April 11, 2010

If you make yourself a target

Cyberbullying is a dreadful problem, which appears to be only growing greater in my experience. I'm finding that over-reliance on technology to guard against it is becoming a challenge in the industry I work in. It appears every Tom, Dick and Harry is coming out with the best technological solution to help protect YOUR children.

It is my clear opinion that regular engagement with your child about being online and helping them to understand the signs of bad behaviour online is the best way of protecting them from cyberbullies - or any kind of bullying really.
Of course, cyberbullying is certainly not just limited to Children, adults are of course as susceptible to it as anyone else. The difference, in my opinion, between real victims of cyberbullying and one which has recently become almost viral in cyberspace is that real victims have generally done nothing to deserve attention of any nature and often do not have support networks to help them through the experience.

So the problem for me with Laurel Papworth's post on the supposed 'cyberbullying' by Tim Burrowes of Mumbrella is then twofold.

First, while some of what she describes in her post seems to illustrate forms of bullying, and we use my understanding, as outlined above, what she's describing isn't bullying at all, but criticism of her professional position. Yes with a dose of ridicule where deserved.

Secondly, and more importantly, because of point one, calling the criticism, even if it bordered on ridicule, 'bullying' dilutes the real impact of real bullying on real victims of it.

I've no doubt that Ms. Papworth thinks she has been 'bullied', but I would have thought someone with such an expert understanding of the online space and publishing in General would realise if you put it out there, not only are you open to criticism, but you are also open to ridicule - even if totally undeserved.

You may not like that, and you may not understand why someone would focus on you so, but the reality is it happens. So you either grow a spine and ignore the critic or you get out of the kitchen for the good of your health.

If you want more info on Cyberbullying and strategies to protect yourself from it, please click on the links below (updated thanks to Stephen Collins from AcidLabs)
And actual examples of cyberbullying:


  1. Gav, in addition to the links you posted, people should look at:

    - The Allanah and Madeline Foundation - http://www.amf.org.au/
    - The Olweus Anti-bullying program - http://www.olweus.org/

    These pieces on *real* cyberbullying:

    - Teachers suffer cyberbullying by pupils and parents - http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/mar/30/teachers-bullied-online
    - The keys to tackling cyber-bullying - http://www.smh.com.au/wa-news/the-keys-to-tackling-cyberbullying-20100331-rer2.html
    - Social media brings bullying to light - http://edition.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/12/10/social.media.bullying/index.html
    - One in 10 teenagers are a victim of cyberbullies, research shows - http://www.news.com.au/technology/one-in-ten-teenagers-are-a-victim-of-cyberbullies-research-shows/story-e6frfro0-1225852152701

    It's a major issue that concerns me greatly as a parent, though my views on managing it occasionally diverge somewhat from those more prominent in the field.

    Like you, I believe that an honest and open management of digital citizenship between parents, kids and teachers is a critical component of the equation.

    As for Laurel, I love her, but she tends to get precious and sometimes shrill in the face of criticism. I've both defended and criticised her in the past. As professionals who earn our crust from our understanding of how the online world works, we need to have big enough shoulders to take criticism of our professional viewpoints. If that criticism turns to personal commentary, then, arguably, it approaches or becomes bullying.

  2. Interesting point- anyone that publishes online a blog, Twitter or facebook or anything deserves to be cyberbullied. I don't agree, though I see your point. And I think the difference is between disagreement and sustained attacks.

    The post you are discussing (I can't find the link on the page) is http://laurelpapworth.com/cyberbullying-and-blogs-a-case-study-mumbrella/ <-- in case anyone wants to make their own mind up. :)

  3. Hi Gavin - thanks for the informative article on cyber-bullying. The resources are great & I appreciate the time you spent putting this together so people can come to one place and get a few different places for info.

    I think when someone feels bullied - reading one resource can either negate their feelings & leave them in despair, or magnify what may be a misunderstanding.

    I know you have an opinion - many people do about this particular subject - but I appreciate you remained pretty objective and cool in what could become quite an ugly situation.

    Take care and keep writing. I consider you a talented writer - to continue to offer resources, and not just join in on the criticism and tear people down - it's one of the qualities I like best about you.

    Personally...I've seen some not-so-nice behaviour lately - not just in this incident but several others. I hope more people speak out on both sides and maybe, w/some compassion, some kind of resolution can be met.

    Meanwhile, I look to people I respect (like you) for their viewpoints. It helps me see both sides of the situation.

    And I know I can always count on Trib to share excellent resources - he's like a walking Encyclopaedia, isn't he?

    Thanks and happy Sunday,
    kristin rohan

  4. Papworth's cries about her personal situation ridicule genuine cyberbully victims who've lived in fear for their lives. This includes children, abused spouses, workplace whistleblowers and more. Heck, not just cyberbully victims. All abuse victims.
    Is Mumbrella playing on her crying and is it fair? Maybe they are and probably not fair, but she does genuine victims severe disservice with her petulant ranting. As such ,she becomes part of the problem instead of aiding the solution.

  5. Laurel
    Thanks for the response, I'm unsure where you read:
    "...anyone that publishes online a blog, Twitter or facebook or anything deserves to be cyberbullied..."
    in what I wrote.
    I certainly don't believe that at all, and I'm 100% certain that I make this clear in what I have written

  6. Kristin,
    Thanks, as usual, for the kind words. It's definitely a topic where it is hard to get the balance entirely correct. So I understand that many will differ from my opinion.
    I'm concerned that people who may write very forthright opinions or articles feel precious about any negative commentary or criticism of those opinions or articles.
    As I write, if you put it out there, you need to be able to handle both the positive and the negative feedback. Even if you might think the negative feedback in undeserved, or over the top.
    Online is no different to any other Publishing medium in that sense. Just ask any author or playwright how they feel about the reviews they receive.

  7. Hi Gavin, thanks for the clarification, I thought "...would realise if you put it out there, not only are you open to criticism, but you are also open to ridicule - even if totally undeserved." meant that one should accept being ridiculed to the tune of up to 6 posts in a month. i.e. Don't complain!.
    But anyway, I don't want to hijack your conversation - I said what I had to say in one post, entirely happy with that :) Laurel @SilkCharm

  8. Laurel,
    If you took that line out of context from the rest of the post, you'd still have to insert the word 'deserves' - which is the term you used, not me.

  9. Like everything there is some unhappy balance which needs to be struck.

    Because SOME people do the wrong thing, we ALL have a price to pay for it - this is the logic of the 21st century.

    Psychological abuse is too hard too prove - there are no bruises and everything is subjective - so it goes unpunished and ignored. However were psychological abuse can be proved (Facebook, twitter for example) then it should, IMHO, be dealt with with exactly the same penalties as physical abuse. Of course the legal profession would LOVE this because there'd be all sorts of problems with what "psychological abuse" actually means and we'd be incapable of defining without exception.

    I pledge a Mars bar (or equivalent) to the first person that solves the issue.

  10. Hi Zero, I believe you are absolutely correct.
    Can you please note my commenting policy for future reference, http://franksting.blogspot.com/p/commenting-policy.html I'd hate to exclude interesting comments like yours in the future.

  11. Sorry, wait. Social media experts only now realise that on the internet, people can be mean? *boggle*