"I was so disheartened by it. For a long time I figured there was nothing I could do. I'm just one person," says Ross. "But then I realized the same Internet that gave these women the power to bully also gave me the power to stand up and speak out.
I knew I was not alone in my feelings. I decided I would use cyberspace to spread a positive message in many of the same ways it is used to spread hate. I believed it would resonate with other women, and I was right."
The Mom Pledge
In an effort to make a difference, Ross started The Mom Pledge, an online community of mom bloggers who were also committed to kindness online. She sums it up perfectly: "The Mom Pledge is about women standing up, speaking out, and coming together to eradicate online bullying among moms. The time has come for us to take the power back and own this issue."
As it turns out, a lot of moms feel strongly about online integrity. Women rallied around Ross' cause, taking The Mom Pledge themselves and proudly displaying their commitment on their own blogs. Ross regularly hears from moms who want to say thank you or share their personal stories. "They touch me. I feel an incredible positive energy building, and I love it!" she says.
Getting ugly on the laptop
So just how mean can moms get? "I think what most people have probably seen at some point is the hateful, nasty anonymous comment on a blog post, message board, news article, etc.," says Ross. "Often that comment section descends rapidly into a virtual catfight."
Sometimes, an "Internet bully" will target someone specific and take it further. "They may attack that person by writing about her on their own blog. Or making statements about her on social media sites," explains Ross.
That sounds bad, but it can actually get worse. "In extreme cases, which I have seen and are sadly not uncommon, a woman or group of women will harass a victim relentlessly," Ross explains. "They will come at her with attacks again and again."
Internet bullies will even go so far as to hack another mom's blog or other online accounts. Ross says that they'll take to social media, using Facebook and Twitter to libel the victim. Some will even contact the woman's family members, boss, co-workers and friends. "They will do everything in their power to make her life miserable," concludes Ross. "It can be very traumatic for the victim."
The veil of the computer screen
It's pretty safe to say that most moms wouldn't scream obscenities, extremely insulting names and other awful and hurtful things at another mom during school drop-off. So why do some women feel safe doing it from behind their computer screen?
"Something about being behind a computer causes people to lose a 'filter' they may be more aware of in real life," theorizes Ross. "They become detached. Particularly if they have the opportunity to be anonymous."
We need to remember that words can hurt someone just as badly when typed on a laptop as they would hurled at a PTA meeting.
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Ross wants to help create an atmosphere of understanding and acceptance among moms online. "I hope to affect positive change in the way people interact with one another," she says. "We are never going to agree on every issue. That is not a reasonable expectation. But we should be able to discuss issues in a respectful and open-minded manner. And learn to accept the choices others make, as well as their right to make them."
The Mom Pledge Community Ross has created is comprised of moms, all trying to do what's best for their families. "When you take it down to that level, you find it easy to build a foundation," she notes.
"Furthermore, once you remove conflict you find women really are interested in the choices other moms make. They invite the opportunity to learn more about, and from, each other. This can lead to understanding. The Internet offers an unprecedented opportunity to do that as well."
Moms as examples
As a mom, you are well aware that you're an example to your children. The "do as I say, not as I do" adage rarely works. We expect our kids to behave online...so that means we have to behave online, too.
"One of the things I believe is so important about The Mom Pledge is that it has the potential to establish a foundation at home that can help combat the behavior among children," says Ross. "The members of our community love the fact that they have the opportunity to set the right example for their children. They are very proud of that."
Ross is a great example to her child and to other moms. In fact, she was nominated for Babble's 100 Moms Who Are Changing The World.
Take the Pledge
Are you a mom who is online? You can get involved. "The Mom Pledge is not just about blogging. It is about women promising to follow a specific set of principles in all their online activities," Ross explains.
"Mommy bloggers are certainly a very visible and influential group. But every day women are online interacting with one another in a variety of ways. If we can spread the message of The Mom Pledge far and wide, we really can make a difference!" Take The Mom Pledge and join The Mom Pledge Community. And above all, remember to act online as you do in your everyday life.