Online Harassment – Bystanders and Upstanders

We weren’t at the South By Southwest festival this month, and so we missed a series of panels that we very much would have liked to attend. The Online Harassment Summit convened a dozen or so sessions that covered topics from “Is a safer, saner internet possible?” and “Bullying, today’s youth and the internet.”

In one of the panels, covered by the Washington Post, panelists talked frankly about preventing and dealing with harassment. The money quote, and one we totally agree with, came from a Facebook rep:

No Cyberbullying
By Internetsinacoso (

“There’s research out there saying that when it comes to bullying, the overlooked but very important party is the bystander,” said Facebook’s head of policy management, Monika Bickert. “If we can find ways to help people feel motivated and empowered to speak on behalf of others, that’s going to go a long way.”

We written before about the opportunity each of us has to be an upstander rather than a bystander. By the way, our home state of New Jersey proposed a resolution to have the word upstander added to dictionaries. Whatever can be done to raise awareness.

Everyone can play a role in this. Parents, kids, teachers, politicians, celebrities, athletes and the media can all lend a hand.

As a parent, I’m sure you’ve impressed upon your kids how important it is to avoid bullying others. Have you also had conversations about the importance of standing up for victims?

If every young internet user (all young people) made it a point of helping one victim per week, or standing up to one bully occasionally, the world, and not just the online world, would be a better place. Parents, even if you’ve talked with your kids about being an upstander, please revisit the topic frequently:

  • It’s never okay, and not funny, to cyberbully another person
  • If you see someone you know being harassed online, try to offer a kind word
  • If a cyberbully is getting laughs at the expense of others, do not join in, ever
  • Using an anonymous account doesn’t make cruel behavior okay
  • If you can do so without putting yourself at risk, stand up to cyberbullies and let them know you don’t approve of their behavior

Sure, the social networks need to do a better job policing harassment, but each and every user can help as well. Make sure that your kids are doing their part.




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