Generation Z: A World Gone Cyber
Over half, 50% of youth report being cyber-bullied. Being the Bullseye target of a cyber-bully can happen to anyone. No longer is the overweight or geeky kid the popular choice when it comes to being harassed. Anyone is fair game. Advanced social media technology has given those who feel the need to tear others apart plenty of cyberspace to cause collateral damage. Computers won't change the world, people will. Computers are the tools we'll use. No other generation has dealt with the new age culture that takes the term "bullying" to a new level.
I was tortured by a cyber bully and thankfully, I survived with the help of my family and was able to pick up the pieces and move on. Many feel there is no way out and call it quits. Many ask, "How can someone so young possibly feel there is no reason to live?" I understand their thoughts. When you are a tween, your social existence is your everything. One person can torture a youth without uttering a word... the silent kill. That silence rang louder than ever when I stared at my computer screen for what seemed like a lifetime, reading hateful words typed with one purposeful click at a time. Then came the silence and inner chaotic thought, how will I face everyone at school?
Traits such as confidence and self-esteem play an important role when youth are faced with aggressive online behavior. Empowerment along with cyber education will result in a reduction of suicide and human trafficking rates while creating a more balanced future cyber generation.
As I fight an urgent need for mandatory life skill/social media classes in all schools, I embrace sharing my empowerment with youth as they deal with the tough pressures of today's media driven society.
Cyber-Bullying Survival 101
Who are your "friends?" - Purge your friends list! Keep only those who are truly friends you personally know. The number of friends, likes or comments will never reflect your self worth. You'll see what I mean after you take a look at your ratio of friends and comments you receive on Facebook. Your newsfeed will become real news with real friends. You will most likely have your true friends cell numbers so this positive purge will reduce your direct messaging on fb, therefore resulting in an instant reduction of the likelihood of negativity. Keep your account PRIVATE! I can't stress this enough. The boy or girl your crazy about will find you without Facebook, I promise!
This photo app can be fun and used for good, however tweens and teens are depending on this app to validate their self-worth. The obsession with the number of followers, likes, and comments, or lack thereof, can take over the original idea of this app. At the end of the day, the numbers game no longer matters. Again, keep your account private and add only those you personally know and like. Tweens and teens feel the need to have a high follower count in order to be popular. You're not popular when you are a stranger, strive for quality followers you engage with. Post and comment appropriately. If your friends are those you like, there is no need to be negative, ever! So, you think your invisible? Think again. Human Traffickers prey on Instagram accounts. Girls are sharing their locations that lead those who prey right to their door. Turn off location services and stay safe. Following someone you don't know? Delete them... It's not worth the risk.
Twitter's fun 140 character tweets allow us to share our latest news or how we're feeling at the moment. This application is an easy one for tweens and teens to vague tweet. Tweeting about how you hate it when someone does a certain thing or acts a certain way is sure to be on the receiving end of negative attention. Someone is going to screenshot and text your tweet sending it viral and with less than 140 characters you have officially started drama. My best advice for Twitter is to keep your tweets positive and THINK before you tweet. Follow only those you know and keep your settings private unless your account is a business. These tips reduce your direct messages, giving little room for negativity in your social networks. Try tweeting less negative thoughts. Keep it positive for those who follow you! If you've got time to tweet how awful your life seems, you've got time to tweet sweet.
Communication is my top all-time tip for any youth who feels the negativity of bullying. Mentors are a positive source and can provide that light youth may feel impossible to see. Talking through the incident with someone can oftentimes give a new perspective and remedy to the situation. I didn't reach out when I was cyber-bullied because I felt humiliated and embarrassed even though I knew I had done nothing wrong. Again, school and friends were my world and that world had been shattered. Never feel ashamed...reach out and talk it out! We are living in a world of instant communication. Safety on all levels is vitally important to youth, however the idea of parents having access to their child's social media accounts is met with great resistance. Teens want their privacy and parents want to protect their kids from the unknown. Here's my suggestion for a great compromise: It's no longer considered "weird" or "lame" for parents to have social media such as Instagram or Facebook. So, by agreeing to allow their parents to follow them on social media, teens are maintaining a certain level of privacy, while also keeping their parents in the loop as well. Oftentimes we reflect our feelings and emotions through social media, so if a teen is suddenly posting sad quotes, or just simply stops posting all together, this could be an alert for parents to ensure that their chid is happy.
The power of confidence gives youth a positive edge on dealing with negativity. Those who choose to bully many times lack self-esteem and confidence, resulting in feelings of jealousy that turn to hate. Youth that lack attention and/or are bored have a tendency to become a bully. Finding a hobby or passion while surrounding oneself with like-minded friends can play a positive role in a youth's level of confidence and self-esteem.
My generation Z's world of communication has launched to a new galaxy. Further education, empowerment, communication and mentorship will allow us to rock a world gone cyber.
By Lauren Galley, Teen Mentor, posted on huffingtonpost.com