Digital Citizenship, Week 4

Week 4 Reflection

Cyberbullying & St. Francis

When I fly, I think that the term I like to use is “get my engine going.” It simply means that I am very excited to be embarking on this journey to wherever I am going. It could be a weekend trip, a long trip, or a vacation. I think that “cyberbullying” is one topic that has really “gotten my engine going.” The main point that I got this week was that cyberbullying is only becoming a bigger and bigger problem. Schools and companies are now having to deal with it, and it has even begun to draw the attention of experts in cybersecurity as no one really has an answer to it.

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The key point that really hit home to me was the story of Ryan Halligan. He went to school everyday and seemed very happy all the time. However, things were not as they seemed. He was teased all the time, and by the time he got to seventh grade, he found himself in a very difficult situation. He became friends with the bully, who only betrayed him later when he revealed rumors and personal information about Ryan online. This occurred during the summer before Ryan began eighth grade. He had a crush on one girl that pretended to like him, then she turned weapons on him by making fun of him. He told his parents about the bullying, but not the cyberbullying. They got him a counselor, defense lessons, and taught him the strategies to avoid cyberbullying. That plan may not have been enough, though. Ryan went into a deep state of depression and eventually things got worse. In the end, Ryan ended up committing suicide.

I can only imagine at this point how his parents might feel knowing that they could have done more. What grief are they coping with? I also wonder how the bullies feel now. Are they hanging their heads in shame or do they have no empathy? These are all questions that I think about as I put my head around this complicated issue. It hits home to me about the fact that this was mostly homophobic bullying. I have friends who are members of the LGBTQ community who I think about al the time. Could they have been the victims of this type of bullying and committed suicide? I cannot answer that question right now, but this story brings that message home. After looking at all of these events, I now know that we have really paid very little attention to cyberbullying in the past. Just like issues of hacking in cybersecurity, it gets put on the back burner until serious data breaches occur. I am calling on all of us to go into our schools and workplaces and demand that plans for cyberbullying be put into affect. Careful planning for this action beforehand can help prevent suicide or anyone from harming themselves by means at the hand of a cyberbully.

If we follow the actions given to us by St. Francis of Assisi, we can generally stop cyberbullying dead in its tracks. The prayer of St. Francis is something that I was taught when I was Ryan’s age and the thought of it has stayed with me all these years later. It says, “Lord make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me so love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy” (“Peace Prayer of Saint Francis,” 2017). This is just the first verse, but it still seems thought provoking to me. Perhaps we should have brought light to Ryan before he killed himself. Maybe we should have delivered him joy, instead of leaving him in sadness. The bottom line is this – cyberbullying is becoming a large problem, but it is up to us to solve it. The best solution for cyberbullying, I believe, is to bring love to those who hate. That is truly how we can change the world! So, strive to follow the example set by St. Francis; it may be our only chance to prevent cyberbullying. By stopping cyberbullying and listening to Ryan’s message, we can ensure that we will be “instruments of peace” long into the age of cyberspace!

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Below this reflection, I have included a list of resources that might be of use to anyone that wants to learn about cyberbullying.


Resources for Understanding Cyberbullying

References

“Peace Prayer Of Saint Francis”. Loyolapress.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.

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