Throughout history, the role of the bystander has been attributed to inciting countless bad things to happen. Today, bystanders are involved in most cyberbullying incidents – with no consequences for their actions or lack of action. Change is coming.
Thursday evening, my colleague Kathleen Watt and I headed over to Joseph Kerr Middle School to attend a Parent Night presentation from the Organization for Social Media Safety (SMS).
Ed Peisner, who founded SMS in 2017, opened his presentation with a short video to explain the organization’s mission.
In response to the 2017 vicious, debilitating attack on his son Jordan, which was filmed by the attacker’s friend and then uploaded to social media (Snapchat), Ed took action. In addition to forming the SMS, he dedicated himself to working with public policy. Within the year, and in collaboration with California Assemblymember Matt Dababneh, Ed spearheaded the passing of AB 1542, AKA Jordan’s Law. The law makes it a criminal offense to deliberately record an attack for the purpose of posting it on social media, and, in some cases, the person filming and posting the video (bystanders) could also be charged.
Peisner views AB 1542 as a step forward for change. But he’s not stopping there. He is currently working on “groundbreaking social media safety legislation at the state level and with local school boards on enhancing social media safety policies.”
In Jordan’s case, only the perpetrator, who did not even know Jordan, was charged with a crime. The bystanders, including the young woman partnering with the perpetrator to film the attack, were not. Typically the perpetrators commit the act of bullying/cyberbullying and recording/posting to social media for the purpose of gaining “likes”, more important to them than the consequences of their actions. Without the bystanders, the attack on Jordan would likely not have happened. It is because of bystanders that history all too often repeats itself.
I recommend visiting the SMS website and signing up for their newsletter. I’m also following the organization on Twitter to help keep on top of the ever-changing social media issues that impact the lives and safety of our students and their families.
I look forward to future Parent Nights and student rallys with Ed Peisner and enthusiastically support the work and goals of SMS:
“SMS is the nation’s first non-profit that serves as a consumer protection organization focused solely on social media safety. SMS protects families from all social media-related dangers including cyberbullying, violence, hate speech, human trafficking, and propaganda through innovative educational programming,legislative and regulatory advocacy, and technology development.”
If your state has legislation in place addressing possible legal consequences for cyberbullying offenses, please leave a comment with the information. I would love to see a national movement in confronting cyberbullying and the role of the bystander spread to all 50 states.