Where Are The Upstanders?

06/30/2017 11:54 am ET Updated Jun 30, 2017

Online cruelty emanating from the highest office in the land is an American tragedy. For those of us whose job it is to teach children how to use the Internet safely, wisely, and respectfully, this behavior is making our work increasingly harder to do. The only option we have left is to turn Trump’s cruel and ugly tweets into a teachable moment.

So, were it not summer, today I’d be teaching young kids just starting to use the Internet how to be an “upstander.” According to The Bully Project,

When an upstander sees or hears about someone being bullied, they speak up. Being an upstander is being a hero: we are standing up for what is right and doing our best to help support and protect someone who is being hurt. In many ways, this is another word for being socially responsible.

This is an important lesson for kids just starting to use the Internet to learn because research shows that “95% of teens who have witnessed bullying on social media report that others, like them, have ignored the behavior.” This is a shame. But, if we equip kids with the skills to actually do something when they see cruelty online, we can make great strides in eradicating this behavior.

So what can you tell kids to do? Well, the easiest thing is to encourage them to show empathy and support for the target. The other, and harder, thing they can do is to stand up to the bully and demand an end to their behavior. It’s easier for kids to learn this skill if they can observe adult role models exemplifying the behavior.

So today I have a simple question: Where are the adult upstanders? Sure, many adults have eloquently and forcefully condemned Trump’s tweets. But it seems to me that there are an equal number of elected officials who spent yesterday saying they were “saddened,” “disturbed,” or “upset” by Trump’s behavior. Note to those people: You are not Upstanders. Worse, you are poor role models and our children deserve better. They deserve government leaders who have the courage to say, “Enough is enough.”

Granted most politicians grew up before there was an Internet or social media. They didn’t benefit from lessons in cyberbullying or social media etiquette. So for them here is a quick lesson that might come in handy. It’s called, “How to Be an Upstander” and includes an easy three-step strategy:

  1. STOP. Put an end to the bad behavior. Tell the bully that enough is enough.
  2. BLOCK. Unfriend or unfollow the bully. Just imagine what could happen if Trump lost his bully pulpit (32.9 million followers on Twitter).
  3. TALK. Most importantly, talk to your kids, your neighbors, your friends about how this despicable behavior has no place in our society and must be put to an end.

That’s it. Feel free to share this lesson today.

You’re welcome.

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