This link was in my stream this morning (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/aurora-cerullo-askfm-bullied-feared-3415959) and it prompted the following thoughts.
We had a discussion in class about the use of technology as an extension of self. Examples of eyeglasses (a technology) becomes and extension of one’s self, helping the person to see (good thing) but then also opening them up to criticizing/bullying (bad thing). One of my classmates is working on a paper that is focusing on bullying and how technology (internet) acts as an extension of the bullied/bully (this is my paraphrasing).
As if bullying wasn’t bad enough, add to that the (world wide) humiliation that is made possible by the internet and what was once confined to the playground and hallways of the school is now [potentially] publicly displayed to anyone who has an internet connection. There are individuals out there that hold the belief that the internet, instead of uniting individuals, is in fact acting as an isolator. I believe this is just such an example. My heart aches for this teen that was targeted and felt isolated enough that she felt her only option was to follow the command of the faceless, anonymous, and cowardly (hiding behind the cover of anonymous is to me is cowardly) bullies of askfm who told her “kill yourself, You’re a dog”. Cyberbullying is made worse in this situation in that “in the good old days” at least you knew how the bullies were. They could be identified, avoided, reported and confronted. Not that it necessarily happened. There is something very frightening about a faceless, infinite (in the sense of “any internet user”), and anonymous attackers.
So, what is the option? Turn off the internet? Unplug? Well, ask your “average” teen, 20-something, 30-something, and even me to “unplug” for any length of time and you will see a look of fear, dread and certain doom of imminent death come over our face. So, unplugging isn’t necessarily the answer. Education? Awareness? I think that’s closer to the answer. Much like learning “safe surfing” practices, learning how to identify a “cyberbully” and avoid them might work, but the problem goes deeper than that. How can we teach our kids to have a sense of “self worth”, a sense of identity that will give them the power to stand up for their rights, not just cyberbullying, but any bullying?
I don’t have any answers, just plenty of questions. “In the best of all possible worlds” we would not face bullies. Everyone would be kind and supportive of each other. Unfortunately the reality we live in does not exist without these people who feel the only way to lift themselves up (self worth) is by tearing down others.