Her anti-bullying message comes at a perfect time -- October is National Bullying Prevention Month and recent events like this one have spotlighted the issues of hurtful comments that take place online.
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Dennis Shaw, chief operation officer of i-SAFE, the leading publisher of online safety curriculum for grades pre-K-12, tells Mashable social media has shown to both help and hurt victims of cyberbullying. But what happened to the anchorwoman wasn't by definition bullying, he says.
"I don't think that the man who wrote the letter and sent it to her is a bully," he explained "He insulted her. He's probably not a gentleman, but unless he sent persistant emails to her, that is a bully."
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Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D., at the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, tells Mashable the definition of "bullying" is not so clear anymore.
"The traditional definition focuses on repeated, intentional hurtful behavior where there is an imbalance of power," she said. "One of the things we have been seeing in recent years, and this appears to be related to the greater evidence of hurtful behavior, is a broadening of the definition. At this point both cyberbullying and bullying are terms that are being used to cover a wide range of hurtful behavior."
For instance, remember the bus driver who was bullied by students? The video was posted to YouTube and had to contend with more cruel comments there. However, once the video went viral, she received an outpouring of support as a result of social media and later nearly $800,000 in donations.
Social media spotlights bullying and helps build awareness, Willard said.
"Bullying is socially motivated," she said. "Bullying using social media is socially motivated on steroids. The primary intent is not to hurt someone - it is to attract attention, a play for the audience. So what we have to do is get to the audience. Turn those 'Like' buttons into 'Dislike' buttons."
One study shows that 9 out of 10 teens say they've witnessed bullying on social media. Another showed that 92 percent of teens say cyberbullying takes place on Facebook. Although other studies say in-person bullying is far more common. Either way, it appears to be a problem online, which presents new dangers that the playground doesn't have -- the security of anonymity for bullies. In fact, a recent Wall Street Journal article details how being anonymous, or even not being face-to-face with people, makes some people much more apt to say hurtful things.
The main thing young people can do to keep the interwebs bully-free is to simply "think before they click," Shaw said.
"What we first begin teaching students beginning in Kindergarten is how to be good, responsible Internet citizens," he said. "We say, look, the online community is very real and just because you can't see someone or they can't see you doesn't mean you're at liberty to say hurtful things."
The site StopBullying offers these tips and advice to parents to prevent and report cyberbullying.
- Be aware of your kid's online behaviors, and "friend" and "follow" them on social media.
- Ask for passwords in case of emergencies.
- Encourage your kids to tell you if they, or someone they know is being cyberbullied.
- Don't ignore it. Don’t think kids can work it out without adult help.
- If you think your child is a bully, be sure to talk to them about appropriate behavior and set a good example.
The site says if you are being cyberbullied, first thing: don't respond. Keep records of all messages, emails and conversations, and block the person. To report them, visit the "terms and services" section of the social media site you're on to see if the bully's actions are against the policy. If they are, you can report them to the site. If the bully has threatened violence of any kind, you should report them to law enforcement.
Is bullying increasing? Maybe not. Willard says, "More hurtful actions are being called bullying - and the hurtful behavior is more visible." The plus side of this, Willard says, is that her and others in her profession are seeing "more resilient responses and greater positive interventions by others."
She says that examining what it means to be a bully -- as well as the man who insulted Livingston -- will shed light on all types of cruel and aggressive online behavior whether it falls into the cyberbulling category or not.
Do you think social media can put a stop to bullying or does it help make it easier for bullies to harass people? Share your thoughts in the comments.
This story originally published on Mashable here.
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