October is bully awareness month and because cyberbullying is among the top concerns for parents and kids as far as cyber safety is concerned, the term “bully” gets used to the point where we risk diminishing the serious nature of the problem children face today in their cyber-powered communities.
On Saturday Oct. 12, B.R.A.V.E. Society, a Carmichael non-profit for bully awareness and prevention, is organizing a major convention on strategies for teaching children to model a peaceful society at home and on school campuses.
Lisa Ford Berry is the founder of BRAVE.
“One of the challenges with the term ‘bully’ is that it tends to be associated with the yard school kid who picked on classmates they perceived weaker and attracted a small posse of followers,” Berry said. “And while that type of bully was abusive and it not okay, what is happening today with our children’s cyber-powered communities is a more pervasive, intense hostility to many more individuals, turning kids into targets that can make it seem not survivable. It is extreme peer abuse, which is just as serious as spouse abuse, child abuse and workplace harassment, all of which are considered criminal.”
Heidi Stevens is a reporter with the Chicago Tribune and focuses on modern issues for parents and families. She also observes the problem with the word "bully" is that it tends to minimize the serious abuse that we seek to address in conversations.
“There needs to be clear distinction between conflict and victimizing someone,” Stevens said, “Intent to victimize someone has more of a predatory motive.”
Stevens also advises that kids need to experience disagreement as something that can be a learning opportunity. “Accepting those who are different and not seeing eye-to-eye is a normal part of social life and kids need to learn how to accept different points of view," she said. “The technology did not cause the bully problem, it is human nature that needs to be tamed, but what the technology did is made it easy to lose empathy - by not actually engaging the individual -- insulating the perpetrator(s) from the harm they do.”
This is what happened to Berry’s son, Michael, who took his own life on his 17th birthday in 2008 when someone started a rumor that he was gay. The entire student body piled on the rumor and isolated Michael; not a single friend offered assurance or comfort despite his pleas for help. In this regard, the cyber communications enabled a form of peer abuse so extreme that it was clear to Berry that children need to be taught how to be civil on and off line, so they can make a peaceful society.
To learn more about the ways to help our youth be more discerning about the nature of their relationships and communications, mark your calendar to attend the “See Something, Say Something, Do Something” Bully Prevention Convention at Capital Christian Center in Sacramento. Registration is free.
- Banana Moments: Help for Parenting in the Network Culture
- Preparing teenagers for texting and social media
- B.R.A.V.E Society Conference
- Capital Christian Center
- Heidi Stevens – Balancing Act
- CyberParenting Topics on The Fish 103.9FM
- Follow Joanna @CyberParenting
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