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October is National Cyberbullying Prevention and Awareness Month. 

In a 2017 survey, Civility in America conducted by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate with KRC Research, revealed there is a severe civility deficit in our country. Sixty-nine percent of Americans blame the internet and social media as the cause – not surprising given that one in four have experienced cyberbullying or incivility online.

Online hate is global.

In a recent 2017 study from Norton, Australia's online harassment is getting worse too. Seventy percent of Australians have experienced unwanted conflict, character assassinations, sexual harassment or threats of physical violence online. That's a 20 percent increase from 2016.

What are Americans saying?

“Social media is full of uncivil acts. Trying to remember what the most recent would be is difficult as it’s in my feed pretty much all the time.”

“In commenting on a social media question, I got blasted for not going along with everyone else.”

“Usually social media is full of uncivil people. Sometimes you can’t even comment on a status without someone trying to argue and prove points about something you don’t care about.”

How will we turn our shame nation to a civil nation?

Let’s begin by taking the “civility challenge.” We should take that challenge on. As Americans, we collectively recognize we have a civility problem, even a crisis, on our hands. Yet, while we agree on what civility means, we don’t see ourselves or even the people close to us as part of the problem. Each of us should take a closer look at our actions on a daily basis and evaluate if our own behavior may be having a deleterious impact on others.

Refrain from posting or sharing uncivil material online. While this is intuitive and perhaps simplistic, half of all incivility is encountered in search engines and on social media. What may seem civil to the poster/sharer, may be considered very uncivil to others. Through sharing and liking, our content often gets seen by people who aren’t our direct social media contacts. If we want to set an example of civility, we need to be thoughtful about the implications of not just our real-life actions but our online actions as well.

Digital wisdom helps you make better digital choices.

From pausing before you post to being mindful with what you share, it's time we all become upstanding digital citizens. 

Our failure to instill empathy online has created a culture of cruel. 

With greater empathy and compassion, it should be impossible to leave cruel comments. To get started, let’s adapt Dr. Michele Borba’s four-step method, which she calls CARE, toward how we approach posting online.

C = Call Attention to Uncaring. Did you notice that there was an ugly comment on someone’s post? Was it about you? Talk about it.
A = Assess How Uncaring Affects Others. Was your teen a victim of a cruel comment, or were you? Discuss howthis made you feel.
R = Repair the Hurt and Require Reparation. Did you or your teen write a comment that hurt someone (even if you didn’t mean to)? Immediately delete that comment,
apologize, and contact the person personally.
E = Express Disappointment and Stress Caring Expectations. We’re all human, and we’re going to make mistakes. It’s what we learn from them that matters. Be a caring and kind role model at all ages.

Hate perpetuates hate.

Seventy-five percent of Americans, according to the Civility in America survey,  believe that civility begins with us. Sixty-six percent of Americans have asked their friends to be kinder to each other. It’s important to remember that just because someone is an adult or has an important position doesn’t mean they are always the best role model.

Be careful not to perpetuate the hate with more anger and verbal violence (online or off). If you endorse digital discourse or forward mean memes, you are only continuing this rise of incivility. Don’t get caught up in the cyber-combat.

It could be a simple LIKE on a post, but that click is also your endorsement. Be careful not to be part of a campaign of hate. Sometimes our fingers are faster than our brains are processing. 

Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate (Sourcebooks) offers many insights and resources on curbing incivility in the cyber-world as well as surviving, preventing and overcoming digital disasters. With a brilliant foreword by anti-bullying activist, Monica Lewinsky, she reminds us, "There is painfully a sad lack of empathy and compassion in our cyberworld. People rush to make rude and (sometimes) violent commentary they would never utter in a face-to-face situation. They live in the Internet ether forever, easily accessed by potential employers, potential relationships, and anyone in the mood to do a
Google search."

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