Embracing Technology, Challenging Cyberbullying » ADL Blogs
Get the Latest News on the Anti-Defamation League's efforts on Education
July 29, 2014 0

Embracing Technology, Challenging Cyberbullying

If you have been review­ing any num­ber of par­ent­ing or edu­ca­tion blogs lately, you’ll see head­lines pro­claim­ing the men­ace and dan­gers of tech­nol­ogy.  Tech­nol­ogy, and more specif­i­cally, social media and mobile apps are often treated like “mon­sters” to guard against and the cre­ators of all mat­ter of social ills.  Even if tech­nol­ogy is scary and daunt­ing to some adults, for youth it is a nec­es­sary and pos­i­tive part of life.  In addi­tion to using tech­nol­ogy for home­work and research, teens use tech­nol­ogy as a part of an active and com­plex social life. Of youth  12–18 years old, 78% have cell­phones and 74% are mobile inter­net users.

Family taking picture with mobile phone (iStock_000041774914)

That is not to say that there are not valid issues and con­cerns related to tech­nol­ogy. Dis­re­spect, bul­ly­ing and bias are all expe­ri­ences which still exist for youth, and tech­nol­ogy adds dif­fer­ent modal­i­ties for it to spread.  From our van­tage point,the real men­ace in our soci­ety is igno­rance and apa­thy, and adults can slay the metaphoric mon­ster with edu­ca­tion and empathy-building.

Being thought­ful, kind, using humor in good ways and devel­op­ing skills to be an effec­tive ally are all social­iz­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties and hold valu­able lessons for youth. Adults have the oppor­tu­nity to explore, learn along­side and guide youth to uti­lize tech­nol­ogy and social media sites in respect­ful and pos­i­tive ways, teach­ing youth to be an active part of cre­at­ing an inclu­sive online world as well as behav­ing in ways to keep them­selves safe.

Edu­cat­ing youth about online behav­ior is not just about “bully-proofing” them; it’s about doing your part so that your young per­son isn’t the aggres­sor or a bystander in acts of cyber cru­elty or cyber­bul­ly­ing.   Here are some ideas to cul­ti­vate online ally behav­ior for youth in your life:

  •  Adopt a pos­i­tive atti­tude about tech­nol­ogy and social media. The over­whelm­ing major­ity of youth are uti­liz­ing tech­nol­ogy in pos­i­tive ways. If you always speak neg­a­tively about this aspect of their life, you are dis­miss­ing an impor­tant aspect of their life.
  •  Show humil­ity if you are unsure about how some­thing works online. Ask ques­tions that broaden your under­stand­ing and don’t ver­bal­ize any judg­ments when you are learn­ing.  Con­sider appoint­ing or hir­ing a “youth guru” to fill you in on the lat­est and great­est apps and social media sites. Or stay con­nected with our Grown Folks Guide to Pop­u­lar Apps in Social Media.
  •  Ask more ques­tions, use lec­tures spar­ingly. For exam­ple: Why do you think some peo­ple think its ok to make jokes about someone’s race or reli­gion? What kind of place does the inter­net become if no one cares about  the words they choose?
  •  When you see biased online stereo­typ­ing, jokes, memes or videos online– dis­cuss them openly. Anti-bias edu­ca­tion with youth requires ongo­ing dis­cus­sion. You don’t have to have all of the answers, but one impor­tant les­son can be made clear: it’s not ok.
  • Reg­u­larly share exam­ples of youth stand­ing up and being allies. The mes­sage you send is “I love this behav­ior, and I want to see this from you.”
  • Teach youth that report­ing is not the same as “snitch­ing.” Many youth under­stand that hurt­ful com­ments and posts are the wrong thing to do, but many youth believe “snitch­ing” is worse. Help­ing youth to under­stand that report­ing hurt­ful com­ments, and espe­cially threat­en­ing com­ments, is an inte­gral part of cre­at­ing safe spaces online. ADL’s Cyber-Safety Action Guide can help you nav­i­gate how to report con­cerns to ser­vice providers.

For more resources on how to pre­vent and inter­vene in bul­ly­ing and cyber­bul­ly­ing, inter­net guide­lines, and infor­ma­tion on cyber­bul­ly­ing warn­ing signs– visit our Fam­i­lies and Care­giver Resources List.