Cyberbullying, Safety, and Digital Citizenship

Cyberbullying: Faster Than the Speed of Light

Julie Lyon

Lamar University

Image by Linus Schütz from Pixabay

Cyberbullying: Faster Than The Speed of Light

 

The scandal that involved Monica Lewinsky in 1998 was so painfully public. I remember it was one of those stories that you simply could not escape. It was everywhere. This was so early in the evolution of the Internet, and the digital revolution. Had there been social media outlets, the story would have likely spread faster, and more viciously. I struggle with the concepts of private data being made available for public figures. Celebrities and politicians place themselves in the public eye, and because of their visibility, the public expects that private things in their lives should be made public. But Lewinsky was a young intern who made a mistake, hardly a celebrity or public figure. Her lapse in judgment that occurred in her early 20s was blasted across the internet in a more public way than any “news” before it. She was so young, and it seemed like she was shouldering most of the blame. As she points out in her HBO documentary interviews, this was likely the result of a male dominated industry that turned what she perceived as intimacy with the man she loved into scandal about oral sex. The shocking question in the Cooper Union interviews that was posed by an audience member would have certainly gone viral in an age dominated by social media. But even without social media, information about the scandal was constant, ever-available. No longer was news available only through a newspaper and those few hours each day when television scheduling was carved out for news. It was everywhere. It was constant. Humiliating intimate details of the affair were blasted across the internet.

Lewinsky talked about the need to replace the culture of humiliation and shame with a culture of compassion and empathy. But how can we initiate that? How do we shift from a culture that craves scandal to a culture that shows compassion?

Our children need to learn compassion and empathy. From the time they are babies, compassion and empathy should be modelled for them at home, and everywhere in their lives.

My son was bullied thoughout school. Now, he is a young adult in college studying to become an engineer. He has a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, But before the kids in school learned about his compulsive behaviours, his social awkwardness, and his social anxieties, they would notice his eyes. My son has amblyopia and strabismus which cause his eyes to cross. He wore thick glasses with prism lenses when he was two years old. Though he was not a victim of cyberbullying as a child, he did face name calling… exclusion… belittling throughout his school years.

In Shane Koyczan’s video To This Day Project, he spoke of storing his heart under his bed to keep it safe from being broken. I saw that with my son… still see that with him. He attends classes with the same cohort of learners each day, yet he remains guarded, protecting himself from their hurtful words. He is distrustful of connecting with them because he is convinced that they will cause him pain.

My child was raised to value compassion and empathy, but I think too many others are not. Children need to see how their behaviours can affect others from a very early age. They need to see and understand that positive actions can make positive differences around them. When my child started school, I spoke with his Kindergarten teacher about doing a service learning project with the children, so that they could see how their actions can make a difference. She thought I was crazy, and worried that this would interfere with their learning. She let me talk to the kids, though, and we settled on a Litter Clean Up project at a park near the school. We took pictures of the park before they cleaned up, and after they had spent an hour there. Back at the school, after cleaning up, and celebrating with donated pizza, the students drew a picture of what they had done, and wrote sentences about the importance of cleaning up public areas like the park. I think that most people do not consider service learning with really young learners, but I really think that is a perfect place to start. By letting the children identify a project that was truly meaningful to them, they really took ownership. After 22 kids and 5 adult chaperones spent an hour picking up trash in the park, the kids could see what they had accomplished, with about 20 large bags of trash having been gathered. The park looked beautiful. The writing and drawing exercise was really interesting… many of the kids wrote that they were going to make sure their parents and siblings were more aware of their community and took care to dispose of letter appropriately.

What is the relationship between a service learning project involving litter and Kindergarten students and cyberbullying? I really think that projects like this can help the kids see beyond themselves, and see the impact they can make on their surroundings. This was a great exercise for those children in civic awareness, and in taking pride in their community. But it also helped them to understand the importance of caring and compassion, and they could see the difference they made.

 

 

 

References

Koyczan, S. (2013). To this day… for the bullied and beautiful. TedTalks, March 2013. Retrieved from  https://www.ted.com/talks/shane_koyczan_to_this_day_for_the_bullied_and_beautiful?language=en

Lewinsky, M. (2015). The Price of shame. TedTalks, March 2015. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/monica_lewinsky_the_price_of_shame?language=en

Lewinsky, M. (2014). Shame and survival. Vanity Fair, May 28, 2014. Retrieved from https://www.vanityfair.com/style/society/2014/06/monica-lewinsky-humiliation-culture

Schultz, L. (N.D.) Bullying [Photo]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/photos/bullying-cyberbullying-insult-4378156/