What is Cyberbullying?

by Priyanka Raha ~ Oct 25, 2018

DigitalCitizenship Cyberbullying

My pain may be the reason for somebody’s laugh. But my laugh must never be the reason for somebody’s pain. 

This was said by Charlie Chaplin. As a kid, I loved watching his acts. I still do. When I think about bullying this quote certainly rings a bell.

Bullying is when someone shows unwanted aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. It is prevalent among school-aged children, and both the kids who are bullied and the ones who bully, may have serious, lasting problems.

Facts about bullying show that about 28% of US students in grades 6-12 and 20% in grades 9-12, have experienced bullying.

Bullying can happen in broadly three different ways but  – verbal, physical and social. Whatever be the type, the effects are menacing and if not prevented can have long lasting ramifications.

With the increasing presence of digital and social media in our lives there is a new kind of bullying that we are all too familiar with – Cyberbullying.

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers and tablets.

About 9% of students in grade 6-12 have experienced cyberbullying, where as 15% of students going to high school (grades 9-12) have experienced it. The percentage goes up to 55% for LGBTQ students. The number that is concerning among all this is only 20% to 30% of students who are bullied notify adults about the bullying.

October is the National Bullying Prevention Month, so we are taking a deep dive into looking at the different aspects of cyberbullying and what it involves.

Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing harmful, false, negative or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation.

Before we start talking about preventing it, it is important to identify all the different ways that cyberbullying can happen:

  • SMS (Short Messaging Service) or text sent through personal devices like phone.
  • Apps, or online gaming forums where people can view, participate in or share content.
  • Social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.
  • Email – you know what they say about emails, is to never forget that there is a real person sitting on the other side of it.

The effects of cyberbullying on the victim is the same as that of bullying. But here are a few ways that cyberbullying is different from bullying.

Incessant

Given that our digital devices are available to us every second of the day it is difficult to walk away from the torment of cyberbullying. We can be by ourselves and still be accessible to hurtful comments from others. Add the fear of missing out syndrome of a tween or teen and you have a situation where it might get difficult for the child to find relief.

Permanent

Most of the cyberbullying happen over social channels and for the most part those hurtful comments stay there. It’s not like when someone says something mean to our face we ever forget it but it certainly makes it all the more painful when you have the ability to go back and read them. Talk about reliving your moments of dread.

Undetected

Bullying is hard to detect as it is. Research shows that most of the bullying activities like name-calling, kicking, teasing  or pushing happen when an adult is not looking. The fact that cyberbullying never happens on a playground or in the class makes it all the more difficult to notice. That is because parents and teachers may not  overhear or see it happening.

Like all serious matters at hand there is a road to prevention but it needs effort – from ME and YOU. Watch this space because in the next edition we will be taking a closer look at how we can prevent cyberbullying from happening.

Priyanka is the Founder and CEO of PopSmartKids, a company created to foster social-emotional learning in children by effective use of technology. A graduate from Purdue University she left her career as a tech exec in 2018 to start a movement of redefining screentime from a monitored time to a powerful tool for mentoring our future generation. She is a mom to two clever boys and a big advocate of digital citizenship for children.

The Road Ahead for Technology

by Shikha Das Shankar and Priyanka Raha ~ Oct 18, 2018

Digital Citizenship

A UK-based research agency in a report called “The Rise and Impact of Digital Amnesia,” explains why over-reliance on digital technology is limiting our ability to create lasting memory. Humans are now more likely to forget a phone number or a piece of information after they are done using it.

The World Health Organization added gaming disorder to the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases—an international standard for reporting diseases and health conditions used by medical practitioners around globally.

In 1995, the first Center for Internet Addiction was established and so was coined the term Internet addiction disorder. 

As technology made inroads into our lives so did issues like these. We were overdue a rethink on how to safeguard our interest in light of technology’s exponential growth. There were escalating concerns about the effects of technology, especially on children, as digital media is giving rise to a breed of distracted youth, privacy issues and tech addiction. 

So why is a technology company in the making talking about woes of the digital era?

Because we believe technology can be used without being a hindrance to our cognitive skills — if we use it as a tool.

Because we believe technology is more likely to benefit our children by teaching them new skills rather than turning them into technology addicts—if we teach them balance.

Because we believe technology can have ethics and moral value as an objective—if we are taught not to cross the thin line demarcating use and misuse.

As we celebrate Digital Citizenship week, it is optimal for PopSmartKids as a community, to highlight the efforts of a few notable organizations that are inspiring us to build a digital platform that lives up to the need of the hour — bundle creativity and learning with ethical and sustainable digital practices.

We want to be part of technology’s growth story but also be a part of the change that these three organizations are bringing about – advocating for making the digital world a smarter, safer and more ethical place for us and for the generations to come.

Center For Humane Technology

As technologists working at big technology companies, developing technology that we have at our hands today, they were also noticing some disturbing trends surfacing with the spread of those technologies. Short of stirring up a tumult, these people—former tech insiders and CEOs of tech companies — joined hands and vowed to be catalyst of change.

And thus was created the Center for Humane Technology that is “realigning technology with humanity’s best interest.” They believe that technologies, predominantly made by a few tech giants, that surround us are eroding important pillars of our society. Using persuasive techniques for having us glued to our devices and putting profit over ethics are what they are fighting against. The organization is helping bring about change in the way technology is designed, by pushing for humane design standards, policy and business model changes.

Earlier this year the organization tied-up with a prominent advocacy organization for children, Common Sense, to launch a campaign called the Truth About Tech. The initiative aims to protect young minds from potentially harmful manipulation and addiction of the digital media. They aim to achieve this objective by putting pressure on technology companies to make design products that are less intrusive and less addictive.  

Common Sense

Common Sense had earned the trust of more than 80 million consumers who seek objective information on their website in pursuit of quality screentime for children. For 15 years, the nonprofit organization has been helping children thrive in the digital world by providing parents and teachers with advice and information on how to make smart screen choices for our children. They offer innovative tools to parents and teachers to help reach digital media’s full potential, and thus, empower them to teach children how to use technology wisely.

Common Sense works in threefold, namely, Common Sense Media, Common Sense Education and Common Sense Action Kids, each branch working as guides for families, educators for children, and advocators for policy and business change, respectively.

It’s very likely that you pop open your browser to commonsensemedia.org, find the rating of the show on the website and read the parent-generated reviews in satisfaction before you nod your head in approval to your child’s request to watch a new show. If you are a family with children, an educator or someone interested in figuring out how best to use the digital space to benefit young minds, your search will inevitability land you on one of Common Sense webpages.

International Society for Technology in Education

International Society for Technology in Education or more popularly known as ISTE is a community of passionate global educators who believe that technology can be harnessed to devise creative ways to solve difficult problems in education. Technology has become an integral part of our lives and as adults we use it to accomplish multiple tasks during the day. Given how the world has changed, we need to revisit how we educate our children. ISTE upholds that mission through its multiple events, guidelines and evidence-based professional learning for educators.

Navigating this digitally interconnected world is tricky for educators because they have to prepare the next generation to thrive in this world. ISTE Standards are guidelines that help educators, education leaders, coaches and students. It is not like the job of the educators was ever easy, now they need to align the lessons so that they can help students build the digital age skills. ISTE plays a huge role in assisting teachers with reinventing the pedagogical needs to support student achievement. Digital Citizenship is in the core and heart of what ISTE is. The organization strives to use the potential of technology to allow ‘humans to create, to dream and to change the world’.

What we love about ISTE is its relentless focus on how best to use digital media to ‘bridge the gap from where we are to where we need to be’. It does so by defining standards for coaches so they can help the educators design tools that can best support learning for students to equip them for the digital age. When it comes to technology for education, the baton lies not just with the educators and coaches, the support of the education leaders is imperative so they can design innovative tools using technology that is not for the sake of technology but for the sake of education and learning.

As a society in need of being constantly connected, judicious use of technology is possible and should be the obvious choice. The efforts of organizations like the Center for Humane Technology, Common Sense and International Society for Technology in Education, are carving the way for realizing those thoughts.

Shikha Das Shankar is a freelance storyteller. Multitasking dragon slayer mom. Happy hiker. When not writing, she loves hiking with her favorite trio—the son, the daughter and the husband or cooking her favorite foods in her de-stressing zone, the kitchen.

Priyanka is the Founder and CEO of PopSmartKids, a company created to foster social-emotional learning in children by effective use of technology. A graduate from Purdue University she left her career as a tech exec in 2018 to start a movement of redefining screentime from a monitored time to a powerful tool for mentoring our future generation. She is a mom to two clever boys and a big advocate of digital citizenship for children.

Make Way for Mentoring Digital Screentime

by Shikha Das Shankar ~ Oct 11, 2018

Screentime battles have you surrounded day in and day out. The scene of your children sitting in front of the TV saying, “Five more minutes”, “One more show,” and “He is not letting me watch my show,” has played out in your living room many times. Pangs of guilt surface as you read that the American Association of Pediatrics has lowered its recommendation for acceptable screentime for toddlers.

We hear you, Parents. You have our attention.

Children have access to multiple gadgets today and that poses a big challenge in managing their screentime. They watch TV, play games on a tablet, and use a phone for social media—mostly simultaneously. The challenge is greater as schools are now geared towards more digital learning, in which children spend a significant amount of time in front of a screen to finish a school task or homework.

Let us begin by saying there are no foolproof action plans to manage screentime.

Many parents set timers to limit screentime, many use inbuilt apps on tablets to control media usage, and some completely say no to screentime during weekdays. Even with an elaborate rule-consequence system in place, you may find that no amount of reminders or threats are doing a lick of good when it’s dinner-time and you want your children to switch off their tablets.

While these monitor and control techniques are necessary, our efforts should not be limited to them.

We at PopSmartKids are dyed-in-wool members of a camp that believes healthy digital consumption habits can be achieved through gradual and consistent mentoring. We strongly feel by being role models for appropriate digital usage and an active participant in our children’s digital world, we can successfully raise children who set limits for themselves and practice good judgment when using digital media as teenagers and young adults.

Mentoring your children to exercise good digital habits is an effort for the long haul. But the process can start now. Try these simple steps to bring attention and awareness to your children as their curious mind sets out to explore the captivating world of digital media.

Accept it like other things

Accept that digital media will have a place in your child’s life, and increasingly so as they grow older. Mentoring him to use it appropriately is where we come in. Teach children that this, like everything else in his life has limitations—too much sugar is bad for health, playing basketball for six hours is not okay, and the next chapter of the gripping adventure series will have to wait till tomorrow morning—screentime too comes with limits.

Explain the purpose

The multifold purpose of digital media should be explained to children from the beginning. The knowledge that technology is a means of entertainment, a tool for learning and way to communicate can be planted early in a child’s mind. This awareness helps children understand why parents may say “No” to more TV shows but will encourage them to use the internet to search for information required to complete the history homework.

Include not replace

Teaching children that digital technology should not replace social interaction, physical activity and doing a household chore is important for them to understand that we should not let TV and tablets take over. If we teach children to include digital screentime in their daily routine just like we include piano lessons and playdates, children are more likely to understand the importance of balance.

Be a part of their digital life

Including yourself in your children’s screentime is a great way to bond with them and encourage learning. Working with your child on an app that allows you to collaborate with him on learning to code or writing a story is a fun way to share screentime. Show interest if he talks about a new app or video game he heard about from his friends at school. Don’t be quick to download it on his tablet. Show him that due-diligence is important for everything in the digital world by practicing it.

Trying to strike a balance in today’s digital world is learning for parents as much as it is for our children. We support you in your efforts to create that balance and strive to be a motivating force for raising the next generation of responsible digital natives.

Shikha Das Shankar is a freelance storyteller. Multitasking dragon slayer mom. Happy hiker. When not writing, she loves hiking with her favorite trio—the son, the daughter and the husband or cooking her favorite foods in her de-stressing zone, the kitchen.

Shattering patriarchy one conversation at a time

by Priyanka Raha ~ Oct 05, 2018

Sometime last year I went to the ‘Western Washington Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators’ event to support a friend. I fell in love with this book titled Cuddles (well of course can’t beat that title) but this is the page that caught my eye.

And no cuddles at all please. Not right now.

In the light of the recent events, I have thought about these words a lot. These words are a representation of one and one thing only – consent.

Last few days have made us angry, disgusted and ashamed. It started about an year ago with the unfolding of the Weinstein story. We have seethed in rage and anguish as one story after another has been laid bare before us and so has been laid bare the ugly nature of the patriarchy.

Time is now to take the opportunity to tear this down. It is not going to happen in a day or in a year. It will take years but it has to start today. There is no better place than our home to start the mentoring. It starts with preaching and practicing consent with our kids.

I will admit it is not easy. I was brought up in a culture where talking about anything related to sexual assault is (yes, is and not was, because it still is that way) taboo. But sweeping things under the rug, burying it and being quiet about it is not the answer. As a mother of two boys I want them to grow up knowing that their bodies are their own, their words are powerful and they should always respect the boundaries of the body.

We have to be conscientious about it, we have to own it, and so we need an action plan.

Action Plan 1

No and Stop.

The first and the foremost lesson to teach our kids is to be able to say ‘no’ and ‘stop’, to identify when to say no and to respect when someone else uses these words. Understanding the concept of consent can be difficult. And don’t forget the absence of a ‘yes’ means no.

It is never too early to start this conversation.

This can start in our very own homes, with simple things like giving a hug. Use words like, ‘Can I give you a hug?’ And in return respect his wishes if your kid says ‘no’. Don’t just preach it, practice it as adults.

Action Plan 2

For boys and girls

It is often forgotten that these lessons are important for growing boys as much as they are for growing girls. As the events have unfolded in the past week, I have witnessed women talking with disrespect, indifference and hurtful words. Our enemy here is patriarchy, not men. 

So, mothers of boys, please take note here – I feel we have been provided with this opportunity and this added responsibility to contribute, to mend and to help build gender equity. We need ALL hands on deck. And so we need to educate our boys and girls equally.

Action Plan 3

Keep it age appropriate

These conversations are meant for children of every age. They don’t need to know every sordid detail but the key is to keep it age appropriate but more importantly keep the conversation going. For a young child it can be something like this, “A very powerful man made some very bad choices that made many women feel uncomfortable, powerless and terrible inside. He exposed his private body to them without their permission. For others, he touched their private bodies without their permission. He bullied them in a way that made them feel that they couldn’t tell anyone about it. It hurt them very much.”

These short videos which are cataloged by age-appropriateness can be a great resource to keep the conversation going on consent. Do remember to watch along side the child and be prepared to answer any question.

Action Plan 4

Be an ‘up-stander’

It is important to not just have a conversation about consent, but to be an up-stander. A ‘no’ is a no, there is no grey area. And that includes a child’s willingness to participate in hugs to aunts, uncles and other close relatives.

Do not let anyone make your child feel guilty of not wanting to give him or her a hug even if they gave a cool present. Subtle messages go a long way in cementing the idea of consent. When it comes to something as innocent as hugging or tickling, if the child does not want it then he or she is not obliged to participate in it. It is important for him or her to know that a child’s personal space is far more important than an adult’s feelings.

Action Plan 5

Teach your kids that authority figures can be bad.

Remember Larry Nasser, the former gymnastics coach who abused more than 160 women and girls and it went on for years. He is now sentenced to 175 years in prison but this brought forward stories of how he was surrounded by enablers. As a man whose office walls were plastered with olympics memorabilia he held a position of respect.

I am sorry about dragging his sorry name here. But if we are talking about actions we can take as parents to educate our children on consent this is a story we, as parents, should be aware of. Don’t let the seeds of self-doubt about consent grow in their little heads. Provide them ample room to question people of authority. Let them practice saying ‘no’.

Today, we have the ability to make a change, get involved and conduct ourselves in a more helpful manner. We can do just that as parents – and teach our children to do the same. We can bring the patriarchy down – one conversation at a time.

Priyanka is the Founder and CEO of PopSmartKids, a company created to foster social-emotional learning in children by effective use of technology. A graduate from Purdue University she left her career as a tech exec in 2018 to start a movement of redefining screentime from a monitored time to a powerful tool for mentoring our future generation. She is a mom to two clever boys and a big advocate of digital citizenship for children.