3.6 Case studies

Educators, youth workers, parents and other adults working with children and young people are likely to come across cyberbullying incidents. To successfully deal with cyberbullying we must first learn to recognize it, analyse it and understand what exactly is going on. Secondly, we need to be aware of effective strategies to support the victim and challenge the bullying behaviour.

Our reactions will often determine the outcomes of cyberbullying incidents: what will be the consequences for the victim, the bully, and the onlookers; how will the community and relationships be shaped by this experience; will children and young people learn from it or be harmed by it? Furthermore, when faced with cyberbullying cases we might want to think about how to prevent similar events in the future and how to help children and young people develop skills for healthy, positive use of online media and communication technology.

In the following section, we have compiled short descriptions of six real-life cyberbullying cases that are also available on the internet in even more detail. We would suggest you take the time to read through them, think about them and try to propose solutions or guidelines for intervention. For the first three cases, we have already outlined some bullet points to help you think through them. However, these are suggestions rather than definite solutions. You might find solutions that are even more appropriate for your school, your community, your group of children or young people.

3.6.1 How to use case studies

Case studies are a helpful tool to practice and apply concepts and skills that we have learned in Chapter 3 of this manual. What is a case study? It is a form of problem-based learning. A case study describes a situation that needs a solution, an idea, an intervention, a strategy. You may want to do this by yourself or with the discussion in small groups. Case studies are a wonderful tool to help you understand key concepts in much more depth. This is more important than finding perfect solutions. They are also great team-building opportunities. To solve a case, team members will have to work through different opinions, ideas, perspectives, and ways of working. This is why we recommend you use the following case studies in your training sessions for school staff, parents and youth workers.
To facilitate a training session using case studies, you might follow these steps:

  1. Greet the group and introduce yourself.
  2. Briefly, present the topic of a session (e.g. types of cyberbullying and effective strategies for each type).
  3. Present the case study:

    • Introduce the situation in a sentence or two.
    • Give a print of the case (and perhaps some thought-provoking discussion questions) to each participant.
    • Have participants quietly read through the text.
    • Have the group summarize the key points; make sure everyone understands the basics of the case.
    • Divide participants in pairs or small groups. Have them talk about the case and the discussion questions. Have them brainstorm and discuss possible solutions and strategies.
    • Ask each pair or small group to contribute one or two important ideas.

  4. Address open questions and dilemmas. But remember: you are not expected to have all the answers. Your job is to help participants think deeply about this important topic, not to give answers and recipes.
  5. Review key concepts of the training session together with participants.

Case studies are also a very helpful tool to work with children and young people. Real cases and specific situations are something they can understand and relate to. Experience helps them learn. You can use case studies during cyberbullying awareness workshops, mediation club meetings and in conflict-resolution training sessions. You might want to have the students read and discuss the cases or even use role-play to act them out.
However, a word of caution: students might perceive these cases very differently than adults. Make sure the case descriptions are age-appropriate, understandable, short and concise. A very important point is also NOT to overburden students emotionally: for example, it might be very difficult for them to process stories about cyberbullying resulting in suicides of young people. We also strongly encourage you to use case studies with happy or open endings when working with students.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you have enough time and skills to process any emotional and cognitive processes that selected activities might evoke in students.