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 (http://noalciberacoso.blogspot.com)

“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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And Now For a Positive Yik Yak Story

yik-yak-logo

We have written plenty in the past about the problematic anonymous app Yik Yak – from cyberbullying to teacher baiting to school threats. We even wrote about Yik Yak possibly manipulating users’ posts. Today, however, we’re going to highlight a real life example of something more positive that happened on Yik Yak. (Here’s the other feel-good Yik Yak story we covered).

The word “upstander’, the opposite of bystander, has been creeping into the lexicon of late, and usually refers to people who witness cyberbullying and step in to stop it or help the victim. It’s a very positive gesture in a society that is increasingly moving online, and taking some very bad behavior with it. We applaud the upstanders.
Yik1
Yik2 Yik3Can the term upstander refer to people who step in to help someone who is threatening self-harm? We think so.

Check out the Yik Yak thread on the right, posted this week in our area, which happens to be well within the radius of the local high school, Hunterdon Central in New Jersey (Yik Yak by default shows all posts within a 1.5 to 10 mile radius of you).

If we assume it was a high school student (we think it was), you can see that the replies are overwhelmingly positive. The other teens, whoever they are, were making a genuine attempt to offer support and help.

Yes, Yik Yak is home to a lot of bad behavior, but it’s not all bad. In this case it’s very good. You might also notice that in the middle of the thread, someone made a negative comment or two. It/they no longer appear because they literally got downvoted into oblivion, which is the way Yik Yak works in a perfect world. Positive (or funny or interesting) posts and comments get upvoted; negatives get downvoted.

Much of social media can be used for bad; all of it can be good in the hands of well intentioned users. Spread the word, at the dinner table or in your community.

 

 

 

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NJ Resolution Aims To Have “Upstander” Added to Dictionaries

A strange but positive story is developing in New Jersey this month related to the issue of bullying. It is perhaps the only positive development to come out of the Sayreville High School football hazing case, one which drew national attention and shut down a high profile high school football program.

During the investigation of the case, Sayreville Superintendent Richard Labbe used the term “upstander” to describe the teen who had come forward to report the bullying incidents. Of course the word upstander is the opposite of bystander, and being an upstander is a commendable act in the face of bullying, especially for teens. The problem is that the word does not appear in any official dictionary. One New Jersey politician wants to change that.

Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr. has introduced a resolution in the State Assembly that urges Merriam Webster and Oxford to add the word upstander to their dictionaries. As of now, it appears that there is little opposition to the resolution. According to Diegnan:

“It is fitting and proper for this House to raise awareness of the word ‘upstander’ and to encourage not only citizens of the State of New Jersey, but of the entire United States of America to become ‘upstanders’ instead of bystanders”

Bullying, cyberbullying and harassment are too often ignored, particularly by teens, leaving the victims feeling helpless and distraught. We believe that greater awareness that there is an option – kids can and should stand up to bullies – can lead to a decrease in bullying over all.

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

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Twitter Arms Upstanders with Tools for Reporting Cyberbullies

Twitter announced yesterday that it is improving the tools available for users to report cyberbullying and abuse, and may well set an example for the entire social media community, or at least send a message.

The changes at Twitter were rolled out to select users yesterday, and will be available to all users in the coming weeks. According no-cyberbullyingto Twitter, the changes (we haven’t gotten the update yet) are as follows:

  1. A streamlined, easier process for reporting abuse
  2. Allow any user to report abuse, even if she is not directly involved
  3. Provide users with an easy way to see who they’ve blocked
  4. Prevent blocked users from viewing the profiles of those who have blocked them
  5. Twitter has enhanced its ability to respond to reports and review abusive accounts

Number 2 above is a big step forward in enabling better behavior, particularly among the teen community. The better behavior that we would like to see come to the fore is simple: 

Online, we need more upstanders and fewer bystanders.

Bystander (definition) – one present but not taking part in a situation or event

Upstander (definition) – one who is willing to stand up and take action in defense of others

Cyberbullying and online harassment can be effectively policed by the community, only they aren’t, especially in the teen community. I’ve seen plenty of adult Twitter users stick up for one another, but haven’t seen the same among the high school crowd. According to recent statistics, 95% of teens who witness cyberbullying on social media report that other users ignored it, and those surveyed admitted that they ignored it too. When it comes to teens online, it’s easy to see why throwing cyberbullies under the bus is not all that appealing.

  • Fear of reprisal
  • Reporting other users often doesn’t work
  • The bully is often popular
  • Laughs are more engaging that snitching

What can parents do? First, focus on awareness. Familiarize yourself with the new Twitter reporting function (you just did!), and use it as a basis for talking to your teen about how to actually become an upstander.

If your teen is not active on Twitter, you can review similar functionality on Facebook, Instagram or whatever social sites she is using, and have a similar conversation.

Making teens aware that reporting abuse is easy and anonymous may be the first step in making sure that more teens do.

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.