posted by on Bullying, Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention

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It’s been over a decade since I received my online Scarlet Letter that nearly destroyed my career and emotional well-being. Until you become a victim of online harassment or abuse, it’s difficult to understand the darkness, loneliness and fear that you can feel. Being humiliated to death is not a joke — it’s sadly a reality when we read the headlines of many youth today. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Finding Online Support

A decade ago, there were few resources for those suffering online harassment, but today, there are many groups providing help to victims of digital attacks, from harnessing simple messages of support to full-on legal aid. When Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas received hate tweets during the 2016 Olympics over her hair and even her lack of a smile, a Twitter campaign—started by Leslie Jones—sprung up with the hashtag #Love4GabbyUSA, to rally support from a herd of fellow celebs. Everyone from Shonda Rhimes to Monica Lewinsky jumped in to bolster the gold medalist.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a high-profile friend who could do the same for you?

Enter HeartMob. The online platform was started by Hollaback so that individuals being harassed online can create a report and, within an instant, rally teams of people who send messages like “Stay strong!,” “I’m with you,” “We have your back,” and “You are not alone!”

The Cybersmile Foundation , an anti-bullying nonprofit founded in 2010, offers Total Access Support, where trained advisers give guidance to those being cyber-harassed. “We help thousands of people each year,” says co-founder Dan Raisbeck. “Our trained advisor teams work around the clock answering inquiries from all over the world. Our advisors are mostly made up of volunteers who want to help others or offer their time in some way.”

Online SOS is a California start-up that provides free legal referrals and counseling services to people suffering online harassment. Co-founder Samantha Silverberg, a licensed clinician, began it in 2016 with a pilot program helping thirty victims, and she aims to have a therapist and a legal resource established in all fifty states.

Cyber Civil Rights Initiative. Are you a victim of revenge porn? The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative has created an excellent “Online Removal Guide,” which offers step-by-step instructions for requesting unauthorized images or videos to be removed from sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter,Reddit, Tumblr, Yahoo, Google, and Bing.

Crisis Text Line is a nonprofit that provides free, twenty-four-hour therapeutic assistance for victims in need of support, handling issues from depression to bullying (if you’re in crisis,text START to 741741). In March 2017, it was announced that Crisis Text Line was joining forces with Facebook. “We want to be wherever people are in crisis,” said Nancy Lublin, Crisis Text Line CEO, in a prepared statement. “And we’ll continue to be on the leading edge of technology, supporting people everywhere they are.”

The STOMP Out Bullying™ HelpChat Line is a free and confidential online chat that helps youth ages 13-24 ONLY with issues around bullying and cyberbullying; as well as providing support to youths who may be at risk of suicide.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

For more resources, advice and tips on surviving, preventing and overcoming cyberbullying, order Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate (Sourcebooks 2017).

posted by on Internet Privacy, Internet Safety, Online Privacy, Online reputation, Online Safety

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Since 2004 we’ve been recognizing Safer Internet Day as an initiative of the European Union.

The 2018 theme, “Create, connect and share respect: A better internet starts with you” is a call to action for every stakeholder to play their part in creating a better internet for everyone, in particular the youngest users out there.

In my latest book, Shame Nation: Choosing Kindness and Compassion In An Age of Cruelty and Trolling (Sourcebooks, October 2017) we interviewed contributors and experts from around the globe that shared their stories of digital disasters, some were victims of invasion of privacy and some fell prey to online hate.

One college student’s nightmare is a lesson we can all learn from (an excerpt from Shame Nation):

Around the time of the protests following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, one twenty-year-old criminal-justice student in New York discovered that several racist slurs had appeared on her Facebook page. The trouble was, she hadn’t posted them. Still, they had been reposted to a Tumblr page called “Racists Getting Fired,” devoted to exposing alleged racists to their employers, and the rest of the world. The AMC movie theater where she worked started getting calls from people branding her a racist and demanding that she be fired.

Eventually, the true story was revealed: her page had been hacked by her ex-boyfriend, a Miami man who wrote the slurs to set her up, most likely by logging into her account. “I said none of those horrible words of hatred and racism,” she hurriedly wrote on her Facebook page. “Anyone who knows me, knows I would never in my entire life say anything like that.”

Sadly, it’s not just virtual strangers who can come along and humiliate you. It can also be someone who knows you better than anyone else. Friends today may be foes tomorrow. It’s better to never share your passwords with others, no matter how much you want to trust them. Even your boyfriend? I’d say, especially your boyfriend. As many women have learned with revenge porn, betrayal by a former partner is not uncommon. Also, don’t leave a public computer logged in to a social media site, giving access to someone unsavory looking to make comments via your profile. Have you ever left your phone unattended? Near a friend who has your passcode and a twisted sense of humor? That’s an oops moment you don’t want to have. Lock ’em up, your phone and your other gadgets. Those few free minutes occupied by someone else’s keystrokes could create years of scrubbing your digital landscape.

The takeaway: Never share your passwords, and change them frequently.

Staying safe online start with making good decisions offline.

  1. Create strong passwords.
  2. Don’t share personal or sensitive information.
  3. If you wouldn’t say it offline, don’t type it online.
  4. Quality over quantity. (Surround yourself with people you respect).
  5. Lead by example.

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

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We’re barely into 2018 when we’ve already have had several headlines of youth taking their lives from cyber-humiliation – across the country and the globe:

Dolly Everett of Australia, Sarah Ullman of California and Gabriella Green of Florida.

Young girls that were bullied online and didn’t feel they had a way out. The term bullycide has now been defined to describe these young people that become so emotionally distressed by (online and offline) harassment/bullying that they commit suicide.

Are girls getting meaner?

One parent who knew Dolly Everett and her family shared how his daughter was also victim of online bullying. According to Daily Telegraph, this father said his 15-year-old daughter Katelyn had been bullied relentlessly via Snapchat for years.

He posted a photo on Facebook of one of the horrible messages he said Katelyn regularly receives.

“Why don’t you just go cut your wrist until you bleed out,” the message said.

“You’ll do everyone a favour. Go do what dolly did it should’ve been you not her”.

Katie Hurley, author of the new bestselling book, No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong Confident and Compassion Girls (Penguin, January 2018) encourages parents to talk to their daughter’s about relational aggression.

In No More Mean Girls, Katie Hurley stresses the importance of starting these conversations early:

“Define words like gossip, teasing, taunting, public humiliation, excluding, cliques or groups, and cyberbullying (yes, even if your child “never has screen time” and “has no chance of getting a phone anytime soon.”) Avoiding these topics will only keep your daughter in the dark and render her powerless when she does confront them. Educating her and talking about positive alternatives empowers her and prepares her.” – Katie Hurley, No More Mean Girls (Penguin, January 2018)

Short chats are better than long chats

As a family cyber-advocate for over a decade, I’ve encouraged parents to talk to their kids offline about online safety. This is not the sex talk, this is the tech chat. In reality, these are so much easier and can be fun. The one hiccup is — they have to be as regular as, how was your day at school.

We all know that communication is key to help keep our kids safe, both online and off — but at the same time, we understand that talking to our teens (especially) can be a struggle. Maybe we can only squeeze in five – ten minutes at a time, which is better than nothing, especially if it’s on a regular basis.

  • Driving to school, a sporting event, dropping them off at a friend’s house etc. Anytime your “side-by-side” with your child in a car is a great time to connect with them.
  • Coffee shops, ice cream parlors (or smoothies) – Enjoy a treat with them – and talk tech. Teens love their technology – and in reality, they do want you to be interested in their online life.
  • Family dinners – We know parents try, but even if you can do this once or twice a week, make it a habit to ask about everyone’s cyber-life. Any new apps? Websites or virtual friends? Most importantly – have they witnessed any online hate – and what do they do about it?

Yes – talk about what to do when they read people being hurt online. Recently a young teen won a contest for his video on helping bystanders become upstanders. In my interview with him, he shared how he was once a victim of bullying — and didn’t share it with with parents, but wished he had. His video, Leave A Message, is an empowering three minutes you need to share with your child.

Parents, you need to be more involved and interested in your teen’s cyber-life. It truly matters.

Learn more about how to help your child build digital resilience.

Understand why some kids aren’t talking to their parents when they are suffering with digital hate, and try to reassure your teen that no matter what, you are there for them without judgement.

Book chats with teens can truly open up dialogue. My recent book, Shame Nation: Choosing Kindness and Compassion In An Age of Cruelty and Trolling (Sourcebooks, Oct 2017) offers a discussion guide that can help you start a conversation with your teenager. Shame Nation is for teens and parents alike to read.

Let’s not wait for your name or a friend or family to become a headline – start your chats today.


posted by on Books, Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Cybersafety, Online reputation, Online Safety

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In 2017 parents revealed that both cyberbullying/bullying and internet safety was their top health concern for their teens (and kids) according to a survey by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll.

Communication is key

Most parents know that starting a conversation with a teenager can sometimes be challenging, yet in every article we read and every expert that speaks about online safety will share with us, you must have open lines of communication with your child offline about their digital lives.

I’m not disputing any of this, only giving you another way to introduce your dialogue.

I always tell parents that we need to ask our teens, on daily basis, what’s new in their cyber-lives. It’s just as crucial as how their school day was. In reality, their virtual life is as real to them as their offline lives.

Finding common ground

I became a cyber-advocate because I was a victim of cyberbullying and online shame as an adult. I know the emotional pain of being taken down by vicious cyber-bullets.

While building myself back up not only virtually, through redefining my online reputation, I had to learn to regain trust in people and find my voice again. This isn’t easy, however during my darkest hours I read some of the most devastating headlines. People that don’t make it out.

Tyler Clementi, Amanda Todd, Rebecca Sedwick, Audrie Pott, Megan Meier and many others.

This empowered me. These young people didn’t understand that it would get better. As an adult, I had dark thoughts, but knew eventually there would be light at the end — there’s always hope. These kids, sadly, didn’t have that maturity yet.

After writing my second book, Google Bomb (HCI, 2009) which documented how I won my landmark court case for Internet defamation and invasion of privacy, I found myself years later still receiving emails from people being shamed and harassed online. The numbers were growing exponentially.

Shame Nation is born

By 2014 I knew it was time. Over a decade later, people were still asking for how I survived being nearly destroyed in 2003. Sadly, this disease of cruelty to others isn’t going away — it’s a human disaster, created by mankind and needs to be addressed by us.

All my journals, note pads combined with firsthand stories from people that have been victims of cyber-humiliation and digital debacles was where I would start. In addition, I was fortunate to have a team of esteemed colleagues that supported this venture and offered their expertise.

My goal was that Shame Nation include not only teens, but adults (parents) too. We needed a book that everyone could relate to. Proudly, that’s exactly what we have.

Let’s talk digital wisdom

Shame Nation has a special offer on Amazon. Isn’t it time for you and your teen to have a copy and discuss:

  • Preventing digital disasters •
  • Defending your online reputation •
  • Building digital resilience •
  • Reclaiming online civility

We also offer book discussion you can have with your teen or a book club:

1. From body shaming to baby shaming, we have all witnessed the rise of incivility in our country today. Do you agree where online shaming has become the norm?

2. One study said that 28% of Americans have engaged in posting malicious comments to people they didn’t know. Why do people believe they can hide behind a screen? Have you ever left a mean or unflattering comment about a stranger, or even created a fake account to post an anonymous comment?

3. Some 70% of employers say they now review social media feeds before interviewing candidates, and 35% of college recruiters check the online profile of student applicants. From the Harvard students having their acceptances being revoked to Juli Briskman losing her job due to violating social media policy, will you think twice before you post?

4. Many of the digital disasters covered in “Shame Nation” resulted from victims’ own ill-advised posts. What are some changes you will make to help prevent yourself from making a similar cyber-blunder?

5. Shaming is not just an online phenomenon. With 92% of Americans owning cell phones with cameras, the chance of an “oops” moment going viral is higher than ever. Will you change your behavior when out and about as a result? How likely are you to video a stranger that is acting out in a public place? Do you think it is acceptable to share that online without permission?

6. After reading about nonconsensual porn victims like Annmarie Chiarini and the Duxbury High School girls, would you consider sending a sext to your significant other? What would you tell your teenager if s/he brought it up? Is it different for adults and teens to do? Married couples vs. dating? Why?

7. According to studies, women tend to report online harassment more than men. How do you think gender plays into online shaming? What strategies could women use to avoid being victimized?

8. Celebrities from Lady Gaga to Kelly Clarkson tend to be high-profile targets for online shaming. Do you believe this is just the cost of fame, and they have no right to complain?

9. Chapter Seven covers several different possible responses to online trolls, from responding with empathy to flouncing. How do you think you would choose to react if you ever experienced online harassment? What are the pros and cons of the different methods?

10. “Sharenting,” sharing images of one’s children online, has become commonplace among this generation of parents. As these children come of age, should minors have some say over what their parents can post about them without their consent?

11. Digital literacy has been proven to reduce cyberbullying and online harassment and help with critical thinking skills. Should schools be more active in implementing or mandating digital literacy classes?

12. It’s proven: empathy combats cruelty, and “upstanders” can make a difference. What will you do the next time you witness online hate?

Special offer on Amazon.

posted by on Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Digital Parenting, Online bullying, Online harassment, Online Safety

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In 2017 we heard a lot about digital resilience, but do we understand what it is?

Helping our teens be ready for online hate and digital discourse offline can better prepare them when they are faced with it. Reality is that incivility exists – sadly this is a human behavior that we don’t have control over, but we can choose how we handle it.

Today our kids consider their digital life as important as their lives offline, so it’s important to give them as much knowledge and encouragement to know they are not alone when they are faced with cyber-hate.

5 ways to build digital resilience

  1. Prepare them for the ugly side of the Internet or possibly being upset by what people say. Remind them it could be inappropriate content that slips through filters. Being forewarned is being forearmed.
  2. Show them how to block individuals, flag and report abusive content, and when to report incidents. Emphasize the importance of telling someone “in real life.”
  3. Show your teen how easily digital pictures can be manipulated. The realization that not everything is what it seems is a useful first step – understanding that life is not as perfect as it may seem virtually. Teens may be familiar with the digital world but less familiar with the motivations for creating ‘fake’ images.
  4. Help them to think through the possible consequences of what they post online. Remind them that there is no rewind, once it’s posted it’s nearly impossible to take back. Fifteen minutes of humor is not worth a lifetime of humiliation.
  5. Encourage your teen to socialize in person with their friends. Communicating solely behind a screen can be isolating. Socializing in person builds more face-to-face contact in helping your child have empathy and compassion towards people.

As we know communication is key with your teenager, yet can also be challenging. Have you considered book chats?  My latest book, Shame Nation: Choosing Kindness and Compassion in an Age of Cruelty and Trolling (Sourcebooks, October 2017) was written for both teens and parents and perfect for discussions on digital wisdom, cyberbullying and making good cyber-decisions.

Amazon has a special offer on Shame Nation – buy a few copies, we have a book discussion guide to help you get started.

Together we can start curbing this culture of cruelty and bring it to a civil nation.

posted by on Cyberbullying, Online bullying, Online reputation, Online Safety, Reputation Management

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What is digital shaming?

Digital shaming is a being electronically attacked online – similar to cyberbullying with a goal to humiliate, embarrass, spread lies or twisted truths about a person – it can literally destroy people’s lives – financially and emotionally.

This is exactly what happened to me back in 2003 when I received my Scarlet Letter of cyber-humiliation. In those times, online reputation management (ORM) was unheard of, and social media networking was yet to be part of the virtual landscape. The survival rate of being digitally shamed in the early days of the Internet were very slim.

I was one of the lucky ones 

Being able to hire an attorney, sue for Internet defamation and invasion of privacy, in 2006 I won a landmark case in Florida when a jury awarded me $11.3M verdict for the damages that were done to my organization and myself online.

By 2006 when I won my case, I was both financially and emotionally crippled. What should have been a celebration was short-lived when I realized that although Lady Justice cleared my name, the Internet never forgives or forgets.

Fortunately for me, the first reputation management company opened their doors that summer and I was one of their first clients. I have and continue to say in all my speeches and writings, my attorney vindicated me, however it was ReputationDefender that gave me my life back.

The old saying, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression is no longer related to a handshake or your in-person interview — it’s your digital resume that people will usually judge you on before ever meeting you in person.

CareerBuilders survey’s every year has shown an increase of employers that are discarding potential applicants due to their social media content and behavior. Going offline is not the answer – since these same survey’s also reveal that company’s won’t hire you if they can’t find you online.

The impact of online shaming

From owning a business or building your career, the fact is if you’re a victim of cyber-shame it can damage your financial future dramatically.

People don’t take the time to decipher Internet fact from Internet fiction, they will simply move on to the next doctor, lawyer or piano teacher or whatever your profession is.

The emotional impact of digital shaming can be overwhelming. You feel completely helpless and fear what bomb will drop next online.

As someone that has lived through the cycle of online shaming (and survived), I’ve learned many ways to prevent, maintain and overcome this experience.

Prevention and maintainence:

Did you know that 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation? (Consumer Review Survey 2016)

  • Address negative reviews promptly & professionally.
  • Take them offline if possible – do your best to make it right.
  • Build your social authority: The ask. 7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review if a business asks them to.  73 percent of consumers believe that reviews over 3 months old are no longer relevant.
  • Stay present. 54 percent of consumers will visit your site after reading positive reviews.  Your website should be updated frequently, but it’s your blog that’s an extension of your business card today. It lets your potential client/consumer know you’re interested in your field. A blog should be inside your website.
  • Set your Google alerts “and” Google yourself and business regularly. Be aware of what is being said about you online so you’re prepared to address it.

Overcoming cyber-humiliation emotionally

Getting your footing back on track digitally may take time, but with diligence and dedication to your online reputation, you will be able to build back your virtual presence.

Emotionally, it can sometimes take a bit longer. Being virtually attacked is an experience that can last a long time. Unless you have walked these shoes, it’s hard for people to understand. Having a friend(s) to talk to helps — and is imperative since this can be so isolating when you feel the entire world is laughing at you.

To start healing emotionally:

  • Permit yourself to be angry. I always thought being angry allowed my trolls to win. That’s not true. Being angry can actually energize you to recover.
  • Take care of yourself – physically. We focus so much on our digital life, we neglect ourselves physically. Get outside of your home, take daily walks, join a gym, exercise.
  • Acceptance, moving forward with your shame, finally realizing it doesn’t define you and this is your opportunity to redefine your reputation.

For more insights, firsthand stories of survival, resources and advice — read my latest book Shame Nation: Choosing Kindness and Compassion in an Age of Cruelty and Trolling (Sourcebooks, October 2017). Amazon is offering Shame Nation at a special price.


posted by on Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Digital Parenting, Parenting, Parenting Teens, Parenting tips

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The problem of parenting in the digital age occurs when parents don’t know enough about both their children and the websites they inhabit. Learning about the technology your children use on a daily basis will give you a deeper insight into their lives. Teaching yourself how to use social media and other common apps will also help you best learn how to guide your children on the Internet.

There are many benefits to using the internet, but as a parent, you also need to know about the dangers. For example, the World Wide Web is a great place for your children to study and learn, grow socially, and have fun. When used incorrectly it can be a dangerous place with predators and unsavory material. Here is the problem of parenting in the digital age and how you can inform yourselves as parents about the pros and cons of the internet.

Dangers of the Internet for Kids 

In some ways, it seems harmless to let your children use the internet. It is an excellent teaching tool used to do research for school projects, explore different cultures, and even learn a new language. Unfortunately, there are many predators that lurk on the internet that may be detrimental to your child’s physical or mental well-being. Here are some of the dangers for children using the internet.

  1. Pornography 

One problem of parenting in the digital age comes down to internet searches. More than 1 in 8 online searches are related to pornography. The internet is a wealth of dangerous pornography. There is a wealth of graphic content glamorizing sexually degrading women, violent sexual behavior, incest, and more that is available for free online. One disturbing statistic reveals that 57% of young girls and 83% of underage boys will have seen group sex online before they turn 18 years old.

Whatever your stance is on pornography, every parent agrees that it is not something that is suitable for underage children. Being exposed to pornography at a young age is scientifically proven to warp children’s view of the opposite sex, their own self-worth, and can cause permissive attitudes about sex.

  1. Online Predators and Sexting 

Because children can be manipulated, it makes them an easy target for predators in chat rooms and on social media. When you do not monitor the friends your children are talking to online, you leave your child open to various forms of abuse online. A predator may bully your child into participating in an online sex chat or video sex chat. The predator may then keep those images and distribute them online.

It is estimated that nearly 1 in 5 teenagers will share a sexual text they received from someone else. This includes nude or semi-nude images. So whether your child is sexting an adult or someone their own age, sharing sexual information or photos can be detrimental to their emotional health, their human rights, and their reputation. 

  1. Meeting Someone Online 

Meeting someone in person that you initially met on the internet is something that no one should take lightly, especially children. Two people should have been talking for a long time and should confirm each other’s identity via video chat before agreeing to meet. When getting together, both should bring a friend and meet in a public place to ensure they are out of harm’s way. These are not things that children think before meeting a stranger from the internet. This is especially terrifying since children are more open to sexual exploitation, assault, and abuse when they meet a stranger from the internet.

  1. Cyberbullying 

Cyberbullying is an umbrella term that may be used to refer to a number of actions. Impersonation is one of them. This could mean someone is pretending to be your child or is “catfishing” them by pretending to be someone else in order to gain your child’s trust, often using a false profile or profile picture.

According to the website Bullying Statistics, studies show that half of all adolescents have already or will eventually experience cyberbullying and 1 in 3 youths will receive a personal threat via the internet.

Other cyberbullying actions include cyberstalking, trolling (saying hurtful, offensive, or sexually explicit comments for the sake of being mean or shocking), abusive threats of bodily harm, and outing. Outing is an especially painful form of cyberbullying, as it involves someone revealing personal information about your children to an online form such as on social media. This personal information could involve a sexually explicit action or photo, giving out someone’s address, outing someone’s sexuality, and revealing other hurtful secrets.

How to Parent in the Digital Age 

Now that you know the problem of parenting in the digital age, it’s time to see what you can do about it. Much of the problem with parenting in the digital age comes from not understanding the dangers that are out there and not paying enough attention to what your children are doing. If you want to be a responsible cyber parent, here are some of the things you should be doing. 

  1. Learn What Your Children Are Doing: There is a fine line between being a helicopter parent and being a safe one. Communicate regularly with your children so that you have a better idea of what your children are doing on their computers and smartphones. Who are their friends? Who are they texting regularly? Check the internet history on your child’s computer and smartphone to see if they are running into any dangerous activity. 
  1. Look for Signs of Trouble: Does your child spend inordinate amounts of time on social media, seem sleep deprived or play video games almost constantly online? Are they seeming more sexually active or have a drastic change in mood or attitude? These may be signs that your children are experiencing some negative aspects of the internet. 
  1. Teach Your Children Internet Safety: The best way to be a responsible parent of children using the internet is to communicate regularly with your young ones about the possible dangers they may encounter online. Ask them who they are talking to, remind them the importance of being safe on social media and that whatever they post will remain there forever.
  1. Encourage Good Behavior: Young children should be encouraged to only use the internet during the week to study, with X amount of online leisure time. Another way to encourage responsible internet usage is to put your computer in the family room of your home. This way your child is not allowed to have too much privacy while surfing the internet. You can also encourage good behavior online and have a positive attitude. Your children will be more inclined to listen to you if you are familiar with and excited about the positive aspects of the Internet, instead of simply hammering away at its dangers.

Author Bio:- Sylvia Smith is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organizations around the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is a featured writer for, a reliable resource to support healthy happy marriages.


posted by on Bullying, Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Cybersafety, Online Safety

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In this digital age of online harassment, no one is safe from cyberbullying anymore: 41% of adults have faced online harassment while “1.7 million children have reported being cyberbullied in one school year alone.” We’ve entered an age of faux anonymity that has lead to a rise in the belief of consequence free abuse. Without any sort of repercussions, some see it as an invitation to do everything they’re unable to do in “real” life, as there are real life consequences they can’t squirrel away from as easily as they do online.

Adults and teens alike think they can hide behind an online handle and post abuse with nothing tying them to their words.

It’s sadly a common belief that words have no ‘real’ weight online – that they stay on the internet and have no effect on real life at all. It’s this thought that bullies use to justify their abuse. It’s also this thought that has victims not reporting online abuse, for fear of being seen as ‘overreacting’, or a ‘baby’. However, cyberbullying an extremely serious matter, one that can and has lead to victims taking their own life, such as in the cases of Amanda Todd and Ryan Halligan.

So what can we do, as adults and parents, to help stop this culture of online harassment? Cultivate a counter-culture of empathy, understanding and teaching.

  • Empathy
    • Show by doing. You’re children retain what they see and hear you do and say, so check yourself before you act out in front of them. Instead of responding with emotional anger, pause. Ask yourself why you’re angry at someone. Ask yourself why they’re acting the way they are. Ask yourself is responding going to achieve anything. Remember, you’re the standard by which your child is going to act, so by making sure you react (and act) in a mature way teaches them when and how to do so too.
  • Understanding
    • Try and understand where the cyberbully is coming from. Are they simply there to troll you? Are they jealous of you? Are they upset by what content you post? Understand if there is a need for you to respond or take what they say to heart in any way. Understand you can have a Zero Troll Policy and can block them immediately. Understand the victim. Understand their feelings, why they’re upset, why they’re allowed to be upset.
  • Teaching
    • Teach why this digital age of no accountability abuse isn’t sustainable. Teach kids and other adults how empathy and compassion is a much better alternative. Teach that online actions have real life consequences, and we should always act with awareness of this fact. Teach by example: do not get caught up in this culture of shaming and abusing for Retweets or Likes. Teach to not share as much online, to be wary of what you do. Teach that we shouldn’t blame victims for bullies actions, and that we should have endless compassion and patience for them.

What we put out into the world, we get back. If we teach empathy and understanding, and that actions do have consequences both online and in real life, then we will surely get rid of this troll culture that plagues the internet.

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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 emphasize 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 book, Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate we recognize that although we are living in a time of incivility both offline and especially online, it’s 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.”


“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.