Bullying

As we all know there are youths that are being bullied in school and society, and for sure in the LGBT community. How to deal with it effectively requires the skills to understand and manage their feelings, and overcome.

As an educator I hear the expression “computers will soon be able to do many of the cognitive tasks in many jobs”. Life skills are mostly relational and being part of a team. Also empathy becomes a more important workplace skill, the ability to sense what another human being is feeling or thinkings.

In addition, the ability to function in a group also becomes more important — to know how to tell stories that convey the important points, how to mix people together. Amazingly, there is an app for that to

use technology to better articulate, understand and control ones emotions. So far so good. Research shows that people communicate more often with family and friends because of technology, but the quality of that communication may be weaker.

However, kids who spend more time engaging with a screen than with other kids or adults can struggle to understand emotion, create strong relationships or become more dependent on others. If all you’re doing is using Facebook, you’re not getting the interpersonal connection that you need.

For adults, reliance on the quick text or Facebook message is mostly about saving time. But for children, the overuse of technology to communicate affects the brain as we show below. Technology can be a big hindrance on interpersonal relationships, and can rewrite a child’s brain pathways in a very different way than how they would normally develop.

The problem is that the more people and children interact with a person or the real world through a screen rather than in real life, the less emotion is attached to the exchange. The way we talk, our body language and tone are all fundamental to establishing human relationships. And they’re all missing with most forms of modern technology.

Back to LGBT bullyingIn a study, 85% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 40% reported being physically harassed, and 19% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual identity. To counteract this we need to

– Debunk misperceptions about digital behavior;

– Build empathy and understanding;

– Teach online safety skills;

– Equip young people (and some adults) with strategies to reject digital abuse in their lives.

October was the national bullying prevention month. There is no federal cyberbullying law in the U.S.

and efforts at creating the culture of empathy, on the other hand, receive far less public attention. One bright light is The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence’s partnership with with Facebook aimed at helping the company to foster empathy among its users.

While public attention seems to be overwhelmingly focused on punishment, education on cultural values to  foster a different pattern of social relations and concern for others is just as important. Framing online behavior as symptomatic of larger cultural narratives is a much neglected view in the public debate around cyberbullying.

So why do i perseverate on this when the average age of the NABWMT is 52 (or so)? The answer is we need to realize that the current traits of young adults in empathy can become (at least in part) ours. We need to balance our online and offline persona.

After all the NA has a proud history of emphasizing people skills especially at the margins of society. So, after you have friended one of our thousands on our Facebook, practice being their and friend someone face to face.