Good Digital Parenting
Blog | Jan. 14, 2014

Kill ‘Em with Kindness: Dealing with Cyberbullying


Long time, no blog. Sorry about that folks. I’m back at the ole’ keyboard and I’m putting some words on the screen again. I hope you all like this post. One of the things I’ve been seeing lately is people saying that the best way to stop cyberbullying is to not turn on the computer, not open up the message, or not check the social media site. In my opinion, that’s the wrong approach. Let me explain. 

The reason why people open up the message, open up the social media site, and switch on the computer is due to part of what makes up our human DNA. Specifically, it’s the DRD4 gene on chromosome 11. While variations of this gene can lead to Parkinson’s and bipolar disorder, it’s also the pleasure chemical in the brain. The result of having DRD4 is that humans have D4 receptors in their brains, which when bound with dopamine, makes you feel happier. Pretty much every time you feel happy is because of dopamine. 

Curiosity is also linked to this receptor, and more specifically, the successful search for information, which results in the D4 receptor being targeted by dopamine. What this means is, in the human brain, our curiosity is treated much like other pleasurable activities like watching a funny movie. When we pursue new information through our curiosity, we're rewarded with the pleasure-inducing chemical dopamine. As most of you know, when you find out something really great, you feel happy. 

Now let’s get back to the person who “shouldn’t turn on the computer.” That person is simply trying to get dopamine to their D4 receptor, subconsciously of course. Who can blame them? It literally makes them happier. So now we’re left wondering that if they know they are the target of cyberbullying, why do they turn the computer on, open up those messages, or go onto social media sites? Simple. You can’t blame those people for being optimistic, or for having enough faith in human decency that they believe the bullying will stop. 

Why should human nature, positive human nature at that, be suppressed while negative behavior is tolerated? Victim blaming is not the answer. People need to condemn the negative action instead of excusing it. I am of course not saying that people should bully the bullies in return, and I’m not even saying that the bullies should be punished. I honestly think that punishing a bully doesn’t fix the problem. Instead of punishing the offenders, we should find out why the offense happened and make sure that reason or set of reasons are eliminated. Fight the wrongdoing at its source. Punishing the bully doesn’t stop him or her from bullying, it just makes him or her better at not getting caught. 

So, here’s my challenge to you: Go out into the world and find instances of someone belittling another person. It doesn’t have to be cyberbullying. In fact, it can be anything. When you see it, say something about it, find out why it’s happening, and work to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. Remember, don’t berate the offender – instead, kill ‘em with kindness. 

Cover image courtesy of Flickr.