A partnership between the University of Maryland and AT&T has formed as the Terrapin Upstander Program aims to spread awareness on how to fight cyberbullying.
AT&T donated $75,000 to form the program and create a project that surveyed freshman and upperclassmen on their experiences with cyberbullying, according to a University of Maryland press release.
University of Maryland’s Rashawn Ray, a sociology professor, and Cixin Wang, a psychology associate professor, conducted the research for the program.
Wang and Ray held a lecture presentation at the end of October on the research findings with the students who volunteered for the Terrapin Upstander Program.
Depression and suicidal thoughts can result from bullying, according to the presentation. The presentation focused on how becoming an upstander helps victims of bullying know their lives have value, and standing up to agitators is crucial.
“Since I was in graduate school, I was always interested in peer relationships because PR plays such an important role in children’s development,” Wang said. She explained that they want to figure out how to create more positive peer relationships.
At the lecture, Wang and Ray were joined by other speakers such as Ed Summers, a research faculty member of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities. Summers collaborated with Ray and other researchers on a Bystander Intervention program. This program collected information that was studied from Twitter and Reddit on how negative and positive comments formulated on topics such as racism, said Summers.
Twitter allows more anonymity, permitting more cyberbullying behavior whereas Reddit communities can kick or remove members who are writing hateful content, said Ray.
Summers, Ray and the other researchers involved in this program also came up with strategies to become “pro-social” within these online conversations, including educating and using evidence, along with moderation.
An upstander makes others feel safe and included, according to the presentation. This includes not utilizing insulting or demeaning language, especially towards someone’s race, sexuality, ethnicity, etc. If these actions do occur, speaking up and reaching out to a victim of bullying to show support is important..
Wang believes that spreading awareness on cyberbullying and how to become an upstander is an effective solution to fight online bullying. Bullying research has shown that bullying is “more likely to occur when there is someone watching,” she said, explaining that more than 50% of the time someone is watching bullying occur.
“We hope to involve students in Maryland to become positive bystanders and upstanders to spread awareness to stop bullying,” Wang said.