Let's Build Each Other Up
By Stephanie Campbell
Mom to a feisty, smart young lady destined to change the
world, and Editor of Watershed Magazine
We’ve all been there – a desire to be included, to be liked, to
be the best. And with the persuasive power of social media,
we can be all those things and more. But at what cost?
Is it that desire to be liked – and looked up to – that pushes
us to degrade others online, anonymously? Is it the ease and
speed in which our emotions play a role to post a comment,
a critique or a thumbs down? Whatever the motives, we need
to change this narrative now.
What is Cyberbullying?
Bullying in any form happens when there is an imbalance of
power, when one person continuously says or does hurtful
things to someone else. Cyberbullying involves the specific
use of comm. tech: for example, sending threatening texts or instant messages, or posting embarrassing photos or
videos of someone online.
Posting unkind words online is unfortunately nothing new. But when you look at all the progressive work that has been done over the years to address bullying and rejection, why is cyberbullying so persistent and increasingly, more hurtful? Is it because the dirty looks in school hallways, taunting notes and social exclusion have gained new momentum in cyberspace? Yes, most definitely.
"Friendship, social status, and fitting in at school can all be a real challenge...."
Is it a Gender Thing?
While cyberbullying isn't gender specific, it's often thought that there’s more social pressure on girls to be the prettiest, the coolest, the most desired. And possibly that pressure leads to a mean post just for that temporary euphoria of … ‘yes, I really am the best!’ But recent research shows that boys are at least as likely as girls to cyberbully. For example, the British think tank Demos, which set out to map the online behaviours and decision-making behaviours of 16- to 18-year-olds, discovered that the majority of teens online bullying were actually male.
Whatever the gender of the bully, friendship, social status and fitting in at school can all be a real challenge. The need to be liked by others certainly isn't new, but a generation of young people is growing up in an age when the "like" button shows the world just how well-liked you really are.
There is hope, though. We need to start a conversation, a real conversation, about what we post online, how it affects others and the power of positivity. We need to keep this conversation going and growing and to hold people accountable. When teens acknowledge that they possess positive traits that make them interesting, strong, and likeable and have hobbies and sports outside of school – all these efforts go a long way in counteracting online conflicts.
So let’s start this positive conversation and keep the momentum going! We are living in an evermore challenging world and we need to work together to build each other up, not knock each other down. We truly are "Stronger, Together".
What Can You Do About It?
1. Lift each other up! Stay positive online, try only posting if it’s kind, or helpful, or something you would say directly to someone’s face. Use your online presence to give emotional support to your friends and if you don't have something kind to say, don't say it!
2. Think before you post. If you're not sure if it's a good idea, don't post it. Remember that there is always a digital trail and once you send or post online, you lose control of it.
3. Don't be a silent bystander. According to PrevNet, cyberbullying often stops within 10 seconds when a bystander intervenes. Peers are often present and watching when online bullying occurs, so if you're a bystander, speak up and shut it down.
If You're Being Cyber-bullied:
1. Shut it off. Put your device away, leave the conversation or otherwise disengage. Just like physical bullies, cyberbullies are looking for a reaction, so don't respond.
2. Tell a trusted adult. Talk to a parent, teach, coach or other adult you can trust. If you don't have a trusted adult available and it's urgent, contact Kids Help Phone.
3. Fill out an anonymous letter. Sometimes writing a letter is easier than talking in person. PREVNet has an anonymous letter you can fill out online and drop it off with a teacher or other trusted adult. https://www.prevnet.ca/bullying/kids/letter
For more info on cyberbullying, check out these sites: