In Bullying Experts, Expert Interviews

Marcus Berley on How to Report Cyber Bullying

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Marcus Berley has a B.A. in Philosophy from Cornell University. His M.A. is in Psychology: Systems Counseling, from LIOS Graduate College of Saybrook University. He Talks to NoBullying.com about How to Report Cyber Bullying.

The interview on How to Report Cyber Bullying can also be found here and here.

Below is a transcript of the interview on How to Report Cyber Bullying:

Marcus Berley: My name is Marcus Berley and I’m a mental health counselor specializing in work with adolescents and families. I have a private practice and I also work for an agency called The Institute for Family Development http://www.institutefamily.org/ where the exclusively family counselling work. Previous to that, I spent about 4 years working in an emotional behavioral program at a high school with ages from 14 to 18, working with kids who in a need of extra support around their emotions and behaviors and academic success in school.

Ciaran Connolly: Very good so you are great candidate for us today to talk about bullying and young people. So, thank you very much again for taking time out to talk to us. It’s very much appreciated. Do you think that bullying is as big an issue today as it was maybe 10 or 20 years ago?

MB: It is certainly a much more public issue today. So, it’s really hard to say if it was happening less often than previously or if we just exclusively have more attention on it but it’s certainly on the spotlight.

CC: Sure and do you see a difference today on how bullying happens? I guess we got social media and mobile phones with text messages.

MB: Yes. So, there is really to me…I really like kind of split bullying in two ways and:

  1. It’s physical bullying and that’s you know kids are getting hurt at school or in the playground or just on a street walking home; someone physically attacking another person. So, that’s one element of bullying.
  2. And then we have got all the cyber bullying and really it’s so new and it’s so complicated and so prevalent because pretty much all of our teenagers are on social media especially on Facebook and one fascinating part of all this is all of the bullying is recorded. These kids do not cover their tracks in anyway, they are either not aware of that element of it or…it doesn’t mean the same thing as it would to a different generation.

CC: Wow and maybe in physical bullying, you can see the person’s reaction but online it’s very very hard to see a person’s reaction. So, maybe the consequences aren’t as real using social media as well?

MB: Yes and you know there is also…I think that’s completely true. It’s really easy to say cruel things and then later the question of how much that was meant or not or how it got out of hand is really a confusing issue. It’s hard to tell what these kids mean when they say these really mean things online. It doesn’t excuse it but I’m never quite sure like if they are literally really backing the words they are saying online or that form kind of encourages that type of language.

CC: Of course, with a lot of media coverage at the moment on bullying, and especially cyber bullying, do you think that this is actually helping raise awareness or is it causing problems as well?

MB: You know it’s always going to go both ways. It has definitely raised the awareness internationally. I mean here we are internationally having a conversation about it. It’s happening where you are, it’s happening where I am. I think it feels like it’s the first phase of trying to figure out what to do about cyber bullying. Again, it’s new, school districts are coming up with policies but it’s kind of the first round of that, parents don’t know what to do. They don’t know if they take their kid off Facebook or monitor them or they should respond you know digitally or go to other parent’s house if that’s even an option anymore. So, it really feels like the first wave.

CC: Of course and a lot of confusion for everyone and it could take years to get through the multiple waves to find out how to actually come up with a solution towards this. So, it’s a challenging time for everyone that’s for sure.

MB: The benefit of that is that it’s a long term process. You know, this technology is not going away so I have a lot of hope that we will figure out as the adults in the society how we want to structure and manage this type of activity on this technology that we are not just going to stop trying to sort that out and really use it as a teaching tool.

CC: Very good, very good and have you any knowledge of severe cases of bullying? Or have you seen any consequences of bullying in your practice or I guess in your local area?

MB: Yes, certainly. I don’t want to speak real specifically but there [is] certainly what I have seen as kind of a trend. There is kind of a model that comes out of depth psychology called The Drama Triangle and it basically you have a victim, you have a perpetrator, and you have someone who’s going to come in to save the day; a rescuer. So, really what I see a lot is we get two kids; one is the victim, one is the persecutor, and then the school district or the parent will try to come in and save the day but since no one really knows how they want to handle it, that just usually winds up looking at a suspension or the kid. You know, the victim is going to feel bad regardless. Usually, almost exclusively, that the persecutor is also a victim of abuse in some way or other. So, again it goes from really clear like having a good guy and a bad guy and like “Oh! This kid said terrible things” and once you open it up, it gets really complicated and it’s worth spending the time to do that rather than to just try to blame some kids that are doing things that they, I’m not again not forgiving what actions they are taking, but blaming some kids and just trying to protect others from the outside really it looks like an opportunity to start building this [with] the community getting into a conversation and ongoing conversation about how do you want to handle this because it’s going to happen again just to a different person.

CC: Of course and the first reaction of a parent or possibly a teacher is to look at the good and the bad and take action and maybe it is to suspend or to discipline the bully and the victim maybe doesn’t get any treatment or help and maybe it doesn’t solve the problem as you said. It fixes it today but actually it is not solving the problem for tomorrow or the day after because obviously the bully still has a problem which I understand and the victim still the victim and maybe will be a victim for someone else tomorrow. So, very interesting and I have never heard of The Drama Triangle before so it was excellent to have that explained to me.

MB: One more thing on that note. You know we want, as again as adults, we want to jump in and do something. It just feels so important to try that drive to protect our children and to do something. How could you not do something? So, really a lot of what I’m hopeful that will happen as we continue to work with this issue is to be able to slow down and assess a little bit and get into a conversation a little bit before we take whatever action is next. So, rather than “Yes that punishment for the bully” and for the victim maybe just saying like “Try to avoid that person” but how do we look at it as a long-term issue.

CC: Very good and if there is a victim of bullying actually watching this video now and listening to our conversation, what advice would you give them?

MB: I think the most important first step is to not keep this to yourself. You haven’t done anything wrong and no one deserves to be hurt either physically or the way that is going on the internet. So, even if you an adult that you trust, please tell them. If you have friends that you trust, talk to them about it. I mean, part of being a victim it can be so shaming and so isolating that reach out for help from whoever the people are that you do trust and that you do feel comfortable with and start putting it out there so you don’t have to deal with it on your own.

CC: Excellent and is there likely to be a long-term effect on people who are bullied?

MB: You know, it really depends on a case to case basis. People who allow themselves to fall into a victim role can see that repeat. So, there is education that could be valuable for them. You know, I teach a lot of kids and parents about The Drama Triangle and say “How do you get off that triangle?” like “Wherever you are falling on that triangle, how do you take a 100% responsibility for what your actions are and for what your experience is of life and that does not mean it’s your fault that you are getting punched but when you get punched, now what you going to do? Are you going to keep it to yourself and allow it to continue to hurt you and for you to continue to be dragged down by it? Or you going to reach out and learn something more, tell those people who can support you and find a way to transform through it?” and those are difficult things for a teenager, really for anyone, to learn but there are also things that anyone can learn.

CC: Wow. Very good and you deal with families in your practice. Do you think that bullying can impact family life as well?

MB: Certainly. You know, a big thing is like how would mum and dad or just mum or just dad or whoever is taking care of the youth, how are they going to respond? Are they going to say “Toughen up” or they going to say “Avoid that person” or “Just tell the teacher” or they’re going to get all angry themselves and go try to make it right? You know the youth! Yes, has the parent been bullied in their life or were they a bully? You know, it really makes for an important conversation but also the kid is going to see how their parent responds to that. That’s going to mean a big thing if they are able to say “Hey. Wow! That is not ok that you got hurt like that and we are going to figure out what to do and…we are going to keep talking about this because this is your life. What you want to do with your life and I’m going to support you and living the life that you really love and enjoy”. Yes.

CC:  Very good and you mentioned earlier even that the parent might be bullied. Do you think that it could be a cycle that a child could be bullied and of course they grow into an adult and maybe their children could be bullied or they can be bullies, it could be a cycle them that we have to break?

MB:Yes, it’s definitely a cycle and it’s what I would call a Family Legacy. You know, we have this long ongoing patterns throughout our families and there is really no accident about it and when the kid is bullied, that’s when you have the opportunity to break that cycle.

CC: Very good and you mentioned earlier that in your past you have worked with 14 to 18 year old high school kids…and you were helping them with their emotions and general communication I guess and confidence and all these good things. Did they suffer bullying as well? I’m just wondering do young people suffer, younger ages suffer, more?  Or is high school a place where bullying is most prevalent? Or is it even in later life in college where bullying is…comes out on its own? Is there a different level of bullying at each age group?

MB: Yes, I think so. Up through the workplace and beyond. I mean it’s certainly something that we are most aware of right now with all the social media because it is easy to see and because our kids are so affected by it but yes. It happens you know whether it’s grade school, some kids getting teased or pushed down or if it’s up the high school kids getting threats made to them or you know getting in a fight or getting beat up.

CC: And you mentioned workplace bullying. Is that something that people are suffering from a lot now with the economy? Or is it something that has I guess always been there?

MB:You know…my opinion is that it has always been there but anytime that times get tough, people who feel like they are falling into that victim role at the workplace you know they going to think “I’d better work twice as hard for even less pay otherwise I’m about to lose my job” and whether that is true or not or whether they can find a persecutor to play the other end of that with them, I think that these are elements that go on in people of all ages.

CC: Excellent and how important is it if someone is facing a conflict like that they actually try and seek help or talk to someone?

MB: I think it’s extremely important. You know it’s great to talk with the counselor, it’s great to talk with someone at your school or at your workplace. To me, the key is finding someone that you trust to speak with because not every adult is equal. You have a specific relationship with each person. Some people you are just not going to be comfortable telling them about that and that’s OK but find someone that you can tell because I believe in the cases where some of these kids have committed suicide or have really struggled with it, I think it just gets them from inside out. They are not able to find other people to support them, to hold them up in their times when they are struggling most.

CC: And if anyone wanted to find out more about yourself or talk to you about getting some support, is there an easy way they can find you or reach you?

MB:Yes. They go to my website which is www.marcusberley.com and my phone number is

206-405-0978. My private practice is in Seattle, Washington and yes. You can just either send me an email or go to the website or give me a call to schedule something.

CC: Brilliant. Excellent. Thank you very much for your time today Marcus, very much appreciated.

MB:Yes, pleasure

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