Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Stop Cyberbullying: Move Out Into Mainstream Media

Andy Carvin has declared March 30th “Stop Cyberbullying Day.” I think Andy is right on target in promoting the view that what we need are MORE conversations. He writes:

Perhaps the most constructive response is to talk about it. To get everyone talking about it. We only seem to talk about cyberbullying in education circles or in the aftermath of a school shooting. But between the headlines, it happens every day, probably thousands of times a day. And it has to stop.

I am thrilled to read Andy got some time on the air with the BBC this week on this topic. Many, many more of us need to follow his lead.

There are many of us engaging in conversations here in the blogosphere, but relative to the number of hearts beating on our planet, our numbers are very small. Eric Langhorst got me thinking about this recently with his podcast about American Idol. Isn’t it amazing how focused SO MANY people are on something that in the grand scheme of things, is quite silly and relatively meaningless? What about topics of REAL importance? I’d certainly put stopping cyberbullying and promoting more conversations in our own locales about Internet safety and the powerful, appropriate, ethical and constructive uses of digital technologies in that category.

This dovetails with thoughts I had last fall after participating in Global Learn Day. The conversations were great, the dialog was super, but it really struck me how limited the audience was. Don’t get me wrong: I believe the world is changed one conversation at a time, and every conversation can matter. However, when we discuss issues relating to broad-based social changes (like stopping cyberbullying or designing school 2.0) we naturally should think about issues of scale.

The blogosphere is growing fast and empowering to many, but its reach (at the current time) pales compared to traditional media outlets. People committed and passionate about effecting social changes should look to all available resources in their struggle to articulate, share, and develop their message with the broadest possible constituency. If we are serious about working to end cyberbullying, we need to focus MUCH more attention on bringing our conversations into these mainstream media channels. That means our local newspaper(s), local radio stations, and local TV stations.

Digital Dialog is an effort I’ve launched with my wife and others to address these issues, including stopping cyberbullying. Andy’s Stop Cyberbullying Ning is more narrowly focused on this goal. Efforts like these are important, because I think the most valuable thing we can do as people trying to become more educated ourselves about Internet safety, safe digital social networking, etc. is to help others plug into digital discussions like these. As many have and continue to observe, knowledge increasingly resides “in the network.” By plugging each other into these networks of knowledge sharing, we empower each other to learn more from and rely on each other for support and answers.

That said, however, I think we cannot ignore mainstream media, and should not focus exclusively on the negative aspects of digital culture. We need to be discussing all these issues with “professional journalists” in our own locales, but be careful to not focus exclusively on the negative, the bad, and the ugly. Yes, I definitely support strong stands against cyberbullying. I participated in a statewide videoconferencing panel several weeks ago in Oklahoma on this very topic. As I stated in my comments for that panel, however, we shouldn’t focus exclusively on issues of Cyberbullying to the complete exclusion of the wonderful, enriching ways digital technologies can be used to learn, grow, and positively connect with others. That’s why I think more of us need to be engaged in digital dialog. Stopping cyberbullying is one important topic among many in “digital dialog” conversations, in my view.

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