Remember the story about Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman who killed himself after two students viewed him having an intimate encounter with another man via webcam on September 19th and then broadcast this on the Internet?
Clementi’s tragic story represents the worst of a growing trend amongst young people. The American Academy of Pediatrics calls cyberbullying the “most common online risk for all teens.”
According to Covenant Eyes, one third of teens say they have been targets of potentially menacing online activities. 15% of teens overall say someone has forwarded or posted a private message they’ve written, 13% say someone has spread a rumor about them online, 13% say someone has sent them a threatening or aggressive message, and 6% say someone has posted embarrassing pictures of them online.
As a high school teacher, I see the effects of this cyberbullying almost every day, but now comes a heartwarming story about some teens who have decided to kill cyber bullies with kindness.
A Sincere Compliment
Jeremiah Anthony created a Twitter feed to compliment his fellow West High School classmates after reading a story about cyber bullies, people who hound their victims via social media.
“You shouldn’t be such a coward you have to hide behind a screen and say bad things to people,” he told TODAY.
Soon, Anthony and two friends were sending praise to randomly picked classmates, and sometimes teachers, under the Twitter handle @WestHighBros.
Here’s how Jeremiah explains what he’s doing on this inspirational video entitled “A Sincere Compliment”: “We send compliments to people who we think are feeling bad, or who have done something really good.”
“I believe that showing the goodness in people is very integral to our account. So many people on Twitter and Facebook get cyberbullied because they are less than perfect. No one is perfect, so we try to have as sincere compliments as possible.”
Hooray for Jeremiah!
There have been more than 3,000 tweets so far. Here are a few of them:
“Very creative and wise. You’re an outstanding musician, with your guitar and your voice. Keep being lovely and caring of all.”
“Your encouraging personality and generosity toward others makes you very likeable. You’re quite the intelligent kid, keep it up.”
“You are the man, one of the best runners West has right now. You have more work ethic than just about anyone.”
It All Started In Canada
Jeremiah has thrown himself into the fight against cyberbullying, but he didn’t start from scratch. It turns out he got the idea from some Canadian students at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
On a cold, rainy day, four college students were sitting around the kitchen table, depressed about their heavy homework and class loads at Canada’s prestigious Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
To cheer themselves and others up, third-year undergraduates and aspiring teachers Rachel Albi, Erica Gagne, Jessica Jonker, and Amanda Smurthwaite started a Facebook profile called Queen’s U Compliments, in which fellow classmates anonymously submit compliments about members of the campus community, and the four founding members post them from the account.
The site was launched on September 12, 2012, and since then has gathered more than 4,000 friends and 1,300 compliments, while at least 56 colleges and schools in Canada and the US have created their own Compliment pages, according to Time.
Indeed, the idea has reached all the way to California; I discovered the other day that the schools within my own school district in the San Francisco area all have their own “Compliments” pages.
Every K-12 teacher today has to deal with cyberbullying, as well as the preponderance of the media to highlight the worst of its excesses. How wonderful to see these efforts to combat cyberbullying being spearheaded and carried out by students.
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