In The News: Online Teens Have A New Way to Connect, Mentor Bullied Peers

Beyond Bullies, an “online program… dedicated to helping teens who are the targets of bullying and cyberbullying,” today announced the availability of its new web site and teen mentoring service. Through its web site and service, Beyond Bullies provides real-time access to online peer mentors. In short, teens helping teens.

The Beyond Bullies site emphasizes privacy, pointing out that teens often are reluctant and even afraid to report bullying to their parents or teachers. “Hold onto your cell  phone and online privileges” the site advises visiting teens.

Teen “e-mentors”, as the site calls them, must be in high school (10-12th) with two personal references. The site’s e-mentor FAQ also states that students must be “in the greater Los Angeles area.” Applying teens must submit to a personal interview and obtain permission from a parent. The application form is available at the site, and includes questions like “Have you been bullied online or offline before?”

e-Mentor training covers “what bullying is and how to prevent it.” Those whom pass training will be available to their peers, via IM, site discussion boards and email. Communication is done through the site, to keep it secure and private; last names are not shared nor personal contact information.

Looking for some other ways to get involved? The site encourages teens to share their bullying experiences, help fundraise, help plan and organize events, and volunteer in Beyond Bullying offices and chapters.

Our “Take” At OSS

The concept of getting teens involved to help other teens and younger children is great in concept. However, it could prove difficult to execute. It depends on outstanding training, expert support for the e-mentors, and enthusiastic teen involvement – of which the last may be the easiest to obtain. The Beyond Bullying team may have done better to pilot this program for a while in LA, before announcing it more broadly.

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In The News: UK Police Enlist Teens to Help Find, Discourage Cyberbullies

As reported today in Wired.co.uk, Thames Valley Police have realized that they need teen help to keep up with cyberbullies. Using teen volunteers, the police have initiated a new program designed to track and shut down cyberbully attacks – before they do real damage.

Teens will use Facebook and other online tools, to “scour the social network” and investigate cyberbully incidents reported by teachers and parents. Facebook will be used to warn attackers, to hopefully “nip the problem in the bud.”

The goal of the program? To “keep young people out of the criminal justice system if possible.” The program will run from today through May.

In Reading alone, the police report 60 Facebook-related crimes recorded in the last quarter.

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Youth Culture, Marketing and Social Media: Essential Ingredients that Changed Egypt

Research on Iran. by Negar Mottahedeh Social M...

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In a post that now seems surprisingly prescient, I stated on Jan 7 in an entry titled “How Social Media Offers to Help Us Remake Culture in the Real World” that social media at its best enables ”an interactive community of people who all share concerns and interests – and who feel empowered to contibute to the conversation and influence how the world evolves.”

In the entry, I was responding to comments made by blogger and SM-opinionist Douglas Rushkoff on Jan 6 in which he worried that “marketing threatens the true promise of social media.”

How ironic, then, that a Google marketing executive named Wael Ghonim would harness the power of Facebook, Twitter and social media to trigger revolution in Egypt and across the Arab world.

Anatomy of a Revolution: Ghonim’s Use of Smart Marketing Tactics Spreads a Revolution

In its Feb 13 article “The Facebook Freedom Fighter,” Newsweek provides a detailed account of how Ghonim’s actions in 2010 and early 2011 led to revolution on Jan 25 in Tahrir Square. In rough outline, his online marketing efforts break down like this:

  • Spring 2010: Ghonim begins to run the Facebook fan page of Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian Nobel Prize winner who had emerged as a key opposition leader
  • Ghonim uses marketing skill to grow the ElBaradei fanbase, through the use of Twitter syndication and YouTube content
  • Ghonim realizes that Facebook is uniquely difficult for Egyptian authorities to thwart:  “Once you are a fan, whatever we publish gets on your wall. So the government has NO way to block it later. Unless they block Facebook completely.”
  • June 2010: Ghonim creates a new Facebook page called “We are all Khalid Said” in response to a vicious beating – and killing - by Egyptian police of local businessman Khalid Said
  • Ghonim runs the Khalid Said page anonymously under the name El Shaheed, or The Martyr – this is a deliberate marketing tactic on Ghonim’s part, not only to protect himself but to create a more powerful “bond” between the site and the people following it
  • Under Ghonim’s management, the Khalid Said page becomes a focal point for posting and sharing videos, pictures and information revealing the attrocities of Egypt’s oppressive police state
  • Ghonim grows the Khalid Said page to 350K+ FB fans
  • Jan 14: Ghonim, inspired by the ouster of Tunisia’s dictator of 23 years President Zine el Abidine ben Ali, invites fans to attend a protest on Jan 25 in Tahrir Square
  • Within 3 days, 50K fans click that “Yes” they will attend the protest
  • Feb 11: After 18 days of protests, Egyptian president Mubarek announces his resignation and leaves the capitol

The rest is history, still playing out in countries including Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt, Algeria, and Tunisia. In all of these places, a heady mix of social media – fueled by on-the-spot reporting from individuals with smartphone cameras – and the audacity of youth culture, threaten to topple governments which have enjoyed decades-long control of the region.

How Important Was Social Media in the Egyptian Uprising?

There are SM-doubters, people who do not give social media credit for helping to fuel the revolution in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East. Doubters include Malcolm Gladwell of the New Yorker, who wrote on Feb 2 that “people protected and brought down governments before Facebook was invented” and in Oct that “the revolution will not be tweeted.”

Additional detractors have included Mark Schaefer, whose blog entry stating his agreement with Gladwell went on to list the scores of additional ills which we can all expect as the product of social media on our culture. Schaefer even suggests that SM is “the end of human social skills” as we know them. [Note: Schaefer has retracted his original opinion on SM, given the undeniable facts of events in the Middle East.]

With regards to the events in the Middle East, I think that the case is clear: without Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – without on-the-spot smartphones to capture the reality of brutal repression – without the marketing expertise and audacity of 30-yo Wael Ghonim, then the Egyptian revolution of Jan 2011 does not happen. Social media has influenced how the world has evolved, indeed.

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