There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t read a headline that doesn’t involve a youth that has been cyberbullied. Recently we read the latest report from the National Center for Health Statistics that suicide rates doubled among girls and rose by more than 30 percent among teen boys and young men between 2007 and 2015. Sadly, it’s continuing to rise with teen girls between the ages of 15 and 19, according to this analysis and hit a forty-year high in 2015.
Adults are victims too.
Make no mistake about it, from parents to teachers to doctors to celebrities to politicians — no is immune from being the target of online abuse.
In the most recent PEW Survey, 66 percent of adults have witnessed digital harassment while 41 percent have been victims. Seventy percent of young people (age 18-29) have been attacked online. These numbers are staggering.
The blurred lines.
When adults are the targets, but they are also the ones throwing the insults, how do untangle this web of digital hate to viewers, especially children? Aren’t the grownups supposed to be the role models? In some cases, aren’t they supposed to be people we respect?
Is it blue verses red?
Two in three Democrats think that cyberbullying has increased while only one in three Republicans feel it has become worse. Interestingly, more than half of the women polled believe that online bullying has worsened but men are less convinced at 47 percent.
YouGov researcher Alice Kerry said;
“What we found interesting was that while cyberbullying may have once been seen as a nonpartisan issue, politics have divided what society deems as appropriate or inappropriate online behavior. For example, some Republicans might see Trump’s online behavior as inappropriate but not at the level of cyberbullying, while Democrats could be more likely to label it cyberbullying.”
Where is FLOTUS?
When the First Lady announced her desire to champion cyberbullying, many were skeptical however hopeful. If there was ever a cause that needed to be addressed, this one is high on the list.
“This is a human disaster, not a natural disaster,” she says. “We caused it, we can turn it around. Empathy can be cultivated; we just have to work it into our parenting agenda.”
YouGov data revealed 60 percent of people haven’t heard a peep about FLOTUS’s efforts to tackle online bullying or this rise in shame nation. We are now at a point where 84 percent of Americans are experiencing incivility, 69 percent blame the Internet and social media while 59 percent eliminated politics from their conversations to alleviate negativity in their lives.
Interestingly more than half (59 percent) of the YouGov respondents believe that FLOTUS shouldn’t have to handle the issue of online abuse by herself. They noted that social media platforms should play a greater role in preventing cyberbullying.
No one will argue with that, but rather than pointing the fingers at others, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to join with all those social media platforms for a bigger cause? As we know the cliché — there is no “i” in team. Let’s work together.
When it comes to team work, some of the biggest players in curbing cyberbullying and digital hate as well as promoting online safety have been interviewed and asked if they have been contacted by FLOTUS or any of her associates from the White House:
“She nor anyone at the White House has contacted us. You’re the 50th person to ask,” Justin Patchin, who is the co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, told the Globe. “We know everyone in the field. And we don’t know anyone she’s reached out to.”
“After Melania Trump announced that she wanted to address cyberbullying, we have consistently said we’d be willing to work with her,” Stephen Balkam said. “But I’m not sure if anyone has publicly heard from her or her office.” - [Founder & CEO of Family Online Safety Institute]
Where do we go from here?
Seventy-five percent of Americans believe that civility begins with us. Sixty-six percent of Americans have asked their friends to be kinder to each other. It’s important to remember that just because someone is an adult or has an important position doesn’t mean they are always the best role model.
Be careful not to perpetuate the hate with more anger and verbal violence (online or off). If you endorse digital discourse or forward mean memes, you are only continuing this rise of incivility. Don’t get caught up in the cyber-combat.
Let’s be mindful of our posts, what we share and who we endorse. Be careful not to be part of a campaign of hate. Remember, we can get more done as a team to bring this shame nation to a sane nation.