For the past 40 years, I have been fully invested in the well-being of humans and how they engage and interact with one another. I started my professional journey in the arena of stand-up comedy, where I was able to develop my communication skills by delivering humor in a way that would brighten and enlighten my audience.
I have been able to take my innate and learned skills, such as humor, communication, empathy and reflective listening and use these skills to engage, educate, support and inspire both children and adults. One of the greatest gifts that I can offer others is the special moments where we can bond in laughter, inspire through compassion, and together address issues that are affecting our society.
Recent issues of significant concern to me are trolling, harassment and bullying behavior and the impact that this has on our youth who come from families of all backgrounds. Trolling, harassment and bullying are forms of abuse that can have a far-reaching and negative affect on youth in several ways. They can feel threatened, hurt, humiliated and harassed and as a result have feelings of anger and depression.
The UK-based organization National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children indicates that one in four children have experienced something upsetting on a social networking site and about one in eight young people have been bullied on social media. The organization also notes that almost one in four young people have come across racist and hate messages online.
Those who have been the target of such harassment and abuse may feel a sense of shame, guilt, and/or embarrassment and internalize their feelings, which could lead to mood and behavior changes. This is an issue that must be taken seriously and it is incumbent on us to educate about the issue and put an end to such abuse.
As I travel the nation talking to children from all backgrounds, I hear stories of suffering, sadness and confusion from both the perspective of children and adults who have been affected by trolling, harassment and bullying. I have also been able to offer a moment of comfort by listening and engaging in constructive dialogue about various incidents and applying humor to the conversation, which has the ability to soothe tension, relieve stress and improve mood.
Due to the extensive community interaction that I have had with both youth and adults, I would like to suggest three areas that may have a positive impact on those affected by this pervasive problem:
• Peer-to-peer support programs – recruit and train emotionally intelligent youth to respond and educate their peer community about the identified problem and have these youth serve as a support system to those affected by trolling, harassment and bullying.
• Teach youth through art and journaling how to gain relief and improve mood by expressing their feelings of shame, guilt, and/or embarrassment as a result of such harassment and bullying.
• Engage and encourage teachers to participate in service opportunities to help educate our youth about the impact of the issue, how to report the problem, how to identify the symptoms of a youth who may be affected by trolling, harassment and/or bullying, and how to get the youth assistance.
With the support of community, by being proactive and developing a strategic plan, we can help advance awareness, support creation of curriculum to educate and combat the problem and engage both youth and adults in being able to identify the problem, foster community involvement and encourage empathy.
The internet is here to stay, but trolling, harassment and bullying can go away with your help.