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March 30: Stop CyberBullying Day

Posted by Miranda on March 30, 2007

The news about death threats against blogger Kathy Sierra’made the rounds of the news the other day, inspiring Andy Carvin to dub Friday: March 30th, Stop Cyberbullying Day.
What happened to Kathy Sierra is an extreme example of something that happens every day.
There is something about being able to be anonymous that brings out the worst in some human beings. As someone who has participated in online discussions for a few years now, I’ve seen it and to a lesser extent, experienced it.

And I’ve also stood by and let it happen. I am ashamed to say so, but I have.

Some years ago in a forum I frequent, a woman I know, a woman I have met face to face and like very much was the target of a cyberbully. This person posted anonymously, using foul and sexually charged language and the woman I called friend was the target. I believed, at the time, that the best way to handle it was to ignore it. Others on the same forum did not ignore it. It only seemed to make the anonymous poster even more foul.

What was the right thing to do in such a case? I don’t know.

If I had responded to the bully, if I had defended my friend, I still believe today that it would not have stopped the posts. Indeed, as I said, responses only seemed to make things worse.

But I also know that today, years later, saying nothing was not the right thing to do either. I know this because I feel it, I feel wrong. I also know that years later that case of cyberbullying still hurts my friend, and it hurts her that I did not speak up to defend her. I was wrong.

I do not believe we can teach an adult cyberbully better ways of interacting. I do not believe we can teach an adult to treat other human beings the way they themselves (I believe) would like to be treated, with respect.

But we can teach children. And we can speak up, not remain silent, not stand by and do nothing.

Some resources and informational sites on cyberbullying:

Cyberbullying Network

WebAware-Challenging Cyberbullying

STOP cyberbullying: Cyberbullying – what it is, how it works and how to understand and deal with cyberbullies

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