Developing Upstanders in a Digital World

This past Wednesday, I was fortunate enough to co-facilitate a Day of Pink event for local school division. We invited approximately 100+ elementary students (mostly 7th graders) to participate. The themes included (digital) citizenship, (digital) identity, anti-bullying, and becoming an upstander (someone who stands up to support the protection, safety, and wise decision-making of others).

We shared a number of scenarios with the children to help them discuss the importance of empathy and responsibility for others. Some of the topics can be seen as controversial but are increasingly characteristic of the realities that children face today. One particularly authentic and timely scenario that was shared was the recent #cuttingforzayn hashtag which explicitly encouraged self-harm. This hashtag originated as a result of Zayn Malik quitting One Direction.

This morning, I received these messages via Twitter:

Twitter Messages - Upstanders

It takes a lot of courage for a child to stand up for another. And I would be naive to think that this act resulted simply from our event. Good parenting, positive role models (including teachers), and life-long experiences encouraging empathy allow kids to do the right thing and to make the world better for themselves and for others. Self-harm, suicide, bullying, and other similar issues are difficult to discuss with preteens and teens. Yet, as illustrated by this example, these conversations are necessary and can make a significant difference in the life of a child.

So please have those difficult conversations with your children or your students and continue to try your best to understand the complex world faced by our kids. Our digital world not only includes the problems and pressures that we had as children, but has also expanded to include a complex web of global and social influences that can pose seemingly unpredictable challenges. Events like this may prove to be a catalyst for change, but not without consistent encouragement and positive growth from home and school.


Cyberbullying Video “Let’s Fight It Together”

I just finished watching the “Let’s Fight It Together” cyberbullying video found at The video is of great technical quality, and is well done. It demonstrates several ways that cyberbullying can occur (e.g., via text messaging, webpages, telephone, etc.) which is important information for students, parents, teachers and administrators.

However, the video leaves me with two (related) assumptions that I don’t entirely agree with, and I want to touch on these briefly.
1) Cyberbullying is simple to deal with.
2) Policing is a solution for cyberbullying.

The overall picture this video paints is a bit too rosy. A responsible parents acts, goes to school, talks to administrators and teachers, police are involved and then we assume that the bullies are dealt with, and other students are aware of the consequences of cyberbullying. In reality, even if these processes are put into place, cyberbullying may continue and the bullied student may become even more alienated. I’d like to see a video that places emphasis on creating a learning environment where cyberbullying is unlikely to happen, rather than focusing on what to do after the fact. Maybe I am just an idealist.