HAMMOND — Cyberbullying is a deadly serious problem among young people with some 10 percent of victims committing suicide because of it, Cathie Bledsoe said.
"Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people. ... It's not a white problem, a black problem, a Hispanic problem, an Asian problem, a male problem or a female problem. It's our problem," Bledsoe said.
Bledsoe, who serves as youth educator for the Indiana State Police Internet Crime Against Children Task Force, was the final workshop presenter at Thursday's 2017 World Civility Day workshops.
The workshops lasted all day and were held at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond.
The day's events culminated with a gala dinner and featured speakers at Avalon Manor in Hobart.
Other workshop presentations included those by Lew Bayer of Civility Experts of Canada on The Business Case for Civility at Work; Civility in the Classroom, showcasing the work of teachers in two Gary charter schools and its impact; Civility in the Community presented by the National Civility Center and Where Do We Go From Here — Chaos or Community? presented by the Urban League of Northwest Indiana.
Community Civility Counts, which started with the Gary Chamber of Commerce and The Times Media Co., held its first World Civility Day last April and attracted a capacity crowd.
Last year’s dinner, however, did not include enough time to hear a lot about programs making a difference. So workshops were added this year to expand the events, according to Times Media Co. Editor Bob Heisse.
During her speech, Bledsoe linked cyberbullying to the trend toward incivility in the general population, 85 percent of whom communicate online.
"If they can't be civil online they're not going to be civil in person. It (civility) is important because I don't care if you don't like me you can respect me. We seem to forget we need to be kind," Bledsoe said.
Bledsoe said the issue is so huge in Indiana that police received a grant to hire three individuals to handle all aspects of cybersafety.
She said the state is losing some of its best and brightest students who commit suicide because they can't stand up to general online harassment, cyberstalking and the spreading of lies.
"We have to talk to kids about how to be stronger," Bledsoe said.
Bledsoe said the state has made cyberbullying a crime and students who are found guilty of the crime can face the consequences including being suspended or expelled.
And those who have a record of being a cyberbully face other consequences including having their computer history haunt them when it comes to getting a job or going to the college of their choice.
"The things they post online may reflect badly on them," Bledsoe said.
Bayer, during her workshop, spoke of how incivility at the workplace is having a huge effect on business.
Bayer, the author of "The 30% Solution: How Civility at Work Increases Retention, Engagement and Profitability," said studies have shown that some 26 percent of individuals quit their job due to incivility at the workplace.
Of those polled for the study, 98 percent reported they have experienced incivility at their workplace.
"And 59 percent of the respondents said the quality of their home and family life was impacted by their job stress," Bayer said.
Bayer said in Japan, where it is not uncommon for employees to work 60 to 70-hour work weeks, 10,000 workers per year drop dead at their desk.
She said there is a need for American workers to see a return to civility.
"We need a plan. Civility at the workplace has to be about changing how we work, think and interact from start to finish. Civility has to become a core element in the character of our organization," Bayer said.
Among those who came to the workshops to receive more information about civility were Sherry Harlan and Cindi Gustafson of Rockford, Illinois.
The two women said they are part of a group called 815 Choose Civility which will focus on civility in the schools, business and community of Rockford.
"We are a new group but we have a long way to go," Harlan said.
Gustafson said she and Harlan came to the event looking for ideas and contacts to turn Rockford into a top 25 civil city.
"Our group is growing but we still feel somewhat unprepared," Gustafson said.