Opinion

What's the Harm in Circulating a Video of a School Bully? More Than You Think.

Ethical guidelines should always guide you to do the right thing, no matter how angry you are.
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"Hindi po namin binu-bully ang bata, pero bugok po pala talaga ang batang ito." Anthony Taberna, Dos por Dos, DZMM - December 21, 2018, 6:00 PM. 

Contrary to popular opinion, you do learn some useful things in journalism school. One of these things is ethics.

And clearly, some people who do become professional journalists don’t take this thing called “ethics” along with them on the job.

In ethics courses, one of the things you learn about is how to present children in news reports. Some media consumers might have noticed that reporters take great lengths to avoid identifying child survivors of abuse - but those same people may be surprised to realize that reporters also avoid naming child perpetrators.

"Bakit hindi pangalanan?" people ask. "They did something bad, therefore they should be named, whether or not they're kids."

There are several things wrong with that statement.

First, there's a rule that all journalists in democratic nations have agreed upon, when it comes to mentioning children in news reports: It's called the Unicef Guidelines for journalists reporting on children.

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These guidelines amount to basically the same thing: Don't expose children to public scorn. You don't provide enough information in your writings to smear the reputation of a child who has been implicated in malicious rumors. You don't call out a minor who has been accused of a crime, regardless of how serious that crime is.

Simply put: Don't name and shame children.

The rationale for this is that children are vulnerable. Therefore, regardless of what they've done, or what has been done to them, they must be protected. Divulging their identities, directly or indirectly (as in, not saying their names, but giving enough details about them that they'd be instantly recognizable), takes away the protection that privacy affords them.

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Without the armor of privacy, children lose their precious shot at a less complicated future.

This is something journalists know, and something everyone on social media should know, as well.

Preserving privacy has been my guiding principle when it comes to minors accused of crime. Children are rarely insulated from criticism, or equipped to defend themselves after a viral accusation. It's not likely that they were born having the mental, emotional or socio-economic capital to deal with the bullying that inevitably ensues.

I might have had lapses in the past, as a generally careless social media user, but I want to believe those lapses were insignificant. This means I have not willfully endangered a child. I have not spread destructive rumors about a child, or encouraged others to do the same. I have not called for a child to be tried and punished and/or socially crucified as an adult.

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In this "name and shame" age, where people aren't always given a chance to apologize sincerely and change for the better, or even to fairly defend themselves against rumors and false allegations, children are in an especially delicate position.

And in these highly contradictory times, when our President says he will do everything to protect the next generation, while also saying that kids serve as drug couriers, need to be jailed for their own protection, and are collateral damage, each and every one of us needs to be more keenly aware of how our children are being victimized, and how we can better keep them safe.

As far as I know, I have not knowingly stooped to bullying children—even if they are themselves being accused of bullying. This is because I'm an adult. And it's the job of adults to guide children, not to condemn them.

Yes, by all means, call for an educational institution to take a stronger stance against bullying. By all means, call for justice to be served for the victims of school bullies.

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But don't be a bully yourself. Don't spread evidence or rumors of a child being misguided. Don't circulate uncensored videos of a child being abused. This kills a child's chances at recovery and/or reform.

Children are still dynamically forming entities. Don't treat them like fixed and finished things. Don't regard them as something hopeless and doomed to failure, just because they've made a couple of (sometimes very grave) mistakes.

Like all the rest of us, children are the products of their environment. For the most part, the hatred they exhibit for others is more likely learned, than innate.

As people who are older, and who have gone through more, adults must know better than to think children cannot be guided toward better life paths, and less hate. Children look to adults for understanding.

So, for goodness' sake, have a bit more empathy for children. Listen to them. Teach them. Be in touch with how they feel, and tell them it’s all right to do the same. Tell them strength is not the end all and be all of human existence.

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That's how we get them to stop being bullies in the first place.

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