Social media can be a powerful force of good. Missing persons: found. Charity awareness: raised. Weather alerts: alerted. Disconnected family: connected. Not to mention the numbers of dinner’s saved from friends’ shared recipes. As an avid social media user, I enjoy all the benefits it affords. But, there is another side to social media that requires our attention.
Especially as we teach our children how to use social media responsibly.
I recently received a message from a friend on Instagram. To my surprise, another account used a picture of my son without my permission. Shortly afterward I received a private message from a different account stating, “Dwarf lives don’t matter.”
My fifteen-year-old son has a rare form of dwarfism called Thanatophoric Dysplasia. In many cases, this is a lethal form of dwarfism. It is a miracle he survived. To be fair, this is not the first time I have received unkind comments and messages. After the initial shock, I let it be.
Once again, I had a decision to make. Ignore the unauthorized use of my son’s picture and the unkind personal message? Or face the challenge? I shared the post on Facebook and Twitter. Samuel’s fans reported the Instagram account. The user in question took down the picture.
However, they used a different picture. Again, Samuel’s fans reported the account. All in all, three different pictures of my son were posted, reported, and removed.
As I reflected on the positive outcome of this situation, I also pondered how to help other special needs families in the same situation. Families that don’t have a large following.
- Social Media Platforms could add a Bully Button. The definition of a bully is a person who intimidates those who are weaker. My son cannot speak for himself, but Samuel’s fans spoke for him when they reported the account. Though effective in this case, the process to target the exact reason for the account being reported was lacking. A “Bully Button” would let them know the specific activity in question. And hopefully, help social media platforms adjust accordingly.
- Teach our children to alert a parent or an adult when they see such activity on their social media. Talk to your child and ask them if they have seen any form of bullying online? If so, discuss what bullying is and how it makes another child feel. Ask them to show you an example if it happens again.
This is one way we can work together with our children to make this world a kinder place. Instead, let’s flood social media with a wave of love toward those who are different or misunderstood. A great place to start is to watch Special Books By Special Kids videos by Chris Ulmer.
As a parent, how are you teaching your children about bullying, social media awareness, and special-needs sensitivity? Share your story below.