Cyberbullying, public shaming, commenting, tweeting, liking, and sharing.. a never ending cyber world of hateful bullying – a world that victim’s can never escape. A world where the bullies do not always face the consequences, much like in Amanda Todd’s story (link) and the words of Monica Lewinsky (Ted Link) this new age of bullying comes from hiding behind a computer screen, a time where parents, teachers, and other adult’s are not always aware of what youth are going through until it is too late.
I remember growing up and learning constantly about bullying face-to-face, how to deal with the situation, and how to go from being a bystander to an ally and action seeker. But never once did I learn about how to react, interfere, or help in a cyberbullying situation. I can count on one hand the times I have experienced bullying in a face-to-face interaction, but I do not have enough limbs to count the cyberbullying attacks that have flooded my newsfeed, twitter, and other forms of social media. Like many others, I have been victim of cyberbullying and a bystander who doesn’t know what to do or where to turn. A constant question was always “How can we prove that it was this person behind the screen? Will they be held accountable?” in every situation except for one that I was involved with, the bully got away without a single repricution.
Why is that?
Students, teachers, and even parents do not know how to properly handle the situation. Social media exploded and has become the way of communicating for majority of the population, how does one truly know how to deal with a situation when they have not yet fully understood the technology being used to do it? People of all ages find protection behind a screen, protection to do and say whatever they please without the human emotion, reaction, and consequences of saying or doing what they put online to their targets face. The bully becomes numb to any emotion or connection, where the victim feels that their entire world is shutting down. People are so easily dragged into the shaming trend of social media, not realizing that the person they are harrassing, bullying, or blackmailing, are just that, a real life person.
What I think we should do as Educator’s:
Step 1: educate ourselves on how and why youth are bullying eachother online – what social outlets are they using? How are they bullying each other? Is a like or retweet on a post a bystander? How does our language of face-to-face bullying transfer into the world of cyber bullying?
Step 2: Work together to create action plans to hold people accountable for what they are putting online – bullying and harrassmant can have legal actions – students need to be aware that their actions are not ammune because they are behind a screen. Michelle Carter’s conviction is a perfect example to show students – Rachael Herrscher (link) wrote an article I highly reccomend you read, titled “What The Michelle Carter Conviction Means for Your Kids” though it is targeted at parents, we as teacher’s can benefit gratefully from it too.
“Words are powerful. And scary. We can use words to build people or break them. Our kids need to understand what that means. ” – Herrscher
Step 3: Teach our students. Teach our students the importance of empathy, sympathy, and compassion – as Monica and Rachael have shared. We must teach our students to be kind, to understand that their words matter, and that the world is already difficult enough without putting eachother down. We must teach our students, as Trisha Prabhu a 14 year old girl, states in the Ted Talk below, to stop and think before they type. Just as we teach them to stop and think before they speak.
Step 4: Digital citizenship. This teaching that we need to do, all comes down to teaching proper, positive, respectful, and appropriate digital citizenship. How to interact with people, how to get out of a situation that is negative or could become negative, how to comment in a non-threatening or negative way. How to take their positive identity in real life and transfer it onto their screen. We must teach our students the ettiquite of using the web, the law, the health & safety of dealing with comments on social media, and remind them that bullying is bullying – it does not matter where it occurs.
Step 5: Be good rolemodels and a safe place for students to turn to. Remind students that it is important to tell someone. Remember to never diminish an act of bullying, it takes a brave soul to step forward about a peer.