Thursday, March 29, 2012

What does it mean to be a cyber bully?

After watching Chris Cuomo's 20/20 piece on cyber bullying, I realized that many of our youth, as well as adults, consider their every day online behaviors to be normative.  As we have become more reliant on electronic devices for our sources of  communication, we slowly and over time become less connected with the impact that our words might have on others.  This is only natural because we are not face to face delivering our words nor are we present when they are received. For example, if we send an unkind or angry message to someone, we do not have to experience the pain, disappointment, or shame that an individual might feel; in fact, we can walk away from our behaviors without giving it any thought at all. Although it is hard to acknowledge or admit, the more these behaviors are repeated without consequence, the more natural or normal they  become to us.  

Although there are many factors to discuss with you about the profile of a cyber bully, there is one constant that we should all be aware of and that each one of us is extremely susceptible - losing our empathy for one another. We may never intend to hurt or shame anyone with our words, but when we do not stop and consider how the other person is going to feel when he/she receives the message, we begin to take on one of the characteristics of a bully. This detachment is reinforced by the viral nature of messages that receive attention and affirmation from a vast audience and also by the longevity of its presence of the web. In simpler terms, our bullying behaviors make us wildly popular in the social networking circles, at least for the moment. 

Parents, guardians, and youth - this is an important lesson.  

1. Always, when writing, texting, etc. about another person, think about your words.
2. Think about how the other person might feel when receiving your message.
3. Once you deliberately send a message that harms another individual in any way,
you are entering the mindset of a cyber bully.  

4. Picture yourself face to face with the other person, and then, rethink each and every word before you press "send".

Our words do mean more than we think or know.
They can change and alter lives.
They can define us a bully or they can connect us in meaningful ways.   


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