Feb2SunFebruary 2, 2020
What if we taught kids to look at cyberbullying like this? What if we helped them see that the words, photos, actions and things they do online hurt just as much (if not more), than if they did it physically? What if we helped adults to see that their words and online actions are teaching our kids how to behave online? What if we could actually see the impact our online communication has? What if we thought before we posted, retweeted, liked or shared?
According to i-Safe Foundation, "over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyberbullying. More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber threats online. Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet." But what breaks my heart the most... "Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyberbullying occurs."
I have experienced the terror of horrible, hate-filled cyberbullying. As people spewed putrid word vomit from behind their keyboards, I cried alone in my bedroom. I read those words over and over again, stunned that anyone could say such horrible lies. As they picked apart my work, my art, my body, my friendships and my faith, I internally picked my self apart until the scabs bleed and the wounds ached deeply. Their words cut sharper than any knife could. I wanted to scream, to cry, to run, to hide. I wanted to destroy all of my social media and technology... I wanted to delete everything I had ever posted or created. I wanted to quit.
I was an adult when this happened ... and yet it still was extremely painful. Imagine if you were a teen. As an adult, I could step back and think rationally... I could consult with friends and family without fear of judgment... I could delete or report their posts. But what if I was 13 years old. Would I feel safe in my skin?
As a Crisis Response Counsellor for Kids Help Phone Crisis Text Line, I have found that in almost every single conversation where bullying or cyberbullying is talked about the person has had suicidal ideation or engaged in self-harm. "Children and young people under 25 who are victims of cyberbullying are more than twice as likely to self-harm and enact suicidal behavior" (Journal of Medical Internet Research).
According to Common Sense Media, teens spend on average 9 hours a day on technology. 9 hours! That's more than they sleep. And kids between 0 and 8 years of age are spending 6 hours and 50 minutes. What if we spent just 1% of that time talking to them about staying safe online, how to treat others online, and appropriate digital citizenship. Imagine that... 9 minutes...It could make a world of a difference. Unfortunately, most parents and educators never talk about it, let alone for 9 minutes.
Why is it that we teach patriotism and citizenship but we fail to discuss digital citizenship? What if we rethought the way we talked to kids about technology? What if we thought before letting kids have free rein over tech devices? What if parents and educators and the community stepped up? What if...
P.S. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts... please know you are not alone. Someone is there to listen.
In Canada: Text CONNECT to 686868
In USA: Text HOME to 741741
In UK: Text SHOUT to 85258
Or I'm always willing to listen.