On Friday, October 18, WISH TV 8 aired a short piece on bullying prevention in local schools. Included in the short report were interviews with members of the Bully Prevention Alliance in which they were asked to comment on the bullying suicide story unfolding in Central Florida.
While most of the material generated from the questions about the Central Florida suicide did not make the final report it was worth further exploration. One of the most powerful points discussed during that interview revolved around the power of social media. Shortly after the interview the thoughts expressed by the representatives of the Bully Prevention Alliance were supported by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. Social media had played a major role in the suicide of Rebecca Ann Sedwick of Lakeland Florida. According to the Sheriff, while Ms. Sedwick had transferred schools to avoid direct contact with her tormentors, the two girls bullying her pursued her through Facebook and other social media. This is an all-to-common theme in the cases of bullying driven suicide. Social media, and its 24 hour a day reach into the lives of our children, has significantly increased the psychological impact of bullying today.
Social media doesn’t have to be a tool of destruction. There are people and organizations out there who are working to use social media to make a positive difference in the fight against the destruction of bullying. From organizations such as PACER Teens Against Bullying and the Bully Prevention Alliance to individuals such as Ronell Lawson and her website and Facebook Page. Social media can have a positive impact on the lives and safety of our children when we monitor it and ensure its message is a healthy one. As adults we have a responsibility to our children to ensure that the tools we have given to them to enhance their lives don’t become a source of torment and pain. When done correctly, interaction via social media can encourage growth and educational development. Social media, as a whole, can be a powerful ally for parents who care about their children.
Don’t let social media become something that must be banned for the health and well being of our youth. Teach children responsible use of the power of social media and the ability to communicate with people from all over the world. Refuse to focus on the negative reporting that pervades mass media, instead focus on building up our youth. Get involved in the social media lives of your children, don’t let them navigate the internet alone. Help them harness the power of social media to grow and prosper.