If you wouldn’t say something in person, why write it online?
That’s the message behind this new powerful video from ESPN that features two female sportswriters (one of them being my former espnW teammate). I will warn you: these comments are not easy to watch. So just imagine how they must feel to receive.
These hateful remarks might seem out of left field, but in reality, they’re not that uncommon. Over half (52 percent) off young people report being cyberbullied. Millions of teenagers have regularly experienced what these sportswriters go through since the dawn of social media. Even Google searches of the term “cyberbullying” began soon after Facebook launched to the broader public in 2005.
So, what’s next?
Teachers and Parents: Share this video with your students and children. Show them that while messages seem to disappear when our devices shut down, their impact on others remains.
Students: If you’re on the receiving end of a hateful message, tweet or Instagram comment, know that you are not alone. First, take a breath. Second, screenshot the post. Then report it. Don’t get caught up fighting fire with fire (posting a mean jab in retaliation).
Your mind only has so much precious real estate. Don’t waste any space on folks who take jabs and hide behind their phones. Period. Have the strength and courage to rise above digital drama and expose it, just like these sportswriters do.
What’s it like to be an American girl in 2016? Nancy Jo Sales’ new book, “American Girls,” has ignited an important mainstream conversation with recent features on ABC News, the New York Times and Time. The book paints a gruesome portrait of how girls are using social media to tear each other (and themselves) down.
So, now what?
Outside my work at McKinney, I coach high schools and teenage students on how to win the game of social media. The students are always surprised to hear an adult show them how they can use social media positively and powerfully:
● Imagine a young girl showing college admission officers that she’s talented beyond words and more than just an SAT score because she shares her passions and hobbies on Instagram — where she has built a network of supportive girlfriends.
● Imagine a college student showing future employers his strengths and skills based on Google results of his name pulled from social media posts sharing his successes and encouragements of others.
● Imagine a teenage girl who is confident enough to be exactly herself because of the stories she follows posted by her mentors and positive role models on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. Trust me, those role models are out there.
Teens need to know that you can “win” the game of social media or you can “lose” it. It’s just a game, and it’s positive power can only be wielded if we coach them effectively.