Saturday 19 May 2012

Are You a Cyber-Bully?

I was recently involved in conducting Focus Group Discussions (FGD) with representatives from schools on the current cyber wellness programmes that are being conducted on the ground. One of the aims was to find out what the current cyber wellness issues are and how the ministry can design the curriculum to educate the students and help the schools deal with these issues.

Other than gaming addiction, the most common issue that was constantly mentioned during the FGD was cyber-bullying.
Students were ganging up on one another, getting an entire class to boycott one student and even setting up a Facebook group by the name of "anti-so-and-so" just to prove their point. Some wrote malicious comments on each other's statuses on Facebook, liked comments such as "so-and-so is a (input something bad)" and sent out tweets that destroyed the other party's reputation.

Some of these cyber-bullies may even be victims of physical bullying themselves! They don't know how to stand up to the other party in real life so they had to resort to taking their anger and frustration at the perpetrator to the internet, thus resulting in cyber-bullying. So it can sometimes be difficult for the school to determine who's right and who's wrong.

As I listened to the discussion, it dawned on me that I wasn't actually surprised. Physical bullying has been a problem in schools for centuries and with the advent of social media such as Facebook, it was only natural that the bullying is continued in cyber-space where they think there are little, if any, consequences to their actions.

But that was not what made it unsurprising to me. It was the fact that adults are doing the very same thing!

Just think about the latest incident where a Ferrari smashed into a taxi resulting in 3 deaths and 2 injuries. The moment the news came out, people started to make nasty and even hateful comments on online articles as well as Facebook (of course there are sympathetic people as well, not saying it's the majority).

So seriously, what do you expect from our children? If adults don't understand the concept of not being malicious on the internet, you really cannot expect the same of our children.

And another interesting thing that the participants of our FGD pointed out was that many a time, these students don't even realise that what they are doing constitutes as cyber-bullying!

They don't know that by posting a nasty statement of someone on their status or worse tagging said person is considered cyber-bullying. They feel that their Facebook wall is their property and they have the right to post whatever they like, even if it is something bad about someone else.

Sound familiar? I'm sure many of us may have even made these mistakes too once upon a time when Facebook just started. I know I did!

So we're seeing a real need to educate students and raise their awareness on cyber wellness issues such as cyber-bullying so that hopefully in future, there will be more consideration and kindness on the internet and far less rage and retaliation.

I think we're fighting an uphill battle but seriously, someone's gotta do it.

It might as well start with us. As role models for our children, we must show them how we can spread the good on the internet rather than the bad. We must learn to stand up to the bully in an assertive but polite manner, for example by adding comments in the lines of "hey, that's not a nice thing to say!" When our children see that the internet should be used to spread messages of faith, hope and love, then hopefully they will learn to do the same.

Someone's gotta do it. Will it be you? =)

P.S: FYI, there is a cyber wellness website set up for parents that gives you more information on cyber wellness in Singapore. You might wanna check it out =)
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