We need an updated Four-Way Test, folks. It is no longer just about what we think, say or do.
In the early 1930’s, Herbert Taylor wanted a way to save his company from bankruptcy. He decided to start with the ethical foundation of the company. His thinking and reflection produced the Four Way Test, which was adopted by Rotary about 10 years later.1
Our world today is very different from the world Herbert Taylor lived in. What eight-year olds can do today on a smart phone, a pc or an iPod would be outrageous science fiction by 1940’s standards. And while many Rotarians are still learning how to use and benefit from social media, there is a generation that finds texting, tweeting, posting and video calling as more and more natural, just as they find using a telephone or face-to-face communication as less natural.
For most teens and tweens, staying connected through social media is a routine part of life. Unfortunately, many of these kids do not think of the impact of their comments on others. Some kids are noticed for being seen as edgy or cool for their biting criticism or cynical outlook on people and events. Other kids hide behind their aliases and avatars and post statements they would never post if they knew their parents were reading them. Many who merely witness the stream of insults and pokes see it as entertainment. Those who are the targets often do not complain and have few skills to deal with the attacks. Unfortunately, this seemingly innocent behavior often turns into cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying has become pervasive, yet hidden from view until its impact becomes visible.
- Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying.
- More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyberthreats online.
- More than 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet.
- Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs.
The Harford County Examiner reported similarly concerning cyber bullying:
- Around half of teens have been the victims of cyber bullying
- Only 1 in 10 teens tells a parent if they have been a cyber bully victim
- Fewer than 1 in 5 cyber bullying incidents are reported to law enforcement
- 1 in 10 adolescents or teens have had embarrassing or damaging pictures taken of themselves without their permission, often using cell phone cameras
- About 1 in 5 teens have posted or sent sexually suggestive or nude pictures of themselves to others
- Girls are somewhat more likely than boys to be involved in cyber bullying2
While physical bullying can often be seen and stopped, kids still get hurt. When people are face to face, they can see other people's reactions to know when they are hurting someone. Cyberbullying takes away this critical bit of feedback. While the intentional bullies like to know they are causing a reaction, there are plenty of unintentional bullies who simply think they are being brave or cool. Unfortunately the person on the receiving end of their message is deeply hurt inside.
The result? Depression. Cutting and other self-mutilation. Withdrawal. Academic failure. Suicide.
Start asking around. It is more common than you think.
Therefore, we need a new Four-Way Test. I propose the following:
Of the things we think, say, do, text, post, tweet, IM, share or tag,
- Is it the truth?
- Is it fair to all concerned?
- Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
- Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Here is an opportunity for each Rotary club to create a positive campaign in their schools and their community:
- Offer to lead cyber-safety education in schools for students
- Create posters with the new Four-Way Test and ask local schools if you they will display them in the hallways. Better yet, run a contest and ask the students to vote on the best designs.
- Recognize and reward students who make positive use of social media for community impact.
- Volunteer to speak to school, parent and youth groups about the both the dangers and the positive use of cyber tools.
We are in new territory, folks. Fortunately, we have a set of core principles that is as relevant now as it was in the 1930’s.
This time, rather than save a company, those principles could save a generation.