posted by on Bullying, Civility, Digital Life, Kindness Counts

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November 13, 2017 is World Kindness Day which is a great time to emphasis the importance of humanity towards each other. At the same time, it’s a bit sad that we have to remind people to simply be nice to one another.

In my latest book, Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate (Sourcebooks, October 2017) we recognize that although we are living in a time of incivility both offline and especially online, it was important to give you resources of people that are making a positive impact on communities all over the globe.

The Ripple Kindness Project

Founder Lisa Currie developed this Australian-based curriculum for the very youngest of students in elementary schools. “From what I could see, traditional antibullying programs were very negative and short-lived and really didn’t leave kids with any resources for improving their thoughts, feelings, or behavior,” she says. “Our aim is to infuse children with goodness by teaching them about their emotions, having them participate in acts of kindness, and experiencing the good feelings that are produced when they do good for others. When children learn to be givers, their whole world can change.”

Here are some of Ripple Kindness’s suggested activities to
get you started:

• Give blood.
• Leave a chocolate for the cashier.
• Bake a cake for someone.
• Feed an expired parking meter.
• Pay for someone’s meal.
• Give a compliment.
• Listen to and play with children.
• Clean someone’s home.
• Clean someone’s car.
• Buy coffee for the person behind you.
• Visit someone in a nursing home.
• Take some food or clothing to a homeless person.
• Leave a note in a lunch box.
• Don’t charge someone for some work you do for them.
• Become an organ donor.
• Ask an elderly neighbor if she needs any assistance
around her home.
• Hand make cheer-up
cards and deliver them to a hospital
for patients.
• Let someone go in front of you at a checkout.
• Babysit for someone.
• If you’re an employer, allow your staff to leave an hour
early one day.

I Can Help Delete Negatively

At Excelsior Middle School in Byron, California, a fake Facebook page was created to poke fun at a teacher. Leadership teachers Matt Soeth and Kim Karr were inspired to create a program called #ICANHELP, empowering their middle school students to choose a different path and “delete negativity.” They call themselves the Positive Warriors. When, a year later, a similar page went up on Instagram mocking the same teacher, thirty kids
went in, posted supportive comments, and reported the page, which was removed within forty-five minutes.

This crusade is spreading. #ICANHELP visited more than one hundred schools across the country, hosting assemblies and organizing student leadership trainings. “I don’t tell kids what not to do, I show them what I want them to do,” Soeth says. “Modeling that expectation will breed that behavior.” One popular exercise that Soeth brings to schools is “Give a Compliment, Get a Compliment,” where students scrawl personal messages for friends on Post-it notes, filling up entire bathroom mirrors with notes like “You’re amazing,” “Smile!,” and “You’re the best version of you!” Another is “High-Five Highway,” where high school upperclassmen and staff line the halls on the first day of school, and instead of hazing new freshmen, greet them with high fives. The most popular of all is “UnSent”—if you’ve ever wanted to thank someone for something they did, but fretted that too much time had passed, UnSent Day gives you the chance to still send
that missive long past its due.

If there’s negativity online, there’s going to be negativity within the culture off the campus,” says Soeth. “We try to work with students to [help them] understand how powerful they are, in order to make good things happen.”

#NiceItForward

“Who is the most awesome person today?” asks the Facebook page “Greenwich Compliments.” And every day, it answers, peppering those who live in this posh Connecticut town with a daily hip-hip-hooray for their beautiful voice, sense of style, or willingness to lend a hand.

The idea was sparked after a 2013 suicide of a bullied teen on his first day of his sophomore year shook the entire community. Looking for a way to turn things around, the Facebook page solicits compliments about Greenwich residents, receiving up to thirty submissions daily. “It only takes a few seconds, but by submitting, you are making a conscious decision to make someone else’s day better,” says the woman behind the site, a Greenwich High School graduate who chooses to remain anonymous. “People ask if I am a police officer or a teacher. I am neither. I am just a person who grew up in Greenwich and who knows how tough life can be sometimes and who knows how awesome it is to receive a compliment and how rewarding it is to give one.”

“Privacy and anonymity are very frequently used negatively on the Internet, unfortunately,” she explains. “I like to think that Greenwich Compliments is different.”

These types of #NiceItForward accounts have popped up across the nation, some created by students themselves and others by adults. One Twitter account, @OsseoNiceThings, was created in 2012 by Kevin Curwick, then a popular high school senior at Minnesota’s Osseo High School, who began anonymously tweeting shout-outs to his classmates. The media attention sparked similar accounts all over the state and beyond, such as @ERHSnicewords, created by a student at East Ridge High School in Woodbury, Minnesota, and titled “The End to Bullying,” which now has more than forty thousand followers.

Down in Charlotte, North Carolina, one father of two had had enough with comments on Twitter bashing a sports media star he follows, so he decided to create the moniker Supportive Guy and put positivity out there. “I wondered what the counterpoint of this kind of online behavior would be,” he explains. “And I created the account [@SupportiveDude] that moment on a whim.” Since then, he has grown his following to more than fifteen hundred fans, tweeting kind remarks, and has even started the SupportiveGuy minute-long podcast. “All I’m trying to do is give people a safe haven and an online friend they can always tweet and get a response [from], maybe even a laugh. And maybe, people can see that you can get attention online without being negative. The reality is that you have a right to be on social media whenever you want to, without [the] risk of being verbally attacked.”

For more of these inspiring stories, organizations and people making a difference, order Shame Nation book today from your favorite bookstore.

posted by on Bullying, Bullying prevention, Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention

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Let’s start November off with a clear understanding that no one has to tolerate hate in any form, whether it’s online or off.

About: The first Wednesday of every November – this year, Wednesday, November 1, 2017 – will be known as National Block It Out Day (#BlockItOutDay). An initiative of STOMP Out Bullying, the goal of this day is to block negativity from our digital lives and, by doing so, end cruelty, homophobia, LGBTQ discrimination, racism, hatred and online violence.

Each of us has the power to choose what we give our attention to online. We can all choose to block out the online hatred, trolls and bullying that makes up the culture of cyberbullying. So let’s block the negative messages we each receive from social media, create a safe positive online space, and encourage and empower others to do the same.

What is Cyberbullying? Cyberbullying is when someone repeatedly and intentionally harasses, mistreats, or makes fun of another person online or while using cell phones or other electronic devices. Approximately 34% of the students surveyed by the Cyberbullying Research Center have experienced cyberbullying in their lifetimes. When asked about specific types of cyberbullying experienced in the previous 30 days, mean or hurtful comments (22.5%) and rumors spread online (20.1%) continue to be among the most commonly-cited. Twenty-six percent of the sample reported being cyberbullied in one or more of the eleven specific types reported, two or more times over the course of the previous 30 days.

National Block It Out Day is not about likes vs. dislikes. This day is about POSITIVITY!

You know who your friends are. They’re the ones who always include you. Sometimes you worry they’ll get bored of you, but somehow they never do!

And then there are the others.  People who make you feel bad. Scare you. Insult you. Threaten you.

They show up on your social channels, on your phone, on your email.  Whoever they are, wherever they came from–They gotta go! 

And the only one who can make that happen is you. Don’t let them in. If a creep came to your front door would you let them in the house? No. The same goes for the creeps all around you in cyberspace.  

You also would tell others about the creep lurking around the neighborhood, so do the same here. Pick the right people to tell. Maybe your parents. Maybe a teacher.  But certainly your friends. Somebody’s got to know because even though blocking the creep will help, blocking does not stop this person from moving on to someone else. 

So, spread the word, send texts, post, and get your friends to pass it on.  Let’s shut the bullies out. Even if for one day!!

On #BlockItOutDay, be part of the movement to STOMP Out Bullying and change the culture for good.  

Why: When it comes to cyberbullying, an “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy is an extremely effective strategy. When someone who is being harassed and trolled online, often and aggressively, continues to allow that harasser access to their social media, they willingly give their bully the power. This only allows bullying to continue. It takes bravery, but when a person blocks out their bully, they’re blocking out negative messages and creating a healthy, safe and positive online environment. When that person encourages their friends to do the same, they are leading by example and helping others create a safe space, too. When we come together in this way, we create a ripple effect that erases the spread of hate and cruelty on social media. On #BlockItOutDay, you block out more than your bully; you’re blocking out cyberbullying for all.

How it Works:  On National Block It Out Day, STOMP Out Bullying is encouraging everyone who is being bullied, trolled and mistreated online to not only block out their bully on social media, but to go a step further and encourage and empower their friends to block their own bullies as well. We can all control what we take in, and we can and should refuse to take in negative messages of hate and discrimination! We can and will erase negative messages. We can and will take that power away from our bullies.

STOMP Out Bullying is asking youths around the world from every corner of the web to block out their bullies, erase the negative messages, and create a positive, safe digital space for themselves.

STOMP Out Bullying is asking youths to encourage and empower their friends to do the same! We will create a chain reaction that will erase cruelty, homophobia, LGBTQ discrimination, racism and online hatred.

Learn more about how to block on different social platforms here.

posted by on Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Online bullying, Online reputation, Parenting Blogs, Parenting Teens, Parenting tips

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With the rise of online cruelty, cyberbullying is literally killing young people. Bullycide is now a word we are dealing with in this generation – death by humiliation.

Recently I chatted with Dr. Robyn Silverman about talking with our kids and teens about preventing and overcoming online shaming and cyberbullying. My recent book, Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate (Sourcebooks) which was just released on October 3rd, 2017, outlines surviving, preventing and overcoming digital disasters.

Take the time to listen to Dr. Robyn and myself in this #TalkToKids podcast. The more you know – the more you will be able to help your kids be safer online.

The podcast provides:

  • Tips on How to prevent online shaming. Sue provides guidelines to adhere to when posting online. Such as being mindful of what you post, learn patience, de-clutter your friends list!
  • Tips once online shaming or cyber bullying has occurred.
  • Steps to triumph in the area of online shaming.
  • How to build up and humanize your online persona.
  • How to check-in with yourself- am I representing myself in the way that is genuine and kind?

And much more!

Order Shame Nation today at your favorite bookstore.

posted by on Bullying, Civility, Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention

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Children have the right to be protected from being hurt and mistreated, physically or mentally, they have a right to privacy. We all share a collective responsibility to guarantee these rights are enforced and enable children and young people to play, learn, develop, and participate, both offline and online.

No one is immune to online harassment.

The Internet doesn’t take time off for holidays, vacations or summer breaks. In a PEW Study on Teens, Social Media and Technology , ninety-two percent of teens go online daily, with twenty-four percent saying that they are online constantly. They are spending more of their time in cyberspace than they are in the real world.

The gravity of the situation is made more obvious by a survey from Vodafone, which revealed that forty-three percent of teens believed cyberbullying was a bigger problem than drug abuse. The survey also revealed:

• Forty-one percent of teens said cyberbullying made them feel sad, helpless and depressed.
• Twenty-six percent said they felt completely alone.
• Eighteen percent said they felt suicidal.
• Twenty-one percent stay home from school due to cyberbullying
• Thirty-eight percent don’t tell their parents they are being harassed online.

The fact that many children do not tell their parents or an adult about the cyberbullying is an issue that continues to concern experts and advocates. Telling a parent is not only about reporting the bully so that steps can be taken, but it also helps preserve the child’s emotional health.

The reason kids don’t tell their parents about cyberbullying may range from fear of having their lifeline removed (being shut off from the Internet) and being ashamed of what is happening to retaliation from the bully or teasing by other kids. This is why offline parenting is so crucial to a child’s online life. Only parents can turn this statistic around.

Images speak louder than words – so please watch this video and pass it on to your friends, family and kids.

Parents: Teach your kids empathy and talk with them about their online activities.
Teachers: Help kids understand the line between funny and cruel and develop an antibullying charter/program in your school.
Kids: If you witness cyberbullying, report it and offer your support. Be an upstander.

Peer cruelty happens at all ages.  Parents need to keep in mind, while they monitoring their children, their kids will be snooping on them.   Mom and dad need to be conscience of what they are posting in social media also.  You are a social media role model.

Lead by example.

Need more information for curbing online hate? Order Shame Nation book today!

posted by on Bullying, Bullying prevention, Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention

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It’s no longer about a simple mean tweet or harsh comment, we are now dealing with verbal violence and cyber-harassment.

Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate (Sourcebooks) is finally here, make no mistake about it, we’re all a click away from digital disaster. With 92% of Americans armed with smartphones — ready to record your most embarrassing moments.

The rise of social media and “always-on connectivity” has broadened the scope of online harassment. Harassers can be anonymous and reach you 24/7, posting messages and photos that are difficult to erase. Whether in the form of cyberbullying among teens and children, or cyber harassment among adults, online harassment comes in many different forms and can lead to detrimental effects, both emotionally and physically. Fortunately, there are ways that we can protect ourselves, our children, and others from cyberbullying and cyber harassment. There are best practices for online safety, common signs to recognize if someone is being bullied or harassed, and actions we can take to respond to and report bullies or harassers.

To learn more about the different forms of online harassment and how to protect yourself and others, check out the infographic below!

More Than Mean Tweets: Protecting Against Cyberbullying and Cyber Harassment Infographic

Infographic by Digital Guardian

posted by on Bullying, Bullying prevention, Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Kindness Counts

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Girls can be mean.  Kids can be mean. Adults are no different – sadly.  No one is immune to bullying but everyone has the ability to be kind.

We have heard a lot about mean girls, almost to exhaustion, yet it doesn’t make it go away or even get better.  Girls gossip, they will berate other girls until they cry and feel like dying.

Newly released, one of my favorite authors, Katie Hurley launched  No More Mean Girls (TarcherPerigee). This book will be a game changer for parents, educators and caregivers.

Leading by example.

I still believe a lot of what goes on starts at the top.  Our kids are watching adults – parents and how they treat others.  Girls will watch their mother’s gossip and belittle other mothers, neighbors and even the neighborhood kids.  It is absolutely unacceptable.

The power of girl cliques can be deadly in schools.  Especially if your daughter is locked out of one.  Is it any different if you are a mother that isn’t included for coffee or lunch?  Or worse – is the topic of the coffee or lunch gossip.

Communication with our kids can be difficult at times, but so important. Stay engaged with your child, know who their friends are and if they are having any difficulties with peers.  Be in touch with how they are feeling.

Especially with technology today, online harassment can make your child an easier target for bullies.  Teach your child how to report abuse online and not to be afraid to tell an adult when they are being taunted. Instilling digital wisdom should be a daily routine.  Building trust is imperative to a child.  You are their advocate.

Kind Campaign is an internationally recognized movement, documentary and school program based upon the powerful belief in KINDness that brings awareness and healing to the negative and lasting effects of girl-against-girl “crime.”

Follow them on Twitter and join them on Facebook.

In my new book, Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate (Sourcebooks) we chatted with the founders of the KIND Campaign both Lauren Paul and Molly Thompson.

After watching Finding Kind, the girls are inspired to get up and publicly apologize for a misdeed, pledge to make a change, and write a note of appreciation to an acquaintance. Girls are driven to tearful confessions in the “Truth Booth” about how emotionally scarring bullying can be. “We try and leave girls with the message that [the bullying] they’re experiencing is one small, tiny chapter of their whole story,” says Molly. “It’s so hard to really grasp that there are so many amazing experiences they will have, [that] they don’t need to change themselves.”

Take the time to change a life – it always comes full circle….

Order Shame Nation today from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-Million or Indie Books.

posted by on Adult Bullying, Adult Cyberbullying, Bullying, Cyberbullying

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October is National Cyberbullying Awareness and Prevention Month. There are many forms of online cruelty.

As I continue to write about bullying and cyberbullying, it never ceases to amaze me how many different ways people have discovered to hate others — whether it is on the playground or virtually, peer cruelty doesn’t seem to have any limits or boundaries.

The irony of it is I read so much about youth bullying, and I don’t want to diminish that it is an important issue — but the fact is adults are not only victims of harassment, they can be the perpetrators too.   Yes, the very people that should be our children’s role models (sports figures, celebrities, politicians, teachers, elders, etc… people we should respect) can be the direct people that are acting like children online or otherwise.

We have heard the stories of fat shaming, face shaming, parent shaming (moms judging moms), baby shaming, cyber-shaming and this year I read more about the ugliness of slut shaming (from adults).

Most have heard and read about revenge porn.  Slut shaming (sexual bullying) is different, yet some may confuse it with porn since the word slut is a slur for girls or women that are believed to have been engaged in many sexual partners.

The UnSlut Project, founded by Emily Lindin, is about giving young girls a voice — a voice that Emily herself offers to girls across the world that are sexually bullied.  Once a victim of slut shaming, she knows she was fortunate that she decided on her darkest days – not to take her life.


Others, such as Amanda Todd and Audrie Potts, were not as fortunate.

Being bullied in any form is cruel.  Sexual bullying is only yet another form of cruelty that youth have no control over.  Like the telephone game, before you know it, the girl has slept with the entire football team or school for that matter — and has no way to defend herself.

The UnSlut Project aired their documentary “UnSlut: A Documentary Film.”  In 2013, Halifax teenager Rehtaeh Parsons took her own life after being raped and ostracized by her classmates. Through the stories of four women who overcame various sexual shaming, this film explores how we can work toward a world where the word “slut” doesn’t even make sense as an insult.

Most everyone agrees bullying and cyberbullying needs to stop.  Education and awareness it the key to prevention.  The more you know the more you are able to be part of the solution.

Emily Lindin continues to be a voice in curbing online hate and slut shaming. As an expert and contributor in my new book, Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate (Sourcebooks) she reminds young girls when she speaks with them about sharing nudes….

Emily points out that online porn is readily available, so these boys already have all the masturbatory material they could ever desire—what they are really after is power to lord over you, control you, even blackmail you. She asks young women pointedly, “Do you really want to give them that power?”

Emily’s question can equally relate to adults. Ultimately, the decision to share nude photos of yourself is yours, and yours alone, to make. And if it happens that someone out there chooses to exploit your nude photos—it’s not your fault. But, please, before sharing a nude, know the risks and take time to consider the potential consequences.

Order Shame Nation today from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-Million or Indie Books.

posted by on Cyberbullying, Online Safety, Parenting, Parenting Teens

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Today almost everyone, not only teenagers, are connected to social media.

A Pew Research Center study found that 92 percent of U.S. teenagers use social networks at least once a day, with 24 percent reporting that they are online “almost constantly.

Adults love their social media too. According to PEW Research Center study, 74 percent of adults online use social media with Facebook leading by 71 percent.

What is all this social media doing to our health?

Depending on your personality everyone handles their cyber-stress differently. Don’t kid yourself, there is cyber-stress especially when teens start depending on LIKEs for their self-image (esteem) and adults start comparing their lives to their friends lives (or what they are posting online).

Let’s keep in mind this is social media.  There will always be those humble-braggers.  Yes, people that believe they need to one-up others digitally or lead others to believe that their life is more than it actually is.  It’s frustrating since those photo’s can be deceiving, and it makes you reflect on your own life — wondering where you missed the boat.  Chances are you didn’t, they are only a perception through what they want you to believe.

It can be more of a struggle for teens.  They aren’t mature enough to understand that it’s only social media and it’s not the end of the world.

The number of LIKEs today won’t determine their future.  

Limiting social media use can cause FOMO (fear of missing out), however it is important to find the healthy balance and talking with them about their self-worth outside of the cyber-world.

One study, Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, found that teens using social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more than two hours per day are more likely to report suicidal thoughts, psychological distress and rate their mental health as poor.

This study also found that teenagers using social media for excessive periods were more likely to say their mental health needs were going unmet and called for public health organizations to do more to engage with young people via such platforms.

The study acknowledged that social media can be a way to combat loneliness and depression, as well as increase self-esteem and social support, like I have witnessed with social media therapy. Chances are this is with more mature teens or people with a better understanding of how we need to use social media.

There was a second study, How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms, found that people feel depressed after excessive use of Facebook because they tend to make negative social comparisons with friends who crop up in their timelines.  Again, you need to remember, things are not always what they seem.

There is nothing wrong with social media, it is all about finding the healthy balance and learning that there is fact and fiction.  Just because it’s online doesn’t mean it’s true.

Offline parenting is what helps your child/teenager with their online health and wellness. It’s not about one chat, it’s your daily discussions.  Check-in with them about how they are feeling about different posts, or if they are struggling with cyber-stress or anxiety.  Keep a pulse on their cyber-health offline.

posted by on Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Online Safety, Social media

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keyboard_and_mouse-625x1000Whenever I see these headlines about youth taking their lives and the word bullying or cyberbullying attached to it, I want to cringe.

The fact is, it’s sad we need headlines to remind us to continue to be kind to others, to continue to discuss with our children as well as our friends and colleagues about the importance of being an upstander when you see someone being shamed online and most importantly — it’s a reminder that this digital cruelty is not going away anytime soon.

The fact is – there is a live person on the other-side of the screen. Whether it is a smartphone, a laptop, a tablet or a PC – you have the potential to destroy someone’s life with your keypad.  Yes, keystrokes  (a click of a mouse) have become a deadly weapon at all ages – and in many cases – it’s completely legal.

In a PEW Study, researchers said that online harassment will only get worse in the next decade. Unlike finding a cure for cancer or polio, cyberbullying and digital abuse is a human behavior and it’s almost impossible to say we can control every person with a gadget.

We now live in a society where the majority of people live their lives online.  This includes grownups too.  I am firm believer that we can’t exclude parents from the way they are behaving online as well as their lack of understanding their role in educating their kids and teens on empathy, cyberbullying awareness and online safety and security.

Cyberbullying is a concern for everyone and if you believe it can’t happen to  you, you are sorely mistaken.  No one is immune to cyber-bullets – and the worse part about online shaming is it can happen when you least expect it and from a person that you thought was a friend.

We can focus on cyberbullying rising or we can empower ourselves to be upstanders for not only our family, but for others we see that are struggling online.

Parents need to make time, maybe weekly to learn something new as it pertains to online safety, security and digital leadership (this includes cyberbullying prevention and awareness).  This doesn’t replace your regular chats with your kids on cyber-life.  It can enhance it.  Some great sites to get resources from:

We turn to kids, tweens and teens who spend the majority of their time connected.  Sure I could repeat all those PEW stats, but you already know – our kids have their smartphones sewn into the palm of their hand!  This is the first thing parents need to address.

Boundaries — and this goes for parents too.  Un-stitch that phone from the palm of their hand, especially during meals and at bedtime. I shouldn’t have to mention – while driving!  The catch… that means “parents” too!

Parents have to lead by example.  It’s that simple.  (Well, not really), but it should be.

CyberMentor2So what can kids do?  Lead by example too! 

Reminding your child that someone is watching their posts, keystrokes and their comments – they are potentially someone’s mentor whether they realize it or not. It could be their younger sibling, it could be their cousin or a neighbor that looks up to them.

In a post for Gaggle, I wrote about being a Cyber-Mentor.  This is a role for all ages, and one that can benefit each party.  It can help reduce cyberbullying and help give your child a support online when they feel hopeless – they have a peer that understands them.

Yes, cyberbullying might be rising, but let’s start talking about how upstanders and kindness online is growing too.  Talking is great, but let’s start doing something.

It’s more than wearing t-shirts, wristbands or even singing songs – it’s about literally reaching out online when you see that cyber-bullet strike.  It’s about sending a message of support to that person when you see that the are being humiliated or embarrassed.  It’s about publicly saying to others – “that is wrong.”  It’s about standing up against online shaming – not only talking to others about it, but doing something about it.

Parents that assume their kids would never do that – or that their kids could never be a victim of cyberbullies, please don’t be that naive.  No one is immune.  No one.

Doing more than talking about it:

In conclusion:  Cyberbullying and online hate is on the rise.  We will combat it through empathy and kindness.   Parents and their children need to start engaging in more conversations and role playing about this important topic as well as other digital trends.  Turning the talk into action!

Eventually we will see headlines saying:  Upstanders on the Rise!

For more information on preventing, surviving and overcoming online hate, order Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate (Sourcebooks) from your favorite bookstore today.

posted by on Apps, AT&T, Back to School, Cell Phone, Cell phone safety, Distracted driving, Texting and driving

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Distracted driving is a major problem and our devices are one of the biggest culprits. According to a poll conducted by Braun Research, 95 percent of drivers polled in the survey said that they disapprove of distracted driving, however, 71 percent engage in some sort of smartphone activity while driving. It’s not easy for teens to put the phone down when they get behind the wheel; even parents struggle with distracted driving. That’s why companies such as AT&T are taking action against distracted driving. Here’s how:

360 Experience

At first you might not think that a quick glance to check your text or email is not really all that distracting. But new technology from AT&T shows just how dangerous it is. Called a 360 Experience, this virtual reality simulation shows the very real consequences of looking at a phone while you’re behind the wheel. Users can click, drag and move around to experience the simulation online or watch in Google Cardboard. The 360 Experience is a valuable tool that can show the real dangers of distracted driving and should be viewed by both parents and teens.

Take the Pledge

Parents and teens alike can join millions of other safe drivers and take the It Can Wait pledge. Those who take the pledge agree that distracted driving is never OK and that you’re never alone on the roads, even if you’re alone in your car. The pledge is simple and is something every parent should go over with their teen. It has three statements, the first being “I pledge to care for those around me and put my phone down while I am driving.” Second, “I pledge to share the message: distracted driving is never OK.” And lastly, “I pledge to be aware that I’m never alone on the road.” Teens and parents can share their pledge on Facebook and Twitter like millions of others with photos and the #ItCanWait hashtag.

Download the App

The Drive-mode app was created to minimize distractions while driving. When the free app is enabled it automatically silences incoming alerts, like texts and phone calls, so as to help drivers stay focused when they’re on the road. The app automatically turns on its functions when a car is moving at 15 mph so there’s no fuss about tapping it on or making sure that it’s set to do its job, which could create a distraction itself. Parents will also appreciate the parental alerts, including notifications when teen drivers turn off the app or if auto-mode is disabled.

Education

Safe driving starts with education. In addition to being a good example, parents, you can teach your teen driver how to be safe when behind the wheel. Did you know that in some states texting and driving is illegal? States like Texas and Missouri even have bans on texting exclusively for teens. Citations for texting and driving can even lead to higher insurance rates. And, consider that texting and driving makes you 23 percent more likely to be involved in a wreck. In fact, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported by Driving-Tests.org, 1.3 million accidents were caused by texting and driving in 2011. Next time you get behind the wheel, be a good example and put your phone away and out of sight so that you can drive distraction free.