Social networking is here to stay. There simply is no question that it has both its upsides and downsides particularly for children and young people. One of the downsides, which is all too apparent, is the danger of platforms that provide an opportunity for anonymous cyberbullying that can spread in minutes to countless others. In fact, when we wrote our original Don’t Laugh at Me curriculum in 2000, the word cyberbullying never appeared. Last spring, when we wrote the refreshed version, we talked about it repeatedly.
As we know, youth today connect more and more through social media, and it can be a difficult world to navigate safely. Never before have young people been given so much freedom, and power, at their fingertips, and as we see every day, many of them are not able to handle it responsibly. Many more engage in hurtful and mean-spirited behaviors that they might not engage in, face to face.
Alarmingly, 42% of adolescents and teens have reported being bullied online, according to the i-SAFE Foundation, and of great concern, well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyberbullying occurs.
We were interested to see that Facebook launched a new bullying prevention portal as a “free resource for teens, parents and educators seeking support for issues related to bullying and other conflicts”. They are in a tricky position because many blame platforms like Facebook for the proliferation of such behavior, so we think it is good to see them taking a larger stand than just suggesting that their users be responsible.
Facebook worked with our friends at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence to create this valuable, online resource. The portal includes a Safety Center, which offers tools and resources; an outline of Facebook’s policies, designed to keep their users safe; and Community Standards that encourage respectful behavior, and protect privacy and intellectual property rights. Much like educators in schools, Facebook relies heavily on their community to report harmful and harassing behaviors, and they will remove any content that targets private individuals with the intention of degrading or shaming them.
We are impressed that Facebook’s bullying prevention hub for teens, parents, and educators provides meaningful advice and tips from experts in the field, including several with whom we partner. At the hub, teens will find empowering strategies and guidance on what to do if they are being bullied, a friend is being bullied, or they have been called a bully. Parents will find recommendations on how to speak with their children about bullying and how to address the problem, both online and in school. We particularly appreciate this section, as this is a difficult conversation to have. Teenagers can be particularly resistant, and this hub offers good advice on how to prepare and communicate effectively. A help center is also available, which includes security and privacy checks, and a list of suicide hotlines for those in need of counseling.
We believe it is up to all of us to ensure young people feel safe, in and out of school. The more the adults in a community rally around the young to help them navigate relationships, learn respectful, responsible behaviors, and find the resources they need to be safe, the stronger our children and teens will be. Our Don’t Laugh at Me program strives to prevent bullying in all forms, including cyberbullying, by building empathy and creating compassionate environments where these negative behaviors are far less likely to occur. When such programs get reinforced by messages and resources on the social media platforms young people use, the impact is even greater and allows us all to send a common message of expectations and support.
We would love to hear what you think of the portal as well. Were you aware of it? How might you use it in your context? Let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or posting on our Facebook page