It seems like every week, there’s a new, horrible case of cyber bullying in the news. Facebook says it’s fighting back in several ways, from technical fixes and changes on its platform, to partnering with agencies around the world to fight bullying in all of its forms.
The social media giant sponsored an all-day seminar Friday at Southwest Senior High School in Miami, a training session designed to turn students into anti-bullying ambassadors.
The students, teachers, and activities directors represented most of the public high schools in Miami-Dade County, and they did it on their day off, there was no school Friday.
The program was created by The Diana Award, the late Princess Diana’s legacy project. The charity’s representatives flew in from London.
"We're here because she believed young people could change the world, so this program that we're introducing is all about young people given the power and the responsibility to not only protect themselves from bullying but also to protect their peers," said Alex Holmes of The Diana Award.
The kids created bullying scenarios, made posters, watched videos, and discussed strategies with each other. Cyber bullying was, of course, a major topic of concern, and speaking of flying long distances, Facebook’s global safety manager, Karuna Nain, came to the event from the company’s headquarters in California.
“This is just the start of the journey for them, they’ll become anti-bullying ambassadors,“ Nain said. “They’ll learn how they can make a difference in their communities.”
Nain said students should report cyber bullying to Facebook and even to law enforcement if they feel someone is danger from someone else or, perhaps, a suicide risk.
The Diana Award says studies show 85% of all bullying incidents are witnessed by someone else, which means there is ample opportunity for intervention.
"Like the bully calling a kid ugly, you want to go over and help, you want to support that guy," Jeremy Vargas from North Miami Beach High School said to another young man, Jamal Pinckney of Hialeah High.
"I agree with him because some people will just stand there and like, don't say anything," Pinckney responded.
Some of the kids taking part in the training session felt especially suited for the task because they were bullied themselves, like Kevin Diaz, who went from victim to being voted Homecoming King.
"I want to be part of this program because I want to be that positive influence," said Diaz, a senior at South Miami High.
That’s the essence of what this effort is all about, spreading the word that it’s not hard to get involved, and an army of positive force can overcome all kinds of bullying.