A few weeks ago I caught my 15 year old cousin commenting on someone’s Youtube video. When I read the comment I was appalled at the language and insensitivity involved in her comment. She had never met this person before but had so many negative things to say. To her it was a joke. Her reply to my shocked expression was, “Everyone comments…It’s fun, no one cares about these things!” This set off alarm bells in my head. How could she find this amusing and part of her every day “Youtube life”? We sat down and talked for a few minutes and it became clear that my cousin had no clue about the effort taken to create these videos and that the person who created them would read them and be affected by the comments she wrote. She had no idea that her comment was a form of bullying, and the actual term for this bullying was called cyberbullying. After talking to my cousin I realized that tons of children must be doing this without even thinking twice about their actions. My cousin did not intentionally cyberbully this Youtube user but her comment if read by anyone would have been seen as such. After our long discussion on cyberbullying she spent hours back tracking the videos she had watched and started removing the negative comments she had written and apologised to the creators of the videos for her comments. The immediate reply from one of the Youtube account users brought her to tears. It was as follows, “I can accept your apology but you can never take back what you wrote. Millions of people saw it and will always associate you with it. It is kind of you to apologize and delete the comment but you can never erase the minds of the people who read the comment and mocked me for it. People at school use the nickname you gave me and it hurts. You can never take away the tears I cried and will be crying.” Now, although my cousin never intended to be a bully, she was a bully and I believe that the moral of the story is that we must teach our children that although you are using a device that has no emotions or feelings, everything on the internet is written by someone and remember that person has feelings and emotions.
Attached is some information below on cyberbullying from http://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/ to help understand what cyberbullying is, the effects and how to prevent it. Maybe by reading this and explaining it to our children they can become more aware and can learn to identify if they are being cyberbullied or are unintentionally becoming a cyberbully.
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites.
Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.
Kids who are being cyberbullied are often bullied in person as well. Additionally, kids who are cyberbullied have a harder time getting away from the behavior.
Cell phones and computers themselves are not to blame for cyberbullying. Social media sites can be used for positive activities, like connecting kids with friends and family, helping students with school, and for entertainment. But these tools can also be used to hurt other people. Whether done in person or through technology, the effects of bullying are similar.
Kids who are cyberbullied are more likely to:
Parents and kids can prevent cyberbullying. Together, they can explore safe ways to use technology.
Talk with your kids about cyberbullying and other online issues regularly.
Establish rules about appropriate use of computers, cell phones, and other technology. For example, be clear about what sites they can visit and what they are permitted to do when they’re online. Show them how to be safe online.
Help them be smart about what they post or say. Tell them not to share anything that could hurt or embarrass themselves or others. Once something is posted, it is out of their control whether someone else will forward it.
Encourage kids to think about who they want to see the information and pictures they post online. Should complete strangers see it? Real friends only? Friends of friends? Think about how people who aren’t friends could use it.
Tell kids to keep their passwords safe and not share them with friends. Sharing passwords can compromise their control over their online identities and activities.
When cyberbullying happens, it is important to document and report the behavior so it can be addressed.