Throughout history, the role of the bystander has been attributed to inciting countless bad things. Today, bystanders are involved in most cyberbullying incidents – with no consequences for their actions or lack of action. Change is coming. We recently attended a Parent Night presentation at Joseph Kerr Middle School (JKMS) from the Organization for Social Media Safety (SMS). We were happy to meet some of the parents, PTA members, JKMS staff and leadership students in attendance.
Ed Peisner, a father, who founded SMS in 2017, opened his presentation with a short video to explain the organization’s mission.
In response to the 2017 vicious, debilitating attack on his son Jordan, which was filmed by the attacker’s friend and then uploaded to social media (Snapchat), Ed took action. In addition to forming the SMS, he dedicated himself to working with public policy. Within the year, and in collaboration with California Assemblymember Matt Dababneh, Ed spearheaded the passing of AB 1542, AKA Jordan’s Law. The law makes it a criminal offense to deliberately record an attack for the purpose of posting it on social media, and, in some cases, the person filming and posting the video (bystanders) could also be charged.
Peisner views AB 1542 as a step forward for change. But he’s not stopping there. He is currently working on “groundbreaking social media safety legislation at the state level and with local school boards on enhancing social media safety policies.”
In Jordan’s case, only the perpetrator, who did not even know Jordan, was charged with a crime. The bystanders, including the young woman partnering with the perpetrator to film the attack, were not charged. Typically the perpetrators commit the act of bullying/cyberbullying and recording/posting to social media for the purpose of gaining “likes”, more important to them than the consequences of their actions. Without the bystanders, the attack on Jordan would likely not have happened. It is because of bystanders that history all too often repeats itself.
We recommend visiting the SMS website and signing up for their newsletter. We’re also following the organization on Facebook and Twitter to help keep on top of the ever-changing social media issues that impact the lives and safety of our students and their families.
We look forward to next year’s student rally at JKMS with Ed Peisner and enthusiastically support the work and goals of SMS:
“SMS is the nation’s first non-profit that serves as a consumer protection organization focused solely on social media safety. SMS protects families from all social media-related dangers including cyberbullying, violence, hate speech, human trafficking, and propaganda through innovative educational programming, legislative and regulatory advocacy, and technology development.”
Cyberbullying Prevention – 5 Things Parents Can Do
- Help your child be an upstander — not a bystander. Children are hesitant to get involved, in case the bully turns their sights on them. But there are ways to allow your child to work behind the scenes to reach out to the victim, get an adult involved, and prevent more cruel behavior.
- Teach your child empathy. Nothing drives home a point faster than walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. If children truly understand what someone else is going through, they’re less likely to bully someone — or passively witness others being bullied.
- Help children understand the line between funny and cruel. Children’s online communication is often purposely ambiguous or accidentally cruel — both of which can lead to misunderstandings. If drama starts brewing, ask your child to call or speak face to face with his/her friend to clear it up.
- Make sure they talk to someone (even if it’s not you). As children enter the middle school years, their circle of friends and trusted adults widens. Children need a responsible adult to confide in — their school counselor, their music teacher, even the parent of a friend. Talk to your children about who they can go to if trouble is brewing.
- Show your child how to stop cyberbullying. Tell children not to respond or retaliate. Not feeding the bully can stop the cycle. And — if anything does happen — save the evidence.
Source: Common Sense
Top Social Media Safety Tips
- Keep your social media pages on private. Double check they are on private.
- Turn off geo-tagging on your social media posts.
- Do not let your teen “friend” people they do not directly know. Teens should NEVER make plans to meet someone they met on social media.
- Report inappropriate content (bullying, hate speech, obscenity) to the social media platform AND block the poster, while still saving the evidence.
Source: Organization for Social Media Safety (SMS)
For more cyberbullying and social media information and resources, please visit the cyberbullying and social media 101 pages of our website.