All of this is in response to the abuse and cyberthreats that blogger Kathy Sierra apparently suffered from some anonymous people on the web.
Many other bloggers, like political blogger Michelle Malkin, rushed in to talk about their own experience of being threatened and bullied and was somewhat critical of Kathy’s post about it. The detractors message essentially was, “Hey, bullying is as old as time and others have been bullied and threatened with their lives before. While we feel for Kathy, what makes her situation so special?”
However, I think that Kathy’s plight was very effective in shedding light on this major problem that goes well beyond bloggers and is especially pervasive among young people. If Kathy’s situation can shed some light on this problem, then more power to her!
Last September, ABC News, ran a piece called, How Mean Can Teens Be, outlining how teens are using webcams, text messaging, personal websites (such as those on MySpace) and other Internet tools to humiliate each other. One story tells how some girls use their cell cameras to film those they don’t like changing in the gym locker room, and then post the videos to their sites.
Some kids, like Ryan Halligan, even commit suicide over the distress they feel from cyberbullying. And the kid who was filmed doing star wars maneuvers from Star Wars, which were subsequently posted unbeknownst to him on YouTube, is suing his tormentors.
Jeff Godlis, director of communication for iSafe, a foundation working to help young people become more responsible on the Internet, spoke to me today and put it this way. “If the blogger [Kathy] that you are talking about was so devastated by this, think what a 13-year-old kids feels when he see his picture with the noose.”
His organization, which also conducts surveys of kids about this issue, show that 22% of students (grade 5 through 12) know someone who has been bullied online and 19% of students admit to saying something hurtful to others online.
Another good resource is the website Cyberbullying, which has a pdf parents guide with some heart-wrenching stories.
My friend, and fellow blogger, Andrea Weckerle talks about it in her post The Online Disinhibition Effect, and I wrote about the overall problem with online anonymity in October of last year. In short, my thesis is that anonymity allows people to be mean to each other without fear of social consequences.
Let’s hope that Kathy’s post, and all of the hullabaloo around it, causes each of us to tolerate this kind of behavior less. Even quasi-anonymous status sometimes puts a cloak around people’s normal socialized behavior – think of your drive to work this morning.
If you are a parent, ask your kids what the meanest thing someone has done to them online and get involved in their education about online behavior. In addition to iSafe and Cyberbullying, our local school system has some great online tips and links about cyberbullying for parents that can be used wherever you might live.
What are some of the tips you might have for minimizing cyberbullying for kids and bloggers?