Creating a more compassionate Facebook

By Rosie Thomas
Co-founder PROJECT ROCKIT

The Telstra Foundation is partnering with PROJECT ROCKIT to take their anti-bullying and youth leadership program online. Rosie, PROJECT ROCKIT cofounder, has just returned from a whirlwind trip to what is often described as ‘Disneyland for Grown-ups’ – Facebook’s Global Headquarters in Menlo Park, California. 

My name is Rosie Thomas and I’m cofounder of PROJECT ROCKIT, Australia’s biggest youth-driven movement against (cyber)bullying. Since 2006, we’ve been empowering young people to stand up and lead change by tackling bullying and building real leadership in school communities.

At PROJECT ROCKIT we believe in a world where respect and kindness thrive over bullying, hate and prejudice and all young people are free to realise their potential.

We’re super excited to be partnering with the Telstra Foundation to take our anti-bullying & leadership programs online with the creation of our Digital Classroom. As well as providing innovative education for the classroom, we’re also developing a pretty sweet app so that all young people have access to totally cool and credible anti-bullying and leadership development, no matter where they are!

We think (cyber)bullying extinguishes potential. It robs young people of opportunity and smothers development. Basically, it totally sucks. So naturally we were thrilled that Facebook Australia invited us to represent our country and attend the fifth-annual Compassion Research Day on February 25th, 2015.

The day was organised by Facebook’s safety engineering team in partnership with academics and experts from the University of California, Berkeley, and Yale University. The aim of the event was to develop a more compassionate social media platform that promotes kindness by building emotionally intelligent reporting and safety tools, which we share directly with students in our empowering workshops around cyberbullying.

As total cyber safety geeks ourselves, we were pretty excited to hear from experts in human interaction, developmental psychology, emotion science, and evolutionary theory to help people using Facebook have more meaningful and authentic dialogue, and resolve disputes that might arise.

With workshop titles such as ‘The Science of Awe and Happiness’, we learnt about tackling hate speech, connecting people in crisis, what happens to your Facebook profile after you die and the innovative new suicide prevention features that provide professional help to people posting worrying updates and tools for concerned friends to report the behaviour and get the help they need.

It was a real eye opener to meet the people behind the screens; the engineers, researchers, academics and safety experts that devote their professional lives to make the digital world a safer and kinder world for all of us. As cybersafety experts, we were thrilled share our unique insights after working with hundreds and thousands of young Aussies and were pleased to contribute directly to Facebook’s efforts to protect young people online.

At PROJECT ROCKIT, we know that most young people can navigate an iPhone or game console before they even understand the concept of cyber safety or reporting harm. However, education alone does not create empowered, responsible digital citizens. The missing ingredient from most education around (cyber)bullying is empathy. We must create cultures and online spaces where kindness is cool and compassion is celebrated. But it’s not just up to young people alone. It’s up to all of us; governments, industry, parents and educators. And we believe this is entirely possible when young people are empowered to lead the change!

March, 2015

#CyberSafety

#DigitalCitizenship

#Youngpeople