Cyberbullying: What’s A Kid To Do

Mine Isa by Johan Viirok

Mine Isa by Johan Viirok

This post was originally published on The Undeniable Ruth in September 2011.

Last week, the world was saddened to learn about the suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer. This 14 year-old was repeatedly bullied by his peers since the fifth grade. To the outside world, it seemed like this was a child with enough self-esteem to overcome this adversity. He had support from his therapist, social worker, friends, and family. He even made a video for the It Gets Better Project where he said, “All you have to do is hold your head up and you’ll go far.” All of this support wasn’t enough to keep Jamey from taking his own life.

According to reports, Jamey was repeated bullied at school and online. It’s not uncommon for victims of bullying to remain quiet because they are too ashamed to report that they are being victimized. Also, many teens feel a need to be independent and handle their problems on their own. They need to know that they have resources and recourse for addressing cyberbullying when it occurs.

Here are my top three tips for responding to cyberbullying.

1. Limit Who Has Access To You Online
Jamey received hateful messages via Formspring. In his It Gets Better video, he admitted it was a mistake to create a Formspring account. It allowed people to send him hateful messages anonymously. I wish Jamey knew he could have avoided this harassment. You can adjust your Formspring settings to disallow anonymous postings. It won’t stop all the harassing posts, but it will stop anyone who is too cowardly to let their name be seen. Likewise on Facebook, you can adjust your settings so certain people can’t see you at all or so that only your friends can send you messages or post on your wall. On Twitter, you can block people who are harassing you.

2. Report Abuse To The Website Where It Occurs
If you’re being harassed on a social media website, report it! Formspring, Twitter, and Facebook all have policies against using their sites to abuse other users. The same holds true for email providers. I suspect these site start by warning users who violate their terms of service, but they don’t change their behavior, they could have their account suspended.

3. Keep A Record Of The Abuse
I know it’s hard to do, but don’t delete abusive posts, emails or text messages. Take screenshots of posts online in case the bully deletes it later. It’s easier to prove you’re being abused when there’s hard evidence. It’s not a he said-she said situation at that point.

It takes a lot of courage to stand up for yourself and report abuse. I know it’s scary, but remember that reporting abuse is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.

Social Media Policies That Every Company Needs

Texting by Joi Ito

Texting by Joi Ito

This post was originally published on The Undeniable Ruth in January 2011. 

Last weekend I attended a talk by Kade Dworkin to business students on social media strategies for companies. Kade seems to have read every book on this topic and knows the heavy hitters in this area. He suggested that every company have two social media policies.

Social Media Policy for Employees
Is an employee allowed to say who their employer is on their blog? What about their Twitter profile? Is there anything wrong with an employee tweeting out, “Grrr…some days I hate my job” or “My clients are making me crazy?” If there are no rules about what employees can and can’t say online when they’re on their own time, you really can’t get mad at them for what they say, unless there is a blatant violation of client confidentiality or a disclosure of a trade secret. It’s disturbing that only 29% of employers have social media policies. Being active on social media sites is part of doing business today, and if you don’t have a social media policy for employees, you’re asking for trouble.

Social Media Crisis Response Policy
I had never heard this before, but it makes perfect sense. In the past, a company had more time before a bad review is disseminated via newspapers and word of mouth. Now, a bad review can be spread across the internet in a matter of minutes. While a company should hope and work towards providing exceptional goods and services all the time, there will always be individuals who are not happy. When that happens, it’s critical that the company has a plan in place on how it will respond. The company should already have action plans for dealing with the worst case scenarios that might occur. Additionally, Kade suggested that whoever is in charge of social media should have a strong relationship with the company’s legal department to avoid any major missteps.

Recall the fiasco that occurred after Amy’s Baking Company got a bad review on Yelp. The main issue wasn’t that a customer was unhappy, but that the owner did a horrible job responding to the bad review. It’s hard for an owner to get a bad review about their staff and service, and it’s critical that the response be one that attempts to resolve the problem privately and show that the company is customer-focused. In this case, the owner’s response caused irreparable harm to their and their restaurant’s reputation. Many people who read the review and the owner’s response said that they will never patronize that restaurant in the future. I have never been to Amy’s and now given the choice, I’ll go somewhere else.

Kade also suggested that companies never let an intern be in charge of social media because it’s important that whoever is in charge is someone who can make decisions on the fly to resolve problems. This should occur within 30 minutes, not in a few days. A fast and effective response can do as much to bolster a company’s reputation as providing exceptional service.