5 programs that work toward eliminating cyberbullying
In the face of an increase in online abuse, and with high-profile stories of victims such as Tyler Clementi (a young adult who tragically took his own life after feeling harassed by classmates at school and on social media), many concerned people are making a statement that bullying, in all its forms, is unacceptable.
Cyberbullying is "more prevalent than ever as perpetrators hide anonymously behind their computers and use social media to spread rumors and say even more hateful comments" than physical bullies do, says Ashley Norris, PhD, the Alabama-based regional assistant dean for University of Phoenix College of Education and a former consultant. "The effects of this aggression can last into adulthood," she adds.
Considering that 25 percent of teens are repeatedly bullied via cell phones and the Internet, Norris says, intervention is critical. Here are five ways educators, media outlets and social media organizations are lending a hand:
Child psychotherapist Elizabeth Domingos-Shepard, who teaches counseling courses at the University of Phoenix Livermore Learning Center in California, commends the elementary school program Peacekeepers. The program, which is gaining popularity at schools throughout the state, focuses on conflict-resolution skills that allow children to recognize and mediate peer aggression, including cyberbullying and gang violence. "This program is amazing because unless people, from children to adults, learn the skills to resolve conflicts, [they] will always resort to aggression," she explains.
Lady Gaga rocked the 2011 Grammy Awards with her hit single "Born This Way," and on February 29, she took her message of embracing humanity to the world stage through her anti-bullying nonprofit, Born This Way Foundation, which aims to empower youth and improve self-confidence. The foundation is in partnership with Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
3. Cartoon Network's "Stop Bullying: Speak Up" Campaign
The Cartoon Network has teamed with several notable partners, including the Anti-Defamation LeagueTM, to end abusive behavior through this awareness campaign. The related web site and Facebook(r) page encourage kids and adults to pledge to speak up in the face of bullying. It's an important step to combating cyberbullying, Domingos-Shepard says, because "social psychological research shows that if one person steps up and speaks out, other people do, too."
4. MTV's "A Thin Line" Campaign
MTV™ wants peers to realize there is a "thin line" between a joke and disrespect. Its online outlet serves as a resource that helps victims of digital abuse, as well as their peers, defend their own and others' digital domains and also post about actions they took to defend themselves or their friends. Partners include the Anti-Defamation League and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAADSM) as well as Snooki, who serves as the face of the campaign.
5. Facebook's Help Center
The social networking site instituted a harassment-reporting system that allows a victim of negative comments to have Facebook intervene. Facebook also recently launched an initiative to redirect suicidal users, including cyberbullied victims, to chat confidentially with online counselors. Friends of victims can also contact Facebook about posts or comments, and Facebook will reach out to the user. "This tells victims," Domingos-Shepard says, "they don't have to do this alone."
Anti-Defamation League is a registered trademark of Anti-Defamation League nonprofit corporation.
Facebook is a registered trademark of Facebook Inc.
MTV is a registered trademark of Viacom International Inc.
GLAAD is a registered service mark of Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Inc.