October is the national bullying prevention month in the United States and this past month, the media paid a great deal of attention on this topic. With the inclusion of Monica Lewinsky in anti-bullying campaigns, a number of campaigners criticized the fact that she involved herself saying that it would negatively impact what they were working for because she had a tainted background. A study conducted by the Pew Research Study on online harassment showed that 60% of users of the internet stated having witnessed someone being called offensive names while 35% have seen others embarrass someone purposely. 24% of individuals also said they had witnessed someone being harassed for some sustained periods of time.
After what happened at Gamergate also caused Tim Berners-Lee to speak about his frustration with the way in which the internet had developed. He said that it is human nature to have a good and bad side and that the internet is available for anyone who wishes to exploit it for negative reasons.
One way to deal with this problem is to turn towards legislation which is in place with respect to cyber bullying behavior. No federal cyber bullying law exists in America till now however states have a number of cyber bullying provisions which are designed to protect children of school going age. Australia has just recently introduced a law which would hold social media companies accountable for responding to the concerns of users with respect to cyber bullying. Canada too has come up with a bill titled Bill C-13 which makes it illegal for any individual to pass on intimate images of another person without getting their consent. This makes it easier for police to get their hands on metadata related to cases and also helps in securing immunity for companies which do give data over to the police. However the Bill has caused privacy concerns to arise and even doubts about the motivations behind the use of the data.
Efforts which are aimed at creating a culture on empathy have not received as much attention from the public. An employee working for Facebook said that the way in which our brains work has allowed us to understand each other based on voice tones and facial expressions however when we communicate through devices, this aspect is lost. Partnering with The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence has allowed social reporting tools to be created which allows users to let others know that their feelings have been hurt. Users are also provided with a polite response which is pre-written which they may send to the person who has offended them.
When kids especially let others know that their feelings have been hurt in a personal and decent manner, chances are that the other kid will take note of his behavior.
Public attention is being paid to punishment a great deal rather than on education. This is particularly associated with bullying cases which result in self harm however the latter i.e. education is more in favor of critically reexamining our cultural values and to put in an effort to foster a pattern of social relations which is different than what is being taught at present since early childhood. A survey conducted on 10,000 students by Making Caring Common which is a research initiative launched at Harvard University’s School of Education, revealed that a number of youth tend to value achievement and their own happiness more than they value or care for the concern of others. Because children are not able to prioritize caring for others and being fair in their relationships and work only for their own concern- and when they see their peers doing the same and working towards their own interests- the bar is set lower for a number of harmful behaviors which may include cheating, disrespect, cruelty and dishonesty.
What is neglected is the framing of behavior which is conducted online as being part of a larger cultural problem in which focus on values is largely neglected and personal gain is given importance to. Thus, education is considered to be a much better alternative to focus on rather than punishment.