ideas, innovations and apps for social work in the age of smartphones and social media
Want To Help Stop Youth Cyberbullying? Let Your Kids Raid More.
The above title is misleading. In fact it is as misleading as the term cyberbullying, which is an umbrella term used from experiences which range drastically. ”Cyberbullying” has been used to describe the humiliation of LGBT youth via video; the racial hatred of Sikhs on Reddit, the systematic harassment and suicide of a teenage girl by a neighboring peer’s mother; a hoax wherein a Facebooker pretended to be a woman’s missing (for 31 years); and the bad Yelp reviews of a restauranteur in AZ.
My point, exactly: All of the things described above are different in scope, intentionality, form of media used, duration, and impact. We need to keep this complicated. This is not to take away from the horrific acts that people have perpetuated with social media, or excuse them. Rather I think we need to help kids and their parents find more nuanced ways to make sense of the way newer technologies are impacting us.
Social media amplifies ideas, feelings, and conflicts. It often dysregulates family systems. Growing up, many family members didn’t need to learn the level of digital literacy that today’s world requires. Parents may be tempted to put their children in a lengthy or permanent internet lockdown. I hear the threats, or read them, all the time: No screens. You’re unplugged. She’s grounded from Facebook.
Please don’t do that.
I’ve worked with a number of young adults who have had the experiences of being on the receiving end of hatred, stalking, harassment and intrusion delivered via the internet. And thank goodness that their parents didn’t unplug them as kids. Because they stayed online they got to:
- learn how to ignore haters
- see/hear others stand up for them in a social media setting
- come to the defense of a peer themselves
- increase their ability to meet verbal aggression with cognition
- make the hundreds of microdecisions about whether to “fight this battle”
- seek out support from other peers
- form strong online communities and followings that helped them cope with and marginalize the aggressors
More and more, online technologies are becoming a prevalent form of communication, and to take away access is to remove the hearing and voice of youth. To do this is disempowerment, not protection.
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