Cyberbullying is a growing problem. It affects at least 85% of the 45,000 middle schoolers I polled in person last year, yet only 5% of them will tell their parents. In a smaller poll, 70% of students admitted to having cyberbullied others.
It has become a silent epidemic, stalking our children on social networks, instant messaging, interactive games and cell phones. While the more dramatic stories have made the headlines, from Megan Meier’s suicide following harassment by a neighborhood mom posing as a cute sixteen year old on MySpace, to cheerleaders beating one of their own on video, most cases are less newsworthy, but no less painful .
Cyberbullying has many stakeholders, from families whose lives are shattered by the loss of teens who chose suicide rather than face repeated torment, to students who are afraid to check their e-mail, to teachers being attacked online by students, mental health professionals trying to stay ahead of their patients, to the media trying to grapple with covering a story without further exploiting the victims, to regulators who are seeking answers and the industry who is struggling in its effort to identify and manage risks while attempting to herd cats. More, perhaps, than any other single issue, cyberbullying takes a village to address. In this first ever international cyberbullying conference, every member of the village will have a voice. Together we can fashion solutions and encourage change. And by the end of the two days, all stakeholders will know about being part of the solution, instead of part of the problem.
What do we need to know to address the problem and help frame meaningful solutions? What is the role of the Internet industry, media, government, advocacy groups and schools? Over two concentrated days, WiredSafety will help all stakeholders understand the problem better and find manageable solutions and collaborations. It will give community participants a chance to be heard, and the industry, media, advocacy groups and regulators a chance to listen and share their own viewpoints.