Jennifer Livingston and CyberBullying

Jennifer Livingston and CyberBullying

Recently, much has been made about Jennifer Livingston, the Wisconsin anchor who received a critical message from a viewer about her weight. There’s been great discussion about bullying in general….and cyberbullying in particular.

First, there’s a distinct age difference – when it happens with youth, it’s cyberbullying, and with adults, it’s cyberharrassment. Either way, it’s the same effect – using electronic communications to embarrass, humiliate, harass, or otherwise torment someone through e-mail, social media, and other forms of online communication. (The Illinois Attorney General’s office has a great online resource dedicated for cyberbullying of youth).  It’s behavior that is one the rise – after all, the relative anonymity and perceived lack of consequence make it easy to attack.

And one of the hardest things when it comes to changing our culture and working towards the social good is how frequently we hear justifications…or excuses. Often, we try to excuse such behavior without confronting it…or even expressing some slight displeasure. Things like

All he was doing was expressing his opinion – she does need to lose weight…

You’re being politically correct, and it’s a shame that a person can’t express an honest opinion without being criticized for it…

Quit whining – this is the kind of talk that builds character….

I’m sorry you don’t share my sense of humor – I was kidding, and you’re too thin skinned…

He/she is a good person, once you get to know them….they’re always giving people a hard time…

In short, when our online actions create a sense of shame in a person for who they are….that is crossing the line.

Part of the challenge is knowing the difference between just plain teasing…and what crosses the line. Although personal boundaries play a key role, thankfully there are online resources that point to specific state legislation focusing on cyberbullying.  Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have policies in place that empower individuals to take an active role in stopping harassment and cyberbullying. There are numerous articles and resources online that serve to educate, inform, and help create an online environment that fosters a stronger sense of community.

But for parents, educators, and other interested people, a very special invitation – my fellow Chicago Now blogger Carrie Goldman has been writing some great articles about bullying, and is hosting a conversation about bullying on Thursday, October 18th at 4:00 pm at Barnes and Noble, located at 55 Old Orchard Center in Skokie. (Educations can earn CTEs from this event). Think of this as a way for me to fulfill the mission of this blog – to highlight some of the ways in which technology can be used to further the social good.

If that means every once in awhile, I write about current news, so be it. If one less person is bullied or harassed online, it’s definitely worth it.

Always welcome your thoughts and comments, and please leave them down below. In addition, you can reach me privately via Linked In (just mention Chicago Now in your note) or contact page.

As always, thanks for reading!


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