On Sunday evening, July 17th, 2011, the movie “Cyberbully” will premiere on the ABC Family network (scheduled to air at 8 p.m. & 10 p.m. PDT) and I believe that it is a “must see” for every person who is a user of social media. This movie is addressing the growing problem of digital bullying and the impact that it has on our young people who are most often the recipients of this abuse. And while the most tragic outcomes of bullying occur with younger people, this is a problem that can affect people of any age.
We need to understand that we are personally responsible for how we use the power of social media and how any inappropriate behavior can have a devastating effect on another person.
Many will say that they have the right to post anything that they want on the Internet sites because their rights are protected under the “freedom of speech” provisions in our Constitution. They will also say that if they were not free to do so then there would be laws to punish them for doing so. They will say that this is a democracy and they have the freedom to speak out and voice their opinions in any way that they choose. Boy, would our founding fathers be so disappointed with this interpretation for the abuse of others based upon their intentions to protect the rights of everyone!
I believe that the use of social media brings with it a social responsibility. In the past, when someone wrote something that was defamatory about another person, they could be sued for libel. I don’t know whether the same standard would apply to postings on the Internet but because of the speed at which such writings can be spread to an enormous audience, the damage to the individual is often done long before someone can even consider holding the perpetrator responsible in a court of law. That is why I believe that each of us needs to be responsible for doing everything that we can to stop this growing problem and to help those who have become victims already.
Tied to this movie, ABC Family and Seventeen magazine have started a “delete digital drama” campaign by talking more about it on air, in print and online. By doing so, our young people will have the opportunity to understand that they are not alone and that there is help available to them. But, we, as adults, are in a unique position whereby we can help our youth and our peers as well by setting the standards for appropriate online social media behavior. When we see or receive anything that is in the form of derogatory commentary about another person, we should be responsible for not only not sharing the comments but also deleting them on the spot. We need to understand that we are personally responsible for how we use the power of social media and how any inappropriate behavior can have a devastating effect on another person. We need to understand that we are personally responsible for whatever bad outcomes result from this type of bullying even if we did not write the comments ourselves but chose to share and spread them.
Please join me in looking out for one another, especially the young people, and helping to protect each other from this new form of abuse. We would do no less if we knew that someone was being verbally or physically abused and would never even think of doing something like that to another person. This is no different. If we take steps now to stop cyber bullying each and every time that we see it, it can’t be perpetuated in the long run.
If you or anyone you know is a victim of bullying please go to stompoutbullying.org or call 855 790 HELP.
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