Social Media whether you love it or loathe it has permeated our society firmly entrenching itself into our lives and those of many of our friends, family and social circles.

Whilst many of us use social media to keep in contact with loved ones, to share exciting news and celebrate life’s milestones much has been highlighted in the media recently of the darker more sinister side of social media. Trolls, bullies and stalkers have tragically taken their toll on too many lives and it needs to stop.  All too often the administrators of social media platforms are powerless or unwilling to take decisive action to shut down or delete reported bullying content.  So how do we as a society stop bullying, trolling and other kinds of unacceptable behaviour on social media?

The recent heartfelt outpouring of love for Dolly and her family at what was a gut wrenchingly tragic time was an indication many of us have had enough and want change, we want better for our families, for our children and our communities.  In all honesty the enormity and complexity of this issue shouldn’t paralyse us into inactivity, there is something we can all do…….

It starts with individual responsibility.

It starts with us as informed adults and parents using and role modelling respectful, kind and positive behaviour in our own personal dealings on social media. It’s about not saying one thing and doing another.

It starts with us as parents having open communication with our children who are using or want to use social media about their responsibility to interact on platforms with others in a kind and respectful way, to set boundaries around who they interact with (stranger danger) and encourage them to speak up if they or their friends are experiencing bullying in any shape or form.  It’s also about supervising what platforms they are on and what they are actually contributing or participating in on-line.

Supervision can come in many guises or levels for instance having devices in a central place- not in bedrooms, invoking  parental locks, saying “no” to non- age appropriate social media platforms or simply chatting about specific social media posts that aren’t ok and how you as a parent have handled them. Never underestimate how closely your children observe your social media usage, your comments and how you shut down inappropriate behaviour (or not).

Are we role modelling the safe environment on social media that we want for our kids? Are we verbalising or adding commentary to social media posts that we are reading in the form of snide remarks, sarcastic comments, casual racist or sexist remarks or making jokes at someone else’s expense?

Ask yourself these questions when using social media or setting guidelines with your kids:

  • Would you be proud to have your comments on the front page of the newspaper?
  • Would you say or do this in front of your children or parents?
  • Would you say it to your Boss’s face?
  • Are your contributions to the post respectful, helpful or kind?

It’s up to us to influence what we can and our own behaviour is critical if we are going to make the positive change we all desperately want.

By Heidi Bishop Senior Consultant EastCoast HR Group