Logan is a young boy who filmed a video of himself reading hateful comments left about him and his father on YouTube. The video soon went viral, catching the attention of millions and prompting President Obama to invite Logan to visit the White House this summer.
While the courage and support Logan has received is heartwarming, it unfortunately also offers a disturbing look into what it means to be a young person on the Internet. Logan is a mere 11 years old, and yet he was subjected to vitriolic language that no adult should have to deal with, let alone a child. Has cyberbullying become so commonplace that even our young children feel comfortable spewing demeaning and hateful language?
And Logan is by no means alone – a recent case in Michigan documents a 13-year-old girl, Zoe Johnson, who committed suicide after hateful comments were left on her Facebook page. Perhaps the most harrowing of these comments was left after her death, with a fellow student writing, “good ur [sic] gone.”
Our children are struggling to deal with a startling amount of negative and often violent language on the Internet, especially from their peers – their classmates, people they considered their friends, fellow students they see in the hallways every day. Where does the concept arise that this type of behavior is okay? Where do children learn to act this way, and what can be done to reverse this harmful trend?
What the cases of Logan and Zoe show us is that the young people who deal with hatred spewed online do not always have the faculties to cope with it healthily. Logan was able to bounce back, but Zoe Johnson was not able to do so – not everyone can turn their torment into a learning experience.
While we can debate endlessly the source of this behavioral trend, one thing is clear – as educators and parents, it is our job to set the example – to instill a sense of kindness in our youth that will follow them into their online habits. As the cyber world and the physical world become more and more intertwined, it is paramount we teach our youth to be respectful citizens, and that extends to their cyber world as well.
One way schools can help is through programs like HEAR. The goal of HEAR is to minimize bullying in schools by teaching our youth what respectful behavior is and what it isn’t – and that respectful behavior extends into all sectors of their lives, even online.
Zoe Johnson story: http://fox17online.com/2015/07/21/mom-cyber-bullying-killed-my-daughter/