As incidents of online meanness and cruelty continue to garner media attention, and children worry about becoming targets, parents, educators, and school districts must continue to band together to help kids stand up to online bullying. Recently, I participated in a local high-school event in Washington State, where 1,500 students, educators, and available parents discussed the realities of online bullying. In an ad hoc poll taken by one of the students at an assembly, well over half the student body stood up to acknowledge that they had, in fact, been mean to or bullied someone else online. This visual demonstration from the students is not unlike what Microsoft has witnessed around the world. Last June, we released results of a 25-country survey of youth aged eight to 17, asking them about some of the negative behaviors they’ve experienced online. More than half (54 percent) told us they were worried about being bullied online. Contrast that with only 29 percent who said their parents have talked to them about the issue. Teens are 43 percent more likely to be mean online, compared to eight to 12 year olds, the data show. I shared this point with the students because they have the power – with the help of others – to help keep these numbers from climbing. School programs like this one that bring together parents, students, educators, and technology leaders, are a step in the right direction. They allow everyone involved the opportunity to share their thoughts, insights, data, guidance, and resources to work toward a common goal. It’s much like the positive goal of “A Platform for Good” (PfG), a project of The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), which is asking everyone to pledge to use their power for good. The pledge consists of a simple but powerful statement: “I will use my power for good,” and will support teens and parents in using the Internet to create a movement of positive interactions – from reaching out to old friends, sharing compliments, or becoming virtual volunteers. At the school event, a small group of parents, for example, attended a “coffee chat” before the assembly. Questions ranged from the technical to the fundamental, but all parents were eager to learn and do more to better protect themselves and their families online. Students also had the opportunity after the assembly, to join smaller discussion groups, and bring ideas to the table about how they can work together and become each other’s ’ advocates when seeing or experiencing online bullying. It’s more encouraging signs that we are moving in the right direction as reponsible digital citizens. Since the advent of the Internet, Microsoft has been committed to creating safer, more trusted online experiences for people of all ages and abilities. Our work to help prevent online bullying, safeguard online reputations, combat Internet fraud, and halt other Internet wrongs, falls under the banner of fostering “digital citizenship.” But, we know we can’t do this alone. A safer, more secure online world is a “shared responsibility” among youth, parents, educators, law enforcement, governments, and community organizations. To help prevent online bullying and promote good digital citizenship, consult these resources: brochure, factsheet, whitepaper, toolkit. Also, regularly check in to our Safety & Security Center, where all of our tools and materials are housed. “Like” our page on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.
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