Monday, November 30, 2009

My Perspective on Cyber Bullying for Teenagers, Teachers, Educators, and Parents

Last October 12 (2009), I got invited by fellow blogger Br. Vince Celeste of Marist School Marikina to talk about "Cyber Bullying". Here are some of the talk points I made about this topic.

1. Teens dominate Filipino Internet user population
  • 49% of the country's Internet users today are age 19 years old and below.
  • 83% hang-out in social networks
  • 63% blog
The popularity of Internet use, listening to music, mobile phone usage, and other online/offline activities shows that teenagers today multi-task and has a 5 minutes attention span.

This also allowed teenagers to have more friends and not limited to their physical neighborhood and school environment. An average online teenager has nearly a hundred friends on instant messaging tools, social networks, and in their mobile phone. (Source: MTV Circuits of Cool 2008 and MTV Music Matters 2008)

2. Social networks as hang-out
In addition to the usual face-to-face mingling with friends, teenagers appreciate what the world of social networks has to offer and have flocked sites like Facebook (and Friendster) that provides facilities such as photo sharing, profile customization, information exhange, testimonials, notes, application sharing, and tagging.

Being online today allows teenagers to:
  • Meet new people.
  • Build an identity.
  • Collaborate with others.
  • Learn.
  • Earn.
  • Discover groups that caters to a variety of interest.
  • Express oneself.
3. Teenagers can make a name for themselves online.
If used well, teenagers can also be a force online and be known. Some notable teenagers whom I have observed that used the Internet to make a name for themselves include:
  • Charice Pempengco
    Aspiring artist who reached international acclaim by joining competitions and sharing her talent via YouTube.
  • Carl Ocab
    Uses the Internet to teach people how to make money online in collaboration with his father.
  • Kevin Ray Chua
    Users the Internet to share his political perspective and take a stand for it. He played an important role in the creation of Cebu Bloggers Society.
  • Kelvin Servigon
    Shares his talent/skill through his blog.
4. Setbacks on being online
The power that one feels for being online, where you can do almost anything you want, also has consequences if not managed well. This includes:
  • Meeting people who can be a bad influence. Or you becoming a bad influence to others.
  • Attracting or giving too much attention on developments happening in your online community to the point of being abused or you being bullied.
  • Reckless uploading of photos and videos which may inflict harm or humiliation to yourself or to others.
  • Rants expressed through blog posts, forums, status messages, among others that can be misinterpreted and maybe used against you later on.
  • Nicknames and status messages whose meaning may be misinterpreted and can create a misperception about the person.
  • Posting of contact information online that may result to unwanted phone calls, text messages, e-mails, and are sometimes used by others to create fake profiles of you.
5. Rules of engagement
I think teenagers going online should make it clear to themselves basic rules of engagement and constantly checks it before things can go out of hand. Such as:
  • Opinion and feedback
    Although each one of us are entitled to our own opinion, readers can also post to express what they think. If you can dish it out, you have to be able to take the response you'll get - positive or negative.
  • Think before you post.
    Teenagers should think if what they are about to post online is something that they won't mind saying to the person or to strangers face-to-face. If it can result to trouble, will it be worth your time? Can you take accountability, ownership, and responsibility for what you are about to say online?
  • Can you admit your mistakes?
    Whenever we post an opinion online, one possibility is our actions will be analyzed and mistakes (out-of-line) being called upon. If and when that happens, will you be cool enough to admit your mistake or fight for what you believe in?
  • Be constructive and respectful.
    There is definitely nothing wrong in expressing an opinion about those around us. However, if it is something that you prefer to post online rather than discuss privately, best to communicate your concerns in a manner that is constructive and respectful. Make sure as well that you have done your due diligence rather than appear as reckless.
  • You have the right not to be harassed.
    Therefore you can take action against those who does such to you and this can be explored suing legal means (among others). Do not hesitate to ask for help, especially from cyber-savvy elders in your school or family, before things blow out of proportion.
  • Expectations from friends
    Just because they are your friends, you can't assume that they will pick up the battles you are into. True friendship should prompt us to care more about our relationships rather than engage in activities that will endanger it. Friendship that grows and mature are those that foster mutual respect, tolerance, and understanding.

    Just the same, especially for girls, if you receive a gossip that your friend said something bad about you, don't just go online and make "parinig" through your status update. Best to catch up and clear the air. Always prioritize in saving your friendship for there are things that once said publicly, can't be taken back easily.
Parents and educators needs to learn social networking in order to be capable in supporting teenagers today. You are encouraged to:
  • Be updated
    Familiarize yourself with social networks and other sites frequently visited by teenagers today. Read up on the terms of service especially on "abuse" related policies. Connect with online groups and individuals who can provide advise and help later on.
  • Respect individuality and privacy
    We will see a lot of content being posted online by our kids and it is best to stay on the background rather than be intrusive.
  • Give advise and discuss social network abuses
    For instance, if you see other kids bullying your kid on their Facebook wall or accusing them of wrong doing or resorting to name calling, tell them to delete such as it may create a negative impression on them (even if those are just jokes). Teach your kid how to disable status message posting on their wall so that they can perform such action when the need for it comes.

    There are many stories published online about teen issues on social networks such as handling of relationship break-ups, friends arguing and threatening each other, posting of humiliating pictures, among others. Talk to them and ask what they would do in case something like that happens.