How and Why your Kids should be an Upstander
The other day, I heard my 9-year-old call his friend a potato. My stomach dropped. First, he was playing a game with a friend, so it was friendly teasing and not bullying. However, I did not like the use of the word. In case you haven’t ever seen it, there are some incredibly distasteful and disrespectful memes floating around on the internet. And, they refer to Intellectually Disabled people like potatoes, linking it to the R-word and so on.
I could tell by the shock on Brian’s face that he had no idea about the memes and the link to disabled people. I told him he wasn’t in trouble, I just wanted to explain to him why I didn’t want him using that word in a derogatory manner anymore. He understood and I’m certain he won’t do it again.
But it just goes to show that even a seemingly innocent word can hurt people.
I only wish that I had agreed to do this post for Google a few weeks ago, and knew about being an Upstander. Because I would have taken the conversation one step further, and not only told Brian not to use the word but that maybe he wants to explain to his friends why it might hurt other kids. While Brian’s phrase was verbal and not online, it still is a good time to have the conversation about this Google program. Be Internet Awesome is Google’s free multifaceted program designed to teach kids the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety so they can explore the online world with confidence.
What we know about bullying:
- 28% of students have experienced bullying personally.
- 71% of students have witnessed bullying directly.
- Only 20% – 30% of students notify adults about bullying.
- Over 50% of parents are concerned about their child being bullied.
I don’t even remember the statistics about disabled kids and their siblings being bullied, but it’s astronomically high. Depressingly high, I guess it’s why I try to forget. But it’s that 71% who have witnessed that I want to talk about.
Turn your Bystanders into Upstanders.
Sometimes bystanders don’t try to stop the bullying or help the target, but when they do, they’re being an upstander. A person can choose to be an upstander by deciding not to support mean behavior and standing up for kindness and positivity. A little positivity can go a long way online. It can keep negativity from spreading and turning into cruelty and harm.
I’m going to present it to Brian as having the power. If you find yourself a bystander when harassment or bullying happens, you have the power to intervene and report cruel behavior.
How to be an Upstander
When you see someone being mean to another person online, making them feel embarrassed or left out, making fun of them, disrespecting them, hurting their feelings, etc. You always have choices.
First, you can choose to be an upstander instead of a bystander by helping the target. Second, if you choose to be an upstander, you have options for what kind of action you take. The most important thing to know is that it can really help someone being targeted just to be heard if they’re sad and to know that someone cares. For any of these options, if kids cannot find the words to use, you can help them. Google gives you options in their Be Internet Awesome program. There’s even a whole plan for teachers.
Now, not everybody feels comfortable standing up for others publicly, whether online or in the school lunchroom. If you do, go for it! You can:
Call out the mean behavior (not the person), saying it’s not cool.
- Say something nice about the target in a post or comment.
- Get friends to compliment the target online, too.
- Offline, you can invite the person to hang out with you on the playground or sit with you at lunch.
- If you don’t feel comfortable helping out publicly, that’s fine.
You can also support the target privately. You can:
- Say something kind or complimentary in an anonymous post, comment, or direct message (if you’re using media that lets you stay anonymous).
- Tell them you’re there for them if they want to talk after school.
- Ask how they’re doing in a text or direct message.
- In a quiet conversation in person or on the phone, tell them you thought the mean behavior was wrong and ask if they feel like talking about what happened.
No matter how you choose to be an upstander, you have both public and private options for reporting. This could mean reporting bullying behavior via a website or application interface, or reporting what’s going on to an adult you trust.
Play Interland with your kids and put your kindness skills to the test at g.co/KindKingdom
Learn more about how to Be Internet Awesome at g.co/BeInternetAwesome and tell your kids’ teachers about the online curriculum so they can introduce these activities in the classroom.
Download the Be Internet Awesome Curriculum:
About Be Internet Awesome:
Be Internet Awesome is Google’s free multifaceted program designed to teach kids the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety so they can explore the online world with confidence. The program is available in English and Spanish and consists of an ISTE standards-aligned curriculum, ready-made Pear Decks for each lesson, Interland – an adventure-packed online game about digital safety and citizenship – and plenty of resources for educators and parents.
This has been a sponsored post done by me for Google and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.