Saturday, April 6, 2013

True Story on Bullying & Cyber Bullying

Today I had the pleasure of attending our Area Toastmasters competition. I was a Counter and Sergeants-at-Arms, and enjoyed sitting back to watch my fellow Toastmasters compete.  It was delightful.

One speech really hit home with me ... it actually brought me to tears. Perhaps it's due to me  working so closely with different schools, families, children and youth, community groups and organizations on the very matter he spoke about so I understand the personal tragedy individuals, families and administration face.

My fellow Toastmaster gave a very moving speech on the impacts of bullying and cyber bullying in story telling format.  He recounted the real life events of the death of his nephew, who took his own life, as a result of severe bullying and cyber bullying.  

This handsome, talented, intelligent, creative young man was just two weeks away from graduating from high school ... a young man with a promising future. It broke my heart to hear his story. I fought to hold back the tears, however, the story was so moving I eventually felt the sting of tears in my eyes that spilled out and rolled down my face.

As my fellow Toastmaster shared his story, I thought of the many parents, children, youth and school administrators I have spoken with over the years, but more so in recent years as a result of the work I am doing in Cyber Safety, Internet Safety and Digital Footprints. In all cases, it boils down to one thing .... Bullying hurts ... Cyber Bullying makes it ten times worse because of how public the bashing and humiliation becomes and there is no escape.

Recently, I gave a Cyber Safety presentation to PEI Service Providers.  The participants included Executive Directors and front line staff working in crises centres, women centres, people with disabilities.  When speaking about Cyber Bullying, it was interesting to hear the workshop participants share they see a resounding number of adults, more so than children and youth, committing the acts of Cyber Bullying and Internet Defamation.  It was also interesting, yet not surprising, to learn some organizations and specific individuals working within them, are Cyber Bullied by outspoken individuals and organizations. When asked the nature of attack, whether it is personal or professional, they said it was more professional, stating people reacting to the work they do on social issues, social justice and serving the needs of the public.

This leads to me sharing a key message with all adult audiences:  Yes, bullying and cyber bullying are prevalent amongst children and youth ... however ... take a good look .... how are you, your friends and social media connections setting the tone of behavior online?

Do you ever bash brands, politicians, organizations or even individuals for that matter with derogatory comments?  Do you re-post pictures and links to articles that are malicious and condescending in nature?  Do you tweet or post negative comments, then ask others to contribute?  Once you tweeted or posted something, have you ever asked yourself this question: `If my comments were made about me by another person or entity, would I be embarrassed, hurt or humiliated if  someone talked about me in this manner?'

As adults, we need to set the tone of behavior and be positive role models  on using the Internet and Social Media for good.  There is nothing wrong with advocating for change or speaking up on matters that are important ... we just have to do it in a respectful manner, otherwise, we commit the act of cyber bullying and internet defamation ... others will model that behavior including children and youth.

Change starts with each of us on an individual basis.  If we want respect we must give it.  If we want children and youth to act accordingly online, then we as adults, must do the same.  Many people talk the talk ... but fail to walk the talk.

Be a Digital Leader, Be a Good Role Model, Demonstrate Appropriate Use of Social Media and the Internet.

Going back to my fellow Toastmaster, while his story was tragic with a very devastating outcome, I was blessed by his message and hold him in very high regard to have the courage and confidence to advocate for change.  More needs to be done in addressing the very real issues children, youth and adults face with bullying and cyber bullying.  I stand along side of him in raising the awareness and championing his cause. 



About The Author: Nancy Beth Guptill is an Entrepreneur & Small Business Owner, Founder of Sweet Spot Marketing Canada and a Motivational Speaker for Women & Girl Leadership. As an Internet and Digital Marketing veteran, Nancy Beth has vast experience in Online Internet Safety and Protecting Your Digital Footprint.

Since 2010, Nancy Beth has been highly sought after to share her message on being a Digital Leader, using the Internet & Social Media for good, and how to safely navigate the Social Web.