The show What Would You Do? tries to find how average people will react in certain situations. This clip from the show relates to the issue of cyber-bullying. The reactions surprised me.
My current work in progress features three characters who are affected by an online bullies. Social media has changed the face of bullying, and this clip made me wonder what can we do in the face of such a widespread problem.
AS A COMMUNITY:
-Take it seriously
Many adults still consider bullying a normal part of teen life. Emotional abuse and harassment should never be normalized. Bullying escalates if left unchecked and can lead to depression and even suicide.
Messages posted online are there for all their peers to see and for them to read over and over.
In some states and cities it is even a legal issue. Teens need to be informed of the legal implications. The link below shows one of the many cases where arrests have been made.
-Set a good example
Cyber-bullying and harassment is not limited to children and teenagers. A trip to the comments section of a news article often reveals derogatory language and personal attacks. Adults also like to hide behind the anonymity provided by the internet and write things that they would never have the guts to say to someone’s face. In the most extreme examples adults have threatened to kill or rape those with which they disagree.
As individuals we can strive to show online citizenship and avoid getting into flame wars with strangers.
AS A PARENT:
-Be straight with your kids
When I was in sixth grade, a group of mean girls came up with an idea to prank this boy in our class. He was different and stood out. I thought it was a funny idea and told my mom about it. She straight out told me I was being a “B”. By the end of the night, I was crying and felt like crap. I love her for that. The prank didn’t happen, and he and I even became friends later.
Don’t be afraid to tell your kids when they are in the wrong. If you hear them laughing with their friends at the expense of another kid or see something cruel posted on their Facebook wall, call them out. They might be upset now, but they will appreciate it later.
-Don’t join the games
I will never forget the story of the parent who impersonated a minor and then bullied a teen girl, ending in tragedy.
Getting involved in the bullying is immature at best and child abuse at worst. If your child is having a problem with another kid, support him or her through it, but don’t bully or encourage your kid to bully. Remember you only know one side of the story. Sometimes the bullying goes two ways.
If your child is being bullied, it may be appropriate to alert the school or the authorities.
AS A TEENAGER:
-Have empathy for others
The idea that someone could commit suicide over being bullied might not sound logical, but it’s hard to know where that person is coming from. Some teens go home to a supportive home where they can laugh off the bullying with their loving parents and/or siblings. Some teens go home to an empty house, or verbal, physical, or sexual abuse. The bullying just echoes what they already experience from those supposed to care for them. Even if they seem to have it all together. Even if they bully others themselves.
Try to put yourself in their place and allow empathy to guide your online interactions and texts. Anything bad you type about a person could easily make its way back through sharing or screenshots.
Simple acts of kindness can go a long way. I’ve witnessed so much kindness from teenagers: moving to sit with someone who is all alone, standing up for students with special needs, and supporting each other through difficulties. It’s hard to go outside your comfort zone, but it can mean so much, especially to those being bullied.
If someone is being severely bullied, or you fear he or she may commit suicide, it is important to talk to a trusted adult. You don’t have to keep it all on your shoulders.
Bullying is not something that will go away, but we can all be part of the solution rather than the problem.
Feel free to share any thoughts or comments below.