Friday, October 12, 2012

How Social Media increases bullying

In this New York Times article, Emily Layden tells a story about her sixth grade brother’s friend posting a status on Facebook asking them to “LIKE if you hate” Emily’s brother. Shockingly, 57 people liked the status, confirming their “hatred” for Emily’s brother. Without a doubt, it would be incredibly damaging to a child’s self-esteem and self-worth to learn that 57 kids “hate” him or her.  As an adult, I couldn't imagine how this would affect me today.  Sometimes, it seems like it truly is “social warfare” out there for today’s youth, where social media is one of the strongest weapons in any potential enemy’s arsenal.
Does the boy who started this chain of “hate” for Emily’s brother grasp the extent of the harm he has caused? Do his 57 peers understand what that simple click of the mouse truly means? Could you imagine 57 children lining up at the cafeteria to tell one child they “hate” them? This would never happen, right?  Herein lies the power of social media messages, both positive and negative.  Simply put, it is so easy to spread the word, and as a result, bullying messages are spread at lightning speed.  In the cafeteria or classroom, a responsible adult usually takes notice and steps in. Alas, in the world of social media, it is quite difficult to take notice and step in before the damage is done.
So why are children so readily spreading these hate messages through social media?  Perhaps it’s the anonymity, perhaps it seems less harmful you can’t see the victim’s reaction or maybe it’s the freedom from adult supervision in the cyber world.
The question that has been asked over and over again by parents and educators is what do we do about this?  Should we simply ban the use of social media for our children?  Unfortunately, this is nothing more than a band-aid solution.  When addressing difficult situations like this we need to ask ourselves if  our “solution”  is really designed to teach our children, or does it just  make our  lives easier by making the problem go away. We need to seize every teachable moment we can, and cyberbullying is packed with teachable moments.  Below is a list of some things you can try to both prevent cyberbullying and address if it does occur:
Parents & Educators UNITE!
Note to parents: Cyberbullying is not only the teacher’s problem to deal with
Note to educators: Cyberbullying is not only the parent’s problem to deal with
Students UNITE!
Create connected school communities offline by helping your students get to know each other, unite as a team and foster positive relationships.  Students are less likely to act like a bully when they see each other as friends.  Even more powerful is the fact that other students are less likely to laugh with the bully, participate in the bullying, or stand idly by when they see the ‘victim’ as a friend.
Hold your children accountable for their decisions:
Whether online or offline, choices must be addressed and accompanied by consequences.  Notice here that we say “choices” not necessarily “bad choices”.  A good choice, like treating each other with respect should be accompanied by a good consequence.  Similarly, bad choices, like posting a negative online status a peer, should bring a negative consequence that creates an opportunity for learning.

1 comment:

  1. This was very well-written. You proved your point well.


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