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13 Reasons Why is Not Fiction

If you’re reading this, then you are probably concerned with cyberbullying and other related topics, such as sexting. You may have heard of Netflix’s new show, 13 Reasons Why, but have you watched it? If not, you really should. The show is a very realistic portrayal of how cyberbullying, sexting and other issues affect today’s teens, as well as those who care about them.

Without spoiling it for those that have watched it yet, the story is based on the book of the same name by Jay Asher. It tells the story of teenager, Hannah Baker, who regrettably commits suicide after a serious of incidents that convince her that suicide is her best option. After her death, recordings of her story are left with the people that she blames for her situation. The story unfurls going back and forth in time as she explains how the other people wronged her.

What makes this story so compelling is that it shows how Hannah’s death impacts those left behind, including her parents, her best friend, Clay and the rest of the community. It effectively shows how the other characters respond to Hannah’s death and the aftermath of it. Even those who were not directly involved in her situation are impacted as it affects people that they know who were involved.

While not all of the incidents that caused her to kill herself were related to cyberbullying and online related events, several of them are, including the very first tape, when her first kiss also involves a picture taken on a cellphone that is taken out of context. To make matters worse, the boy who took the picture lies about what really happened to help his own reputation as a “player.”

Another of the reasons “why” is when a group of boys in Hannah’s school create a “Best and Worst” list that includes Hannah. This is very similar to the #HotorNot and #SmashorPass games that people play online.

Imagine the feeling someone must feel when they repeatedly see “Not” or “Pass” comments made about themselves when others make critical remarks about themselves. In some cases, entire accounts have been created on social media where students within a school can post pictures of other students and have classmates rate them.

When teen Amanda Todd posted her silent video on YouTube prior to her own suicide, she included the note shown below indicating just how alone she felt. Perhaps is one person had tried to help her by befriending her, she and others like her would still be alive today. When Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel talks about the horrors he and others endured at the hands of the Nazis, he explains that, “What hurts the victim the most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.”

If most people saw someone being bullied in the school yard or on their way from home from school, they would most likely try to help. The same should be true for online bullying. To help them, practice Positive Slamming. It’s the act of standing up for someone being attacked by replying in a positive way to negative online comments, as shown in the image below.

Not only does Positive Slamming tell the aggressor that their actions are not appreciated, it tells the victim that they are not alone and that there are people who care about them. This can literally be the difference between life and death for someone!

About the Author

Joe Yeager is the founder of Safety Net of PA, LLC and has been a cybersafety advocate for several years. He is an adjunct professor at Thomas Jefferson University, where has been teaching several classes that involve using technology to improve the quality of their schoolwork.

As the founder of Safety Net, Joe provides a variety of presentations on improving online experiences, both in better educational performance and in cybersafety. It was after his own daughter came across inappropriate content online that got him involved in helping others in the area.

His work on cybersafety has been published by the Family Online Safety Institute, the Social Media Club, Calkins Media and more. He is also the author of #DigitalParenting- A Parent's Guide to Social Media, Cyberbullying &Online Activity, which was chosen as an Editor’s Pick in April 2016.

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