Over the past couple of weeks there has been much reported on the television and the social media grapevine about bullying, in particular, cyber bullying and the tragic consequences it’s having on young lives as well as their families and friends.
I cannot comment from a parental point of view and will not be dishing out advice on how I think you should raise your children. However, this is still an issue many can understand because we have all grown up (essentially) and many of us will have experienced peer pressure and the want to fit in or be part of the popular group. We know that these are very real feelings because no one wants to be left out or lonely or worse bullied and picked on. Sadly, sometimes that pressure can lead us to do things we don’t feel comfortable with or saying things we don’t really mean at the expense of someone else’s physical and mental health.
From what I can see this pressure has only gotten worse over the years with the emergence of social media and portable technology, opening up more platforms for bullying and antagonism. Our homes are no longer a safe place away from the physical and mental taunts of the classroom and playground because social media has left people vulnerable to abuse anywhere and at any time.
Now, I don’t wish to lay the blame entirely in the hands of social media sites because they do have their value too and most importantly they do not put words in their users’ mouths, which of course is the key issue with cyber bullying. It’s the torrent of verbal abuse that is happening not just at school but online, and in some cases on every single social media account they own.
However, the creators of these sites need to be being vigilant with these issues and action reports of abuse. They should be doing much more to keep it’s users safe.
Do you remember this meme?
It was lauded as the would-be saviour of many an embarrassing drunken text and people wanted it installed on their phones asap as a deterrent for sending messages they wouldn’t send if they were sober. Similarly, do you know when you delete a post etc on social media you get a pop-up message saying “are you sure you would like to delete this?” I would personally like to see a similar feature before you publish anything online too. Do you think this would be a good idea?
How about if that pop-up message said?
Or how about?
Do you think this would deter people from posting abusive or defamatory comments? Would it make them think twice? Or would they carry on regardless?
Of course, there also needs to be more mental health and internet safety education in schools to help look after the wellbeing of young people. Perhaps even with local police explaining the seriousness of defamatory comments and posts on social media. I know that the wonderful Self Esteem Team and The Prince’s Trust are doing an amazing job at tackling mental health issues in schools but more schools and colleges need to be taking these opportunities and thinking about their students’ mental health. These issues cannot be ignored any longer.
We need to get the point across that words can do a lot of damage, because the whole “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” mantra is simply untrue. Words can be weapons. Words wield so much power. Words change lives. And we all have a responsibility as to how we choose to use them. Because not only can they hurt someone else but they can also land you in a lot of trouble too.
Because as if this wasn’t awful enough the perplexing thing is that it’s not just children or teenagers that are either the culprits or the recipients. In many cases, defamatory comments are being made by grown adults, people we’d say really should know better. With many people thinking that the internet gives them anonymity and the right to say whatever they wish no matter how defamatory. Free speech is one thing, as is having an opinion but they are privileges that should not be used as an excuse for threats, slander or abuse.
We can all learn something from this. We can all think before we speak or post to the internet and whether we use our words for good or bad. And we can all help stand up to cyber bullies or keyboard warriors by reporting any defamatory or threatening posts that we see on social media.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what more needs to be done to help and hopefully prevent more tragedies. Let me know in the comments or on my social media.