Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cyberbullying - Improvements or More Problems?

   In addition to Cyber Security Awareness Month, October was also Cyberbullying Awareness Month.  There were a number of online campaigns to raise awareness on the topic including some high-profile pages on Facebook and Cartoon Network.

   This is an important topic and needs our attention.  I have given many presentations over the years on Internet Safety topics.  This past weekend my wife, a clinical psychologist, and I partnered on a presentation on Bullying and Cyberbullying at our local school district parent fair.  Here are the slides.

   Unfortunately, bullying has been around as long as there have been people.  The internet, social networks and mobile devices supplement have turned "old school" bullying into a 24x7 assault.

   While this topic has gotten plenty of attention over the years, in the past year there have a number of highly publicized teen suicides connected with the website Ask.fm.   Ask.fm is a website on which people can ask questions and, presumably, get answers.  The site is setup to allow users to anonymously answer questions.  And the site seems to attract people who like to be mean.
   Like with almost all forms of cyberbullying, the bully doesn't have to directly confront their victim.  The bully doesn't have to look their victim in the eyes.  People will say things in an electronic medium that they might never say face to face.

   There has been plenty of research and programs to try to counteract bullying.  But some of the newer campaigns are focusing on bystanders not standing by.  Someone at our talk was a teacher whose school had a campaign with a slogan: don't be a bystander, be an UPstander.  I really like this.  It's a call to action.

   The site dosomething.org also had a great campaign called the Bully Text Project.  On their main page they show a telling stat, that 73% of teens surveyed say that stepping in is the best way to stop bullying.  I think this is exactly the right message.  I have written about the Hero Construction Company in the past.  They advocate teaching our kids to be heroes, to support their peers, to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.  This is a great message!

   Please check out the talk slides for some great info and ideas to help both those who are bullied as well as those who bully.

   And here are some other good resources:

   Finally, here are two short videos.  This one is was created by students.  This one is a feel-good news story about some student heroes who really made a difference in another student's life.

   Do you have any resources to add to my list?

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