Sunday, November 9, 2014

Cyber-bullying: The Silent Threat

     How would you react if your child received messages or posts like, " You are the ugliest person on this earth, why don't you just die?"  

      Now, let's turn this around. 

      How would you react if you found out your child was the one posting these messages?

      Hopefully we react with the same intensity to stop this foul mouthed hatred in both cases.  

     My children love, no, I mean adore, their electronic devices.  This generation has been reared on technology.  It is in every aspect of their lives.  Although my family enjoys the outdoors, you can bet your bottom they will not leave without their phone or Kindle.  Even if it must be left in our vehicle or they have no signal, it has to be there, just in case.  So, when it comes to discipline, guess what gets taken away first?   

     Kids are surfing the internet constantly.  Social media and gaming sites are the big ones in our home.  This much activity leaves the door open to misjudgements or misinterpretations of an individual's  post.  As I sit and type this, I say, "children", because I automatically assume that adults hold themselves to a higher standard and know not to do this, but I sit and recall comments on Facebook that are clearly negative and are pointed at another adult that we all know, even though the name is not mentioned.  I guess that I could actually put them in the "children" category then, can't I?

    Last year our home had it's first case of bullying. (that we know of)   Children are not vocal creatures when it comes to being bullied.  They keep quiet for fear that their character will come into question in the hallways of their school.

      Cyber-bullying is not different.  To those who execute this action, hiding behind a computer screen does not give you power, it makes you a coward.  In most cases it doesn't even make you anonymous anymore.   Fake confidence is not attractive.   The old saying of "words will never hurt me" are not true.  Words do hurt.  They can be apologized for, but never taken back.  They are read or repeated in our heads over and over again.  As adults who have lived through at least one episode of bullying, we can say that this school yard crap means Nothing in the real world.  Although it may make your skin thicker and you can learn from the experience, it means nothing in how we should let it control our lives. 

      Our world is busy, not every child has a positive role model or someone to take them to the side and educate them on right and wrongs.  Unfortunately if that does not happen, we have those individuals who never grow personally and forever stick to their playground antics.  Adults who bully with their words.  They are words said by mindless, weak adults who are trying to bring you into the tiny circle they have drawn around themselves because they are too afraid to step across that line into your confident world and see what they are actually made of.

     Thinking about this and how much influence the internet has on our children brings me to wonder, "who will remind my kids of appropriate behavior when I am not around?"  My hopes are that the voice of my husband and I will be booming in their heads or that they have grown into that confident child that can stand up for what is right and make the correct moral decision.  

     But sometimes they act before they think, just the same as you and I.  Emotion gets the better of us, good or bad.  With social media on every corner haunting us, posting has become automatic.   There is little self-regulating on this.   Every moment or feeling is documented.  Many times for the good, but sometimes not.  What if it could be somewhat regulated or we, as well as children could be reminded of what is morally appropriate to post?  

     I researched this.    What I found is a fourteen year old girl who had the same question.  She has in fact, brought this into reality.  A science project.   That is how her idea started.  

Her question was,
 "What if every time you posted a negative comment, you were questioned, Do you really want to post this?  It may hurt another."  

     Would it work?  Do you think it would make us rethink before we type?

     With any problem, we try to fix it at the source, right?  She developed a software program to do just this.  Her science project was to add this program to over a thousand computers and collect the data.  Her results were outstanding!   The majority of offensive posts were canceled.  Ninety -three percent of the time, the user changed their mind about hitting Enter on their computer.  

    Here is her video presentation.  It is 11 minutes, but it is interesting and well worth the watch.   Remember, she is just fourteen years old and already an incredible innovator with her idea of Rethink before you type. 

     Now, if we could only have a safe software for Rethink before you speak..............


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