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Resources for bullies – an additional approach to digital abuse

The traditional model for responding to and preventing digital abuse is to give assistance and resources to the bullying victim.  As part of the internet safety community’s ongoing campaign to educate kids about responsible behavior online, it’s past time to take the next step and give the same kinds of educational resources we give to the victims to the bullies themselves.

Last week we attended a fantastic panel for New York Social Media Week titled “Responding to Suicide & Digital Abuse” featuring Nicky Yates, Amanda Lehner, Scott Zumwalt and Noopur Agarwal from The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Ad Council, It Gets Better Project and MTV, respectively.  One message stood out in particular: MTV’s A Thin Line campaign website doesn’t just serve as a resource for those who are victimized, but also serves as a wake up call to those who are doing the bullying.
For starters, along with disciplinary messages and actions to transgressors that say “don’t do that,” moderators should work in more detailed explanations to educate and ultimately rehabilitate the bullies.  For example, a private message could say:

“Though your behavior may seem harmless, saying mean spirited things online can have real life consequences. Please check out this website to read more about how we can make the web a more fun place to be!”

The goal of this redirection, of course, is to not only prevent future incidents of bullying but to give problem users the tools to become contributing and productive members of a safe, happy online community.

Chase Straight

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For more resources on coping with digital abuse, suicide and other tough issues for today’s kids, check out our partner’s website ReachOut.com.

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