Estimates suggest between 25% and 30% of secondary school students in Hong Kong are cyberbullied each year. A study by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, in cooperation with the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, reports the most common forms of cyber-bullying are: spreading rumors about others online, deliberately boycotting or excluding others, repeatedly insulting others online, posting embarrassing or indecent photos, and revealing personal information about others without their permission.
Even the seemingly innocent act of “liking” someone’s post can give weight to an act of cyber-bullying, contributing to the herd mentality of many teenagers and spreading something that is potentially hurtful.
For the second year in a row, IBM in Hong Kong, in partnership with the Minister of Education and the Education Bureau (EDB), hosted and led anti-cyber-bullying training sessions for students as part of a city-wide education campaign. According to a 2012 study by the Hong Kong Family Welfare Society, out of 1,500 students interviewed in primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong, nearly 500 students were victims of cyber-bullying.
“Thanks to IBM’s heritage in the community we have a good opportunity to use our expertise to help young people appreciate one another when they are online and be respectful,” says Mary Law, IBM’s program manager for corporate citizenship and corporate affairs in Hong Kong, who helped organize the two day event in July. “At IBM we value trust and personal responsibility in our relationships, so it’s natural for us to promote the same thing among young people. Today, so many of their interactions happen online that I think we have a responsibility and the expertise to help them develop a positive ethic and civility when they electronically engage others,” she says.
Volunteers offer perspective, foster lively discussion
Mary recruited IBM volunteers to lead activities designed to increase awareness of cyber-bullying for the 200 primary school students who participated in the training—twenty schools had students aged 10 and 11 years old join the sessions.
Raymond Chu, an executive architect for IBM’s software group in Hong Kong, volunteered in 2012 and came back this year to present the main theme, which included content from an IBM Activity Kit on cyber-bullying and educational resources from EDB. “Many things motivate me to volunteer and support this initiative,” he says. “It’s important to give back to the community, and it’s such a pleasure to share with the children what I’ve learned in the past years. Watching them get inspired is very satisfying for me. Plus, we show that IBM cares about their well-being, and possibly in the future this may motivate them to be a part of the IBM family.”
Raymond got the students’ attention when he shared insights that some of the students had not considered. “I mentioned that cyber-bullying also has an adverse impact on the bullies,” he says. “The Internet has a long memory and future friends, employers or even the police can find things that you think are far in the past. Even those attending the session with playful altitudes would sit up straight and think hard about this insight.”
Raymond also led the activity to help students design anti-cyber-bullying programs for their schools—a bi-annual competition in which the best judged efforts are invited to share their campaigns at an Internet Safety Best Practice Award Ceremony hosted by IBM.
Another returning volunteer, Christine Ng, a global project executive for IBM in Hong Kong, facilitated discussion with the students about what constitutes cyber-bullying and how to recognize it. She says the students were aware of examples of cyber-bullying that have been in the news in Hong Kong. “It was rather quick to arrive at a common definition and scope of cyber-bullying, so we were able to spend more time getting student comments and reactions to such behavior. The interactivity really helped make the training lively.”
Wendy Chan, an IBM attorney who provides general legal advice on areas such as human resources and data privacy—both relevant to cyber-bullying—introduced the students to legal concepts and laws related to cyber security including personal data, copyright and defamation.
Being essential, sharing our values, showing personal interest
Mary was impressed that during the question and answer portion of the agenda many of the students asked excellent questions. “I think this an indication of the positive rapport between the IBM volunteers and their young audience. I’m very happy to see how these young kids care so much, and know so much about the things happening around them—and they respond so very well.”
With its ongoing participation in anti-cyber-bullying training in Hong Kong, the IBM team is becoming an essential element in an important aspect of the community’s health—safer use of technology by its young people. IBM has accepted an invitation from EDB to provide another round of training for secondary school students in October.
Having expert IBM volunteers play an essential role in anti-cyber-bullying—which is inherently about trust in relationships—while giving their time and taking personal interest, reflects the company’s purpose, values and practices, also called 1-3-9.
“I think it is very important for us to participate and contribute to society when we have the ability to do so, that's how a prosperous society should work,” says Wendy.
“The satisfaction I get from spending personal time on volunteer work is the privilege to take part in helping the growth of the youngsters in Hong Kong, no matter how small or big that growth is,” says Christine.
“I realize that not only can I learn from more experienced people but also from children, as they provide perspective that adults sometimes overlook,” says Wendy. Raymond adds, “I feel I gain more than I share.”