Bullying and the power of social media

Bullying and the power of social media

According to KidsHealth.org cyberbullying involves the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. In the last few years we’ve seen a huge increase in the frequency and severity of bullying and many people agree that the rise of social media has had an impact on the increase in bullying. A recent report from Kids Help Phone suggests that it is easier to say something mean to another person on the computer as opposed to doing so face to face.

According to the Kids Help Phone report:

  • 65% of kids surveyed by Kids Help Phone admit to being cyber bullied at least once
  • People are most frequently bullied on social media platforms followed by text messages
  • Many people feel that reporting cyberbullying is ineffective. When it is reported, 65% of respondents said they would tell a friend rather than a parent or teacher

Reports of cyberbullying certainly vary as they rely on victims to report abuse. Here are a few other cyberbullying stats from Stop A Bully:

  • The most common form of bullying reported is name calling and insults (63.5%)
  • 41% of victims reported that the bullying lasted “for months”
  • 44% of victims reported that the incident was witnessed “by a few people”

What can we do to make a difference? Social media and other technologies seem to be a part of the problem, but could they also provide a solution?

The power of technology 

While bullying is made easier by social media and other technologies, we must remember that these same tools also give us a platform to stand up and make a positive change: Katy Butler, a teen from the US, used socail media and the online petition platform change.org* to voice her opinion and make a difference.

By now, I’m sure we’re all familiar with the documentary film Bully. When it was initially released, the film was given a Restricted Rating, which meant it would not be seen by those who needed to see it the most. Katy decided to petition the Motion Picture Association of America to change this rating. Here is a snippet from Katy’s petition:

This film has the potential to change the world and change the culture of violence in many schools. But your decision to give this movie an R means that the people who need to see this movie the most — teenagers who are either bullying their peers or suffering from violence and torment at the hands of bullies — won’t get to see this film. Nor will this film be allowed to be shown at middle schools and high schools in this country.

Please reconsider your decision to give Bully an R and give it a PG-13 instead.

Katy had a problem with the rating of this film, and thanks to her passion and the power of social media–as well as online platforms like change.org–she was able to do something about it. It was announced on change.org

“Bully” will receive a “PG-13” rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) after more than 500,000 people — including 35 members of Congress and celebrities like Ellen Degeneres and Meryl Streep — joined a Michigan high schooler’s campaign on Change.org. 

From the change.org platform alone, Katy’s petition received

  • 523,467 signatures
  • 81,000 Facebook likes
  • 5,353 tweets

Not to mention the millions reached by media coverage and other online outreach. According to The Bully Projectthe film has now been shown to more than a million kids, educators and advocates.

How can you make a difference?

We need to teach teens about the power of social media and how it can be used to make a positive change in the world. Social media can empower and educate, but it can also be used to bring others down. This week is Bully Awareness Week in Canada, and there’s a lot you can do to get involved. Check out this website for links, resources and events and do your part to stand up for victims of bullying both on and offline.

What do you think we can do stop cyberbullying? Tell us in the comments below. 

*We’ve also written about change.org here.

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