Are the Kardashians to blame for America’s cyberbullying problem?
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Online feuds played out between celebrities consistently grab headlines. The Kardashians are notorious for engaging in arguments for public consumption, with one of the more recent quarrels between Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift dubbed as the biggest celebrity feud of 2016.
While the Kardashians can only gain further fame by poking and provoking their "enemies," it would be easy to conclude that it's at the expense of promoting the biggest teen threat of this age: cyberbullying.
In this particular spat, Kim Kardashian accused Swift of lying about approving a certain song lyric in her husband Kayne West's latest song release, titled "Famous." West said Swift gave him her blessing, while Swift said the opposite. Kim came to her husband's defense by posting a recording online that was said to be Swift offering her approval.
The trio engaged in a social media war with millions of followers joining in on the vendetta, drawing lines in the sand. The tweets back and forth got vile quickly, based entirely on something that had relatively little impact on their lives.
While the celebrities garnished the desired publicity, their behavior encourages those not in the limelight to sling mud at people who are basically strangers — knowing nothing more than their Twitter handle.
According the latest research, this digital aggression has not even reached its pinnacle, but rather increasing significantly year after year. Both and parents and educators alike are constantly seeking solutions to make students aware that their online actions have consequences — despite the false popularity their celebrity idols seem to promote.
Tara Noftsier, VP of Strategy and Education at Bark, an internet safety tool for parents to monitor their children's mobile activity, suggests educators and parents must work as a cohesive unit to give children a full understanding of the effect their cyberactions.
"Teens and tweens often go to their peers for information on topics, and it is not always accurate," Noftsier said. "And while schools are developing programs to prevent bullying, they often do not always have the resources or tools to get to the heart of the matter. Communication around these issues truly needs to be ongoing within the entire community. Schools and parents need to be partners in helping children understand how their online actions have consequences."
According to a study done by McAfee, 87 percent of youth had witnessed cyberbullying in 2014 versus just 27 percent in 2013. Despite the old adage, "sticks and stones my break bones, but words will never hurt me," words are definitely doing damage in cyberspace — and the silent threat is becoming widespread.
The study concluded that the effects of cyberbullying go well beyond the name-calling, and have significant impact on children's self-esteem and well-being. The study found 50 percent of youth have been involved in an argument because of something posted on social media.
Noftsier concludes that celebrities are not all to blame — and some have even done the opposite, starting public conversations surrounding the issue in addition to promoting awareness.
"I think more celebrities are actually calling out people who are cyberbullying," she said. "Some celebrities realize the impact that they can have on these issues because they have a public voice and are role models."
The conversation surrounding the cruel behavior is just beginning, and it is up to parents and educators alike to have continual dialogue both inside and outside the classroom. Noftsier further offered her tips for approaching students who have engaged in cyberbullying or have been on the receiving end.
- Discuss cyberbullying with your students and share information encouraging them not to participate in these activities and to report the issue to a trusted adult. Remind students that the school has policies in place to address this issue and that they can consider their teacher to be a support if they experience any cyberbullying on school grounds.
- With any child who is being accused of being the bully, connect with the parents and approach the issue with compassion and empathy to understand where the behavior stems from. Help find ways address those underlying issues.
- If you witness cyberbullying, take steps to stop it immediately while remaining respectful to the students involved. Separate the children involved, and listen without blaming.
- Involve the school administration and do not assume that the situation will resolve on its own. Parents of children involved should be notified when an event happens at school.
- Help children understand cyberbullying — both being a target and being the aggressor. Ask them what they think might constitute bullying behavior, or if they or someone they know has ever felt like they have been a victim of bullying. It's a great opportunity to start an open dialogue with your child, so come armed with information, but be prepared to listen, too.
- Set guidelines and best practices. A good rule of thumb to discuss with your children is to not put anything online that they wouldn't want their family and peers to see. Another way to put it: If you wouldn't say it in person, it's probably not a good idea to post online. It's important to be thoughtful and courteous when engaging online, so help your children understand that they shouldn't send something out of anger without thinking about the implications.
- Make sure your children know how to set good passwords and are familiar with privacy and blocking features so they can take immediate steps to address any cyberbullying if it happens.
- Be alert to these issues and reassure your child that you're part of their support system. Try to remain calm and understanding when dealing with these issues. It's often difficult for targets of cyberbullying to discuss with others, so reinforcing you're there for them is really important.
- Figure out the response. If your child is a victim of cyberbullying or you want to equip them with the tools should they find themselves a victim, it's important that they know how to respond. Teach them to not engage the bully. Hold onto any text or message that contains threatening or hurtful remarks; this is evidence and should be reported. They can, and should, report these instances to you, a teacher or any trusted adult.
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