A recent Facebook post that went viral cost an Atlanta man his job and opened an important conversation for families around individual responsibility online.
Gerod Roth, a white man, was fired after he posted a picture of himself with his co-worker’s four-year-old African American son to his personal Facebook page. In response, Roth’s Facebook friends began posting a string of derogatory, racially charged comments beneath the photo. See the full news video here.
That cruel, bullying digital exchange went viral. The fallout cost Roth his job (and reputation for the moment) and the child’s family obvious heartache.
Roth’s social wreckage is an acute reminder that we are all publishers — young or old, child or adult. And, as publishers, that makes each of us responsible for even the associated content that lives on our pages, in our feeds, and on our websites.
Roth later apologized and claimed he tried to intervene and end the offensive string, but that portion of the conversation wasn’t captured in the viral screenshots.
Still, the fact remains: As the owner of the Facebook page rather than try to temper the conversation he could have quickly deleted any offensive comments. But he didn’t.
There is an upside to this disturbing story. Sydney Jade, the child’s mother, graciously responded to the event by creating the hashtag #HisNameIsCayden along with a gallery of photos that immediately put a very human, very beloved face on her innocent son. The positive, public support for #HisNameIsCayden demonstrated the growing power victims of any type of cyberbullying and hate can have online. This is progress in the vast, faceless superhighways of the Internet.
The conversation for families around this incident is an important one. Take some time this week to make sure your kids understand both the responsibility online and potential consequences that come with each and every post.
Discussion points for families:
- Pay attention to words — yours and others. You are responsible for the content associated with your social accounts. If a friend makes a hate-filled comment, delete it immediately.
- What you consider funny or clever, others may consider offensive, threatening, hateful, or slanderous.
- Words slice deep and leave scars. Make it a habit to post online with caution and compassion.
- Think before you post. The Internet is unforgiving.
- If a post casts another person in a bad light, mocks them, or leaves the door open for others to be cruel, then don’t post it.
- Clarity trumps intent. If a post is unclear or could be “taken out of context,” do not risk posting it.
- Never post pictures of minors without parental consent.
- Social media is not a private chat room. It’s a public publishing channel and you will be held responsible.
- There are consequences personally and even legally for the content you post online.
- If you are the victim of bullying online, rather than escalate the controversy, take Sydney Jade’s approach and respond with grace — in this case it proved to be far more powerful than hate. Bravo to this courageous mom!