses punish them. Right? but in the workplace, people are, I’m just either, I’m just gonna mind my own business and walk away. These are adults; they do what they want to do. You do, you kind of thing. Right? And then others will engage in the gossip and, and contribute to it.

And so. We often don’t jump in because we think this is not my business, adults or adults can make their own decisions. And so I think that’s why we, talk about or even do anything about. But you’re right. Like I think the, the reason why we gossip and spread rumors is because it’s, it’s entertaining at someone else’s expense.

And so we create this entertainment and we laugh together with, with the person we’re gossiping with, and we feel a sense of connection again, right. We feel connected because we’re laughing and sharing these stories and creating a bit of drama around a certain situation or a certain person. And, and we feel good about that.

It makes us feel connected, but it’s a false sense of connection. It’s a false sense of belonging because we’re not actually being vulnerable about ourselves. We’re actually harming. Someone else. And, but it goes back to that dopamine rush, we’re getting positively reinforced. We feel this dopamine rush.

And so then we continue, continue to do it. But yeah, I mean, as you mentioned,  it’s a false sense of connection and it’s something that we don’t address because we think that bullying is something that happens only with kids and adults can fend for themselves. Yeah.

Gissele: And what I’ve noticed when people had approached me with gossip, from other people in the people that did it on an ongoing basis was really that they weren’t sharing anything about themselves.

And I was interested in them. I was interested in getting to know them, but they were always talking about someone else. And so that, that’s what kind of figured it out in my head. It sort of kind of a light bulb went on and said, oh, this is how they’re getting connection with me without really ever really sharing about themselves and what’s happening.

So it’s, it was kind of a weird thing to reflect on. since we’re speaking about adults, I wanted to ask you, cause you, you mentioned in your definition about bullying that there’s a power differential can like adults be bullied by younger people like a teacher, could a teacher be bullied by students if there is that power differential.

Danielle: Yeah, absolutely. And this happens online and offline, because power doesn’t have to be about being bigger or necessarily, right. Or it doesn’t have to be about being younger or older necessarily. It’s about socially putting someone down. And so if you and I have seen this, even my own experience where students in the class would embarrass teacher.

And right. And so, I mean, the student is smaller, is younger. Their grades actually depend on the teacher, but they are somehow feeling a sense of social power because when they’re embarrassing, the teacher, they get laughs from the other students, they get, positive comments or whatever if they post certain things online about the teacher.

And so, yeah, that power differential is not about necessarily age anymore. about being physically larger. It’s about how do you almost socially dismantle someone. Right then socially, yeah, bring them down.

Gissele: Yeah. And it’s interesting that you mentioned that because even though teachers and professors have, I guess, systemic power, right down power to change your grade, they have a power to, I have seen students like make professors cry, want to quit.

Like it’s, it’s it’s cause it’s like you said, an ongoing, very social, very, very, visceral experience. And so, yeah, so I just, I was just curious about what the research had said about that. The other thing I wanted to ask was I know that the, one of the differences between, I mean, perhaps physical bullying and cyber bullying is that, the internet could be kind of the great equalizer, right?

So you had mentioned in your research that sometimes the lines get blurry between those people that are perceived to be the victims and the people that are considered to be the perpetrators. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Danielle: Right. So, yeah, the internet does kind of equalize things in the sense that you no longer have to be bigger and stronger to beat someone up, right?

So you can beat someone up online. Now, anyone can do that and you can do that at any time. And so that makes it a little bit more equal, but also, when it comes to offline, that’s harder to retaliate because if the person is so much bigger than you and is going to beat you up a smaller person, can’t really retaliate, right.

Or even, even if someone is louder than someone else, or more popular, it’s harder to retaliate. But I mean, online, it gives you an opportunity. So oftentimes even offline people want to retaliate, but don’t think they can. But now online, they can. And so now they can, they can post embarrassing things and mean things now to the person who hurt them.

And I mean, this is the, I guess, somewhat dangerous part is that because now both parties can harm online. It becomes a circular pattern where you harmed me. So now I’m going to retaliate; well, now I’m going to retaliate. And it becomes this pattern that continues to occur where you no longer know who started it and who the real bully is, if you want to label it that way.

and it, it gets pretty messy. And, but it absolutely does it equalizes the playing field because now both people can engage.

 the other thing I wanted to mention that I had observed from your research  Because that caused me to reflect in terms of the language that we use, right.

Gissele: We call people bullies or perpetrators and so on. And I think what I would like to see is really a shift in focusing on behavior, right? It’s not it’s bullying behavior, especially if you’re seeing what your research is showing, is that on the internet, it’s really hard to differentiate who, you know, what was really at the core of this kind of negative interaction and this disconnection.

and so I was wondering how important do you think is language, in, in terms of addressing bully behavior, especially online..

Danielle: Yeah, I think it’s a big thing. And there’s a big move now toward, changing the language and removing these labels because when we’re labeling someone, as either like you are a bully or you are a victim, it insinuates that this is who they are as a being

And that they can now identify with that label. Like I am a victim and that’s it. Right? I, as a human being am a victim, I, as a human being, am a bully. And when you identify yourself with a certain label, it takes away, your feeling that you can change. Right? And so. Well, we want to do is help people realize, as you mentioned, that it’s about the behavior and not your identity, you don’t need to identify with what is happening to you.

And when we have the label, we have a fixed mindset. So it’s like, well, if I am this, and this is my identity, and I’m just born like, or this has happened to me. So now I am a victim or I am a bully. We feel like we can’t fix it. We can’t change it. This is just how it is. But if we talk about behavior, we adopt a growth mindset.

So it’s like, well, no, I can look at this behavior. I don’t like what I’m doing, or I don’t like what’s going on, but I can change what’s going on and I can grow from this and I can take this experience and I can learn from it. So rather than embracing it as part of yourself, like, this is just how I am.

Okay. This happened to me, but now what can I do moving forward?

Gissele: Yeah. Beautiful. Yeah, because I mean the, the growth mindset implies, you have choice. And when you have that fixed mindset, it makes you think, oh, this is just who I am. So I’m just going to be that right. Yeah. And so, yeah, that was really well

Danielle: said, well, you almost, you give up, right.

You’ve lost hope. This is just how I am, but yeah, we don’t want that to happen.

Gissele: No, we can always change. We can always choose something different.

Danielle: You can, you have choice. Yeah.

Gissele: Yeah. I also love that in your research when you were, there were some case studies that were, that were presented, and I think there was a discussion about how some of the behavior that led to cyber bullying or what was considered cyber bullying.

Really hard to do with misunderstanding of miscommunications and you thought, oh my gosh, these people really had just take it out to talk about what caused the disconnection. Right? It might not have escalated. So from your perspective, how important do you think communication is and really helping deescalate that what may lead to online bullying?

Danielle: Right. Well, communication is, is, very important. Online and offline, I think we can sometimes be poor communicators in both contexts, and a lot more has to be done in this, in this area. But I think oftentimes just speaking about communication in general is that we often want to throw a bunch of facts at people, right?

And so we might need, we might say, you know what, these, this is all the evidence about X, Y, and Z. And so this, this is why you need to kind of change your mind or do something different. Like, what are you thinking? Right? And so we try to, lecture people into conforming into whatever way we want them to.

But ultimately, what more research is showing is that we should be trying to connect with people with a sense of curiosity and understanding. So while, while we might have an instinct to say, this is why I’m right for all these different reasons, you should listen to me, it should be approaching. With, without an agenda without having jumped to conclusion and say, okay, let me just try and understand where you’re coming from and understand, why you think the way you think, where did this perspective come from?

Cause what we’re trying to establish is connection because before you can have a deep conversation with someone about something, we need to establish a sense of trust and trust builds connection. And, it’s only when we try and do it this way that, well, I shouldn’t say only, but an effective way is, is to when we build that connection is that people will then listen to us because if we go in saying you should blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

People immediately feel defensive. And that you’re trying to manipulate them or something. And so we want to build that, that connection through approaching things with curiosity, this is of course easier said than done because our instinct is, these are the reasons why you’re wrong and I’m right. And it’s still, this is why you should change.

and also, when it comes to bullying is the sense of misunderstanding and misunderstanding occurs when we don’t listen. And we just jump in with our own story that we’ve concocted based on our own biases, based on our own insecurities. And so again, when we feel that when we feel insecure, when we have these different stories that we’ve created in our mind about why someone might harm us, there’s a disconnect.

Danielle: And then we lash out and, get mad at people online. And that’s sort of what happened in, in one of my studies where, where two young girls, they were chatting online. And, and then all of a sudden, one of the girls just disconnected and logged off. And the person who was remaining got really upset and thought, what happened?

Why did this person just like log off? like what did, how disrespectful, like, I can’t believe they disrespected me in that way to just like, shut off their computer without saying bye. And so that person then started spreading rumors about this friend, but really what happened was the person who logged off their parents came in the room and she wasn’t supposed to be online.

And so she had to quickly shut down and it had nothing to do with. Her friend, but because they didn’t come and talk about it, there were just assumptions being made insecurities about the friendship, existed. And so that’s when the rumors spreading and the aggression started when really, if we approach with curiosity approach without our agenda or our own story that we’ve made up, we can build that connection and try to get to the bottom of it.

Gissele: Right? And what you’re talking about is, is compassion right? Coming at it from curiosity, in giving people the benefit of the doubt, assume that, that it wasn’t intentional, that they are good people, that their intentions are good until proven otherwise. Right? And so. But that leads me to my next question, which is maybe a bit of a challenging one.

It relates to the cancel culture. And I wanted to ask if your, from your perspective, do you feel that the current cancel culture is a form of bullying?

I don’t think it’s a form of bullying mostly because I don’t think there is malicious intent. I think when people feel a need to cancel someone it’s coming from a place of fear, right.

Danielle: It’s fear of losing voice and. There’s a fear that if they allow the opposing viewpoint to be vocalized, then their viewpoint will be silenced. Right. And so there’s this idea that, well, I better cancel your voice before you cancel mine even further. And this again, it’s about disconnection. It’s I don’t feel connected to you.

I, I feel like I don’t have a platform to say what I want to say, and I don’t want you to what minimal or what little platform I do have. I don’t want you to now take it away or, or cancel it. And so, because of this fear, the, there’s this desire to just like stop it just to stop and make the fear go away.

Yeah, yeah,

Gissele: yeah. That was well said. ‘cause I think, you know, where I struggle is that then it gets us further and further divided from one another. And we are not going to be able to get curious. And like you said, we’re not going to be able to share each other’s stories if we’re not connected. Right. And we’re not able to trust each other.

And so I see this great division in the world where we’re not really sharing. I mean, I had a post it, written a post about this. Like we used to cancel the victims and now we’re canceling the perpetrators, but really just still canceling. Right. And so how is it that we’re going to come together? but I hadn’t thought about the piece about them, the fears that they’re losing their.

Opportunity to have a voice on

Danielle: and both sides feel like they’re losing their opportunity. Right. And so then they, they’re more forceful about it. Right. And I, and there’s this degree of, well, I need to have show power over you and the way I can show power over you is by canceling you. And I mean, and that power part is a little bit like bullying, but the intention I think is, is still I’m scared.

Right. And that’s where compassion comes in as like, okay, well now how do I work with that fear, your fear and my fear. How can I have compassion for both of our fears and how can we reach some kind of a common coming ground, because like you said, like cancel culture, doesn’t allow us to have an open dialogue and examine the issues on a deeper, more nuanced level.

It’s still very black and white. I’m right. You’re wrong. Everything you do is wrong. Kind of idea. But we’re really at the end of the day, striving for the same things. We’re striving for acceptance. We’re striving for love. We’re striving for belonging. We’re striving for truth. We, we want all of those things.

Those are common goals, but somehow we’re not listening to either sides, struggle with these things. And then, yeah, the fear takes over and then the aggression takes over. Yeah.

Gissele: Yeah. This is where we see compassion being key because especially self-compassion because self-compassionate allows us to sit with our discomfort in our shame and still leaning in.

And still have a conversation and still hold space for ourselves in order to engage in the dialogue where we might have wrong someone. If, if you are the person who is behaving in a way that can be perceived as bullying or perpetrating. Right.

can we talk a little bit about your research on mental health of young people who are using social media and online? Cause I find it really fascinating. I loved your insight in that you said it wasn’t necessarily the amount of time that children spent online as much as what they were doing and their mental state, which I thought

Danielle: wow.

Gissele: A little bit about what you meant by these findings.

yes. So we often think that it’s about time spent and a lot of the media likes to say, well, how much time are kids spending online, but really what the research is showing is that it’s not so much. About time spent that we should be focusing on, but what are people doing online and why are they going online?

Danielle: And so if we want to talk about, the mental health part of it, research is showing that if people in general, go online because they find that when they go online, they’re getting rewarded for it. So they they’re getting, they’re posting pictures of themselves online, or they’re posting all sorts of things online and they get this positive reinforcement, they get likes, they get comments and people love them.

And that’s how they’re garnering their, their sense of worthiness, their sense, their self-esteem that’s how they’re boosting their self-esteem. If people who are relying on these external sources for feeling good about themselves are more likely to. Also, struggle with mental health issues because what happens if they don’t get those likes?

Right. And what happens if they’re relying on these external sources for their sense of worth, when they don’t get it, they feel very down and they can get us there’s increased sense of anxiety, right? Because of that and stress, which can spiral into all sorts of other things. and so it’s thinking more about, well, why are you doing these things also?

it’s about, what we’re doing online, not so much that we’re online. So if we’re going on and we’re mindlessly scrolling or mine or posting things to get affirmation and just like liking things that might not be the best use of our time. Right. And so, and I mean, lots of people do this, adults do this, teenagers do this.

Danielle: And so, so that might not be the best way we want to be spending our time online. But if we’re spending the same amount of time online, but we’re reading, we’re writing, we’re coding or learning or we’re exercising some kind of creativity. That’s maybe time well spent. So same amount of time online, but doing what is productive and one is not productive and could potentially be harmful.

Right. So I think the thing, the question we need to ask is less about how much time we’re spending, but how are we spending our time? So not that we’re spending time, but how are we spending time? And, yeah, the more we spend time. Getting after trying to get affirmation from other people and like mindlessly scrolling and liking, these things can have more of an impact on, on mental health than, than if we’re doing other things.


I find that, you know, like with my kids in the, with some of the kids that I know from our friends and so on is that they’re spending it socializing online. Like they play games together and some of those games are like fortnite , I was talking to my kids about wouldn’t it be nice if there was a loving compassion game where people like, you know, they got extra points for being in there, like that’s so boring mom.

Gissele: And I was like, but it’d be nice if we kind of, you know, fed what we want to experience anyways. You know what I don’t understand though. There’s lots of kids who watch videos. About other kids playing games. So we’ll watch it, but in a way that’s learning,

Danielle: right. That’s them learning and they’re learning different tactics and strategies and ways of doing things.

Yeah. A lot of kids are doing that now and yeah. They’re learning about different strategies, I guess. Yeah. Yeah.

Gissele: Um, so I have a question about balance. So one of the things we talked to our kids about is more, you know, they have specific screen time, right? And I love what you said about it. It is about kind of what they’re doing online and how they’re spending that time.

But we also said that their life has to be balanced with exercise in going outside. And so that we can so that they can learn how to balance for themselves. Because I think, you know, and especially with this generation, with them being, doing online, learning as well, it makes it really challenging. how can.

What can parents do to kind of worry a little bit less about the time that kids spend online, but also kind of maybe kind of, you know, help the kids with that balance?

Danielle: Well, I think, one way is to model it, right? I think it’s, we want to set these boundaries for our kids, but then we don’t practice setting boundaries and I think, setting, setting boundaries ourselves we’ll we’ll model healthy behavior for them.

And. You’re talking to them about, especially as a, you know, 10 years old and older around, they can help make decisions around boundaries and have a conversation around. Well, what do you think is a healthier thing to do? And we know that exercise is important. When are we schedule exercise and maybe as a family, or maybe as you know, with your siblings, we’ll schedule some times to do that.

When are times when we shouldn’t be maybe on a device? So, I mean, not having phones at the table is a common one, but maybe when we go for a walk together as a family, maybe don’t bring your phone. Right? So setting boundaries around those things and adults have to comply to like, they have to follow these rules too.

And, and yeah, creating these rules together will help, teens have a sense of agency around it. Like they’re not being told what to do is we came up with this together. I am also trying to be healthy as in like, I helped make these rules and we had a discussion around it. And then I verbally acknowledged that exercise is important.

So if I acknowledged it, I should, you know, follow my own, advice. So, helping, helping young people to, to make the decisions, but making it together yeah. Is useful. And that also creates a sense of trust. And if, if we talk about it naturally in this way, it, young people are more likely to come to us too.

And we’re having trouble where, or when they’re having trouble and they’re struggling with something.

Gissele: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, one of the things that. I talked to my kids about, is really around, how to get that to be inspired and motivated to do these things like you want to live kind of a healthy lifestyle, but it shouldn’t feel like a chore.

Cause it, cause it, you know, like when I forced myself to exercise and it feels like a chore, but if I’m doing it because I’m excited too, it feels great after exercise and right. So you want to inspire them to get good habits rather than to force them to do these things. but it’s been a learning for myself and my husband as well.

Right? Like, I mean, I am terrible for being on my phone. So it’s about being aware that my behavior is being modeled is being aware of. And especially, you know, At times at one time I had two phones. It’s like, oh my God. But yeah, having that awareness. and, and so I loved what you said because it is about modeling and showing in, in little eyes are always watching right.

And saying it, and they’ll call you on it too. They’re like, well, on your phone and I, can you go to the point of like, well, the quality of the stuff I’m

can you share with the audience, what you’re working on, what, you know, what your research projects, is there anything you want to promote?

well, right now I am, I I’m doing some work with, the kindness project. So this is the project that I’m working on with my friend, Nikki Straza, she’s leading the kindness project, which is a social, emotional learning program.

Danielle: And it has gained a lot of popularity in an effort in helping to create caring communities in schools. And it’s an eight week program and it helps children with various social, emotional learning skills. And right now we’re in the process of evaluating, or we will be in the process. COVID has kind of slowed things down, but, Yeah, we’re in, we’re working on evaluating this program and seeing, exactly how beneficial it is to the kids.

And then hopefully we’ll be able to expand it because we’ve had a lot of good feedback and a lot of anecdotal evidence from both, the school administrators and teachers, and also the students. And so now we really want to see how far we can reach and what kind of data we can garner on. Exactly how awesome this project is.

Gissele: Oh, that’s, that’s so amazing. I would love for you and Nikki to come back and talk about the kindness project when it’s on the way. I think it would be something that would be very beneficial for our audience much.

Danielle: Absolutely.

Gissele: Thank you so much for being on the show today was not a great chat.

We learned so much. We really, really appreciated, you know, you, you teach at Laurier so people can check out your profile at Laurier. Thank you everyone for tuning in to another episode of the love and compassion podcast. We’ll see you soon. Have a great day.

Danielle: Thank you.

(c) Music: Mission Ready by Ketsa, 2019. No changes made. https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Ketsa/Raising_Frequecy/Mission_Ready

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