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Civility in the Digital Age! Can’t We Learn to Be Nice to Each Other?

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We hear about bullets that kill people. Gun control is a topic that is not going away. However there is another type of bullet that can ruin lives in a different form–and can be just as deadly. Cyber-bullets.

Sadly, hearing about online attacks by and between kids has become almost commonplace these days. But attacks against adults are an epidemic onto themselves. As someone who was a target, I know this first-hand, but it’s amazing that far too few people understand the extent to which online hostility and attacks impacts adults as well.

Andrea Weckerle, both through CiviliNation, the non-profit she founded, and her new book Civility in the Digital Age: How Companies and People can Triumph Over Haters, Trolls, Bullies, and Other Jerks is trying to change that. (Disclosure: I serve as an Advisor to CiviliNation.)

Her book outlines the problems we see online (the real-life examples she provides are often raw and hard-hitting), and also offers solutions in the form of best practices and techniques.

She starts by explaining why measuring and monitoring one’s online reputation is important, and breaks down how to do that. She also goes into considerable detail about what types of conflict we’re likely to encounter online (these can range from one-on-one interpersonal conflict to conflict with people who are pseudonymous or anonymous, to online lynch mobs), as well as who the most common troublemakers are (cyberbullies, online harassers and defamers, trolls, sockpuppets, and a host of difficult people). Of particular interest is the information about anger management, which includes insights into how to manage one’s own anger online and how to deal with those who are aggressively spouting off, both which are super important in the hyper-intense online environment. The chapter on conflict resolution skills and strategies get into nitty-gritty how-tos.

But it’s the chapter “30-Day Pan for better Conflict Management Online” that provides detailed information on how to put knowledge into action. Day 1, for example, explains how to start your conflict inventory and assessment, while Day 11 and Day 12 discuss choosing an online monitoring tool and setting up an online conflict tracking system, Meanwhile, Day 17, covers how to determine whether you need to bury or remove negative information about you online, and Day 29 talks about how to simulate an online conflict crisis.

“Civility in the Digital Age” is a serious book, but it’s also very hopeful. In the last chapter, Weckerle quotes serial entrepreneur and environmentalist Paul Hawken who says “If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.” Weckerle writes, “Hawken’s words are relevant to the online world, where you see both the best and the worst of humanity expressed. But if you’ve read this book, it’s clear you’re not willing to turn a blind eye to the egregious behavior found online—you want to make things better!”

And don’t we all want to do that?

In my opinion, if you are online today, you need to read this book.

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Bullying, Cyberbullying, Cyberstalking: Don’t be a victim – Rise above it (Easier said than done)

Whether you are a teen or an adult, the effects of a cyber stalker or cyberbully can be emotionally devastating. For adults, especially professionals and business owners, it can be financially destructive.

As a victim and survivor of a cyber stalker, as well as the target of cyberbullies, I know firsthand how difficult and stressful it can be.

Initially you are shocked – wondering who these people are? Why are they doing this? In many situations, you don’t even know the perpetrator, but they certainly believe they know you!

In 2006 in Broward County Florida, a landmark case for Internet Defamation and Invasion of Privacy. It was a jury verdict of over $11M for damages done to my organization, Parents’ Universal Resource Experts and myself. (www.helpyourteens.com)

I was literally bombarded with what are called “Google bombs” – and worse than that, they would attack my friends. My friends would try to fight back and the more you debate these people (stalkers/bullies) the more they engage and it can go from bad to worse within a matter of a few minutes of keystrokes.

With stalkers/bullies, you will never win – Yes, I was vindicated in a court of law, but did that remove all the slime that was online? It didn’t – and I continually have to spend time explaining these unfortunate people that have nothing better to do with their lives but to hurt others. They no longer hurt me – I only feel terrible for others that have to listen to their ranting.

When you can’t beat someone legally, the next best step today is taking it to the wild west of the Internet! Yes, the next thing I realized I was being slammed online. Called a child abuser, kidnapper, Ed-con, exploited families, a crook, and worse. Some comments even got sexual and disgusting. As my family and friends were reading this – I was mortified. I had to take legal action. The rest is history – as I won again in a jury trial for damages of over $11M.

Here we are in 2010 and cyber stalkers are still working hard at hurting people – but what I have learned from my experience is what others need to know when they are stalked.

• Never fuel it or engage in it – you will only fire it up. The stalker/bully wants to get a reaction, as hard as it is, don’t do it.
• If you can, block him/her and report them to the moderator of the forum (ie: Twitter, Facebook, Blogspot, Google etc.)
• If you attempt to tell your side of the story, even when it is the truth, you will never win. These people are determined to destroy you – no matter how blue the sky is, they will always be more determined it is green.
• Remember, when reading their crap, it is 99.9% twisted truths or outright lies. They may tell you to go and read X, Y, and Z – but neglect to tell you to read A, B and C – which completes the story. (For example, my stalker likes to tell people to read my trial transcripts – almost 1000 pages – and they direct you to certain page numbers, but unless you read the whole trial – you won’t understand those few pages, and I may look very bad – afterall, isn’t that the job of opposing counsel?) What would happen if you only heard one side of a case in trial? No one would hear the entire story.
• What motivates these stalkers and bullies? That is a million dollar question. Depending on who they are, in many cases they simply enjoy hurting others. In my case I believe these are seriously deranged people that want all residential programs closed. They don’t understand that many parents are only doing what is best for their teen. Yes, I chose a bad program -but I have taken my mistakes and turned them around to help others.
• Ignoring them is the best form of defense you have. Again, it can be extremely difficult, but remember, the more you try to tell your story, the more they will distort it. You will never win. It is just a matter of time and unfortunately for someone else, they will move on to another target.

There are lots of great online resources with more information on bullying:

http://www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/adults/cyber-bullying.aspx
http://www.ncpc.org/cyberbullying
http://www.cyberbullying.us/
http://connectsafely.org
http://www.stompoutbullying.org

Learn more about my story and how to protect your teens and yourself in www.googlebombbook.com and watch my appearance on Rachael Ray Show and ABC News 20/20 at www.suescheffpodcasts.com and http://www.rachaelrayshow.com/show/segments/view/preventing-cyber-slander/

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Sue Scheff: Consequences of SEXTING

Sexting is a word that years ago we would have not heard about.  Today teens and tweens are not only familiar with this word, many have suffered the consequences from it.

A Thin Line debuted on MTV this month that educates and informs parents, teachers, kids and everyone about the dangers of the digital world.

What is Sexting?

Sending or forwarding nude, sexually suggestive, or explicit pics on your cell or online. For some people, it’s no big deal. But real problems can emerge when the parties involved are under 18, when people get pressured into sexting, and when sexts go viral. – A Thin Line

What are the consequences of sending or receiving one?  There are many, however the most common are the feelings of humiliation, embarrassment and much worse.  The person that is in the photo can potentially suffer from extreme depression and even feelings of suicide. 

For the person sending them to go viral, there could be potential criminal charges.  You could get arrested. Taking, sending, and possessing naked images of a minor is a federal crime. Sex offenders’ registry? Not the honor roll you were hoping for.

Parents need to take the time to sit down and talk to their kids about sexting and how it can potentially ruin lives for a long time.  Review their phones or computers if you suspect that your child is participating in this activity.  Remember, there comes a time when safety trumps privacy and this could be one of those times.

Be an educated parent, you will have safer teens.

Watch A Thin Line on Sexting in America.  Watch the four-part series with your children.

Read more on Examiner.

Sue Scheff: Teen Internet Addiction

teeninternetaddictionWRAPPED IN THE WEB – Teen Internet Addiction

By Sue Scheff

Introduction

In today’s society, the Internet has made its way into almost every American home. It is a well-known fact that the web is a valuable asset for research and learning. Unfortunately, it can also be a very dangerous place for teens. With social networking sites like Myspace and Friendster, chat rooms, instant messaging, and online role-playing video games, our children are at access to almost anyone. Sue Scheff, along with Parent’s Universal Resource Experts™, is tackling the dangers of the web.

Keeping tabs on our teens’ online habits doesn’t just keep them safe from online predators. More and more parents are becoming wary of the excessive hours their teens spend surfing the web, withdrawing from family, friends and activities they used to enjoy. Internet Addiction is a devastating problem facing far too many teens and their families. While medical professionals have done limited research on the topic, more and more are recognizing this destructive behavior and even more, the potential mental effects it can have.

Though the web is a great place for learning and can be safe for keeping in touch, it is important that families understand the potential risks and dangers to find a healthy balance between real and virtual life.

The Basics: The Dangers of Teen Internet Addiction

It’s clear that, for teenagers, spending too much time online can really deter social and educational development. The Internet world is such that there is always something new to do and to distract one from one’s responsibilities. We all do it- take ten minutes here or there to explore our favorite gossip or sports site. There is nothing wrong with using the Internet as a tool for research, news, and even entertainment. After all, the World Wide Web is the world’s most accurate, up to date resource for almost any type of information.

But as the Internet evolves and becomes more tailored to the individual, it grows increasingly easier to develop a dependency on it. This is especially true for teens- a group that tends to be susceptible to flashy graphics and easily enticed by the popularity of social networks. In a sense, the Internet is the new video game or TV show. It used to be that adolescents would sit in front of the TV for hours on end operating a remote, shooting people and racing cars. Now they surf the web. Teens are impressionable and can at times be improperly equipped to handle certain situations with a degree of reason and rationality. And although they may have good intentions, they might be at risk of coming across something inappropriate and even dangerous.

Sexual Predators

We’ve all heard the stories about children entering chat rooms who end up talking to someone older than them who may be looking for something more than merely a chat. These tales may sound far-fetched, or to some, even mundane, because of the publicity they’ve received, but as a parent it would be rather foolish to dismiss them as hearsay or as something that could never actually happen to your child. The fact is, these accounts of sexual predation are all too true and have caused some families a great deal of strain and fear. Even pre-adolescents have been known to join chat rooms. The reality is that there is no real way of knowing who might be in one at any given time. An even scarier thought is that these forums are often sexual predators’ main source of contact with young children. In fact, the popular TV show, [To Catch a Predator (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10912603/)%5D, employs someone to pose as a teen and entice these sex offenders. The show profiles the interactions between them all the way up until the actual meeting. Some of the situations portrayed are horrifying. If you’re the parent of a teen or pre-teen, make sure to monitor Internet activity with regards to chat rooms and educate your child on the potential dangers they present.

Sensitive Subject Matter

Human curiosity is perhaps at its peak during one’s teenage years. That curiosity is what aids teens in the growth and development process. It’s necessary for survival as an adolescent and can provide for some great discoveries and maturation. However, teen curiosity can also potentially lead a person into some questionable situations, and the Internet is a prime medium through which to quell one’s inquisitiveness. Let’s face it- teenagers are anxious to be knowledgeable about topics such as sex, drugs, and other dangerous subject matter.

Talking to your teen about these sensitive subjects before he or she has a chance to search online can be a great way to allay his or her need to surf the web for more information. The Internet might be an excellent tool for presenting interesting data, but it can also grossly misrepresent certain issues. If a teenager wants to learn about sex or drugs via the web, he or she might decide to do a search containing the words “sex” or, perhaps “marijuana.” The results your child might find may not necessarily be the type of educational, instructive material you’d hope they would receive. The Internet may be savvy, but one thing it’s not capable of doing is knowing who is using it at any given time and how to customize its settings. Talk to your children about subjects you feel are important before they have the chance to find out themselves. You never know what they might come across.

Limited Social Growth

There is no better time to experience new things and meet new people than during one’s teenage years. Getting outside, going to social gatherings, and just having a good time with friends are among some of the most productive and satisfying activities in which teenagers can engage. While the Internet can provide a degree of social interaction, online networks and connections cannot replace the benefits of in-person contact. Teen Internet Addiction is dangerous because it limits a person’s options when it comes to communication. Much of learning and growing as a teen comes from the lessons one learns through friendships, fights, disagreements, trends, popularity, etc.

The Internet has made it all too easy for teens to recoil from the pressures of adolescence and remain indoors. The lure of the web can often make it seem as though social networks and online gaming are acceptable substitutes for real life. Teens can find acceptance in chat rooms and message boards, while at school they might be complete outcasts. It’s easy for teenagers to rebuff the idea of interacting with their peers and risking rejection when the Internet can provide for a seemingly relaxed environment. Children need to know that Internet addiction and reliance on online forums will only stunt social growth and make life much more difficult in the future.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Internet dependency also inherently promotes a lifestyle that is not conducive to exercise and physical activity. Many teens tend to become so enthralled in games or chats that peeling them away from the computer can prove to be an ominous task. The entertainment the Internet can provide often trumps the option to leave the house and get exercise. Parents should encourage their teens to use the Internet for school projects and some degree of entertainment, but they should also limit the time that they are allowed to spend on the computer. Begin supporting your child’s involvement in sports teams at an early age and make outside activities fun and interesting. The earlier a child is introduced to the mental and physical benefits of outside activity, the more likely he or she is to avoid inside amusements such as the Internet, TV, and video games.

Nowadays it seems our whole lives can be conducted via the Internet. We can order, purchase, and have groceries delivered all with the click of a few buttons. We can play games, talk to people, find dates, and even attend AA meetings online. The Internet may have made our lives and their day-to-day processes exponentially easier to accomplish, but by the same token it has also increased our dependence on the advantages it can provide. The convenience it creates has been known to cause some people to recoil from outside situations, opting to conduct as much business as possible from home. We must be careful of this trend, especially with teenagers, for whom positive (and negative) social interaction help to form valuable personality and wisdom.

Check out the Current Trend, Finding a Healthy Balance and more on my Wrapped in the Web website.

Face to Face – Talking Online – Taking it Off Line

facetoface1Source: ReputationDefender Blog

 

Taking it Offline: The Lingering Importance of Face-to-Face Networking in a Digital World

With the rise and blossoming of online networking sites like LinkedIn and ClaimID, many people, especially younger people, are doing the majority of their business networking online. This phenomenon is not anything new, and it has been covered in this blog and elsewhere.

 

But while it may be easier to sit in front of the computer screen and interact with your peers, it is hard to think that interpersonal relationships can ever be fully fleshed out (if you will) in the digital sphere. Face-to-face networking will never go away. The information on the Internet is not always accurate (although that doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant, according to Google’s algorithms), and there is a lot to be said for looking someone in the eyes.

 

Today people should try to balance their “new school” digital networking with the “old school” tried and true methods. The approach will literally double the amount of chances a person has to make an impact with a potential employer, and the effort required to do so is not unreasonable (point of fact, until a few years the “old school” method was the only game in town).

 

LinkedIn and other popular business networking sites thrive because they offer an alternative to actually speaking with a fellow networker. The information you put in the profile becomes the equivalent of a hand shake and a greeting. Thus, a user profile, for business purposes, should be looked at as an opportunity to distinguish yourself as someone others want to know and be connected to.

 

There are small and effective steps one can take to achieve this. Focus on brevity. 100 words is enough to grab someone’s attention and establish a positive image. If done correctly, a LinkedIn profile can, for practical purposes, be the difference between just another interview and a job offer. Conversely, a poorly written profile can have you knocked out of the running before you even get started.

 

Many employers look at LinkedIn as a sort of research tool. A resume can only say so much about a person, and employers are always looking to find out the little bits about a potential employee that are not immediately apparent. This fact has had disastrous consequences for some people whose Facebook and MySpace profiles contain otherwise unflattering images/language/etc. We’ve blogged that story here more than once.

 

Online business networking profiles are still just a piece of the puzzle, though. A successful blend of the old and the new networking techniques will counteract the deficiencies inherent in both approaches. A human touch in the new digital landscape goes a long way towards maintaining awareness and crafting image, while drawing in more localized business and opening channels previously untapped.

Sue Scheff: Slime Online – What is Google Saying about You?

slimonline2Yesterday my co-author, John Dozier  and I, announced our exciting new book that will be released in fall 2009 from Health Communications, Inc.  Then I read this article that I could really identify with. Slimed Online from Portfolio.com.

Michael Fertik, CEO and Founder of ReputationDefender, was powerful force in helping these women fight for their online image.  As a client of ReputationDefender, their services are priceless – although there seems to be many of these services popping up now, as the demand grows, I feel that in my experiences, the pioneer of these online reputation management companies start with ReputatationDefender.

Our new book, Google Bomb will be a must read for anyone and everyone that works and plays online. From protecting your online profile and reputation, to keeping your kids safe, this new book is a must have – and can potentially help you from being a victim of wicked and evil keystrokes.

Years ago gossip was limited to a geographically area that you live in.  Today gossip goes viral worldwide!  Your one former friend is now a foe or a few clients out of years of a reputable business have decided to take revenge via e-venge!  Take cover, Google Bomb can help you protect yourself.

Sue Scheff: Teen Internet Addiction

cyberbulliesFinding a Healthy Balance

Warning Signs your Teen May Be Addicted

Psychological and Physical Signs and Symptoms

If you are worried that your teen may be suffering from an unhealthy addiction to the Internet, there are many physical and mental warning signs to watch for. Many of these symptoms are very similar to those of depression and anxiety, another very serious condition affecting teens today. If you feel your teen is suffering from depression, please visit my website resource on teen depression and anxiety.

  • Feelings of intense happiness and euphoria while using the Internet, and feelings of depression, anxiety or irritability if away from the computer
  • Cravings for the Internet – Never having enough time with it
  • Neglecting family and friends – spending more time with the computer and less time doing activities previously enjoyed.
  • Getting behind on homework or school activities
  • Lying about what they are doing while online
  • Complains of dry eyes
  • Complains of Headaches
  • Complains of Backaches
  • Changes in eating habits such as skipping meals or over eating
  • Neglect of personal hygiene
  • Problems with sleep

What Should Parents Do?

  • Examine your Internet habits. Do you spend too much time in front of the screen? The habits of you and your family impact your teen. Be a good role model!
  • Look for the above warning signs, and take action if you feel your teen may be at risk. Seek professional help.
  • Always keep the computer in a common area of the home where it can be monitored by you.
  • DO NOT BAN THE INTERNET. Instead, work with your teen on a time schedule that feels fair to the both of you.
  • Encourage social activity outside of the Internet. Because chatting, emails, and other online social media make it easy for teens to stay at home, open the door to more outside activity. Plan events with friends and family.
  • Learn more click here.