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Notes from the White House Conference on Bullying

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Last week I posted about the Facebook Live Chat the White House initiated about Bullying. There was a council of experts there from the government, Facebook, and even MTV.

I took detailed notes of the entire chat. Here’s a digest of what I thought was really interesting and wanted to pass along to you!

  • The federal government has just launched an incredible new resource over at StopBullying.gov. Definitely check it out. I’ll be spending some quality time there myself.
  • One of the major initiatives right now is teaching young people how to take a stand. Although the targets of bullying are encouraged to talk to an adult, often they don’t feel comfortable doing so. To make an impact on the problem we first have to start with the kids themselves.
  • Facebook is launching a new “social reporting” feature. Instead of just removing offensive posts, they’re giving people an option to automatically share that post with other members of the community (such as law enforcement). Additionally they’re also confronting people who make offensive posts directly.
  • It’s rare for bullies to think that they’re bullying. They don’t feel they’re in the wrong! When something bad happens to you, the question to ask yourself is “Am I treating this person with dignity even when it’s hard?” Your dignity matters most when it’s hard to keep it.
  • Bullying, at it’s core, is about telling another person they don’t have the right to speak because of a specific reason (you have a disability, you’re a different race, you’re a girl who likes Star Wars, etc…). Because of that the bully feels they have the right to ridicule or degrade you.
  • People have the right to be treated with dignity. Everyone has the right to speak. If you’re silenced, it’s bullying.
  • Conflict and abuse of power between people is inevitable. It’s important to learn how to confront people who do this early and take a stand even when you’re afraid.
  • Imagine yourself on the other side of the comment you’re about to make. How would you feel? If the answer is “bad”, then it’s bullying and you should not make the comment.
  • If you’re being bullied, tell an adult, but choose who you tell carefully. Pick someone you believe that is going to respond the way you want them to. For example, do you want someone who won’t freak out? Someone that will help you through the problem?
  • We need to encourage bystanders to take a stand. A bystander who laughs along is a facilitator. Bystanders need to be encouraged to take a stand by telling the bully their actions aren’t appropriate, telling an adult, or taking other appropriate actions.
  • We need to begin thinking of bullying as a form of abuse. It’s not a right of passage for growing up.
  • Most bullies are involved in a violent crime by the age of 24. Kids who are the targets of bullying don’t perform as well in school. Bullying seriously undermines a child’s ability to learn.
  • What’s the difference between reporting or snitching? A snitch is trying to make the problem bigger. Reporting is an attempt at making the problem go away.
  • Using the term “fag” or calling something “gay” is unacceptable. Just don’t do it.
  • If a child reports being bullied to you, say three things. 1.) I’m sorry this happened to you. 2.) Thank you for telling me. 3.) We’re going to work through this together.
  • We need to have levels of escalation. It starts with teaching students how to handle the problem on their own, then goes to bringing in teachers, administrators, and finally law enforcement.
  • 86% of teens who are on Facebook are “friends” with their parents. Parents are engaging their kids on Facebook.
  • It’s unreasonable to expect privacy when you post something online. If you want privacy, get a journal. Engaging your kids on Facebook is not a violation of their privacy.
  • Parental denial is a big issue. Teachers approaching parents should start by saying something positive about the child, then follow up with: “My responsibility is to make your child and every other child safe in class. I have information I need to share with you about the actions your child is taking. I want to work together with you to resolve this issue because I really do like your child.”
  • Federal government wants to be a partner, but not dive bomb into to try and fix this issue. Everyone needs to be involved. The government is just providing resources to empower teachers, students, parents, coaches, etc…
  • Kids really want to talk about this issue. We just need to give them a chance.

Overall I felt that there were a lot of positive things to be learned from the chat. It certainly opened my mind to new ways of thinking about bullying. If you’d like to watch the recap you can check it out over at WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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