Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bully 4 U


Facebook is not where I usually go to start a really serious discussion. I know that's where a lot of people go to start one, but I like to flesh my ideas out... that's why the way I talk on FB is a 360 degree difference from the way I talk on this blog. Some people only know me through FB and if they read this blog, they wouldn't recognize me. I keep it 99% smurfy and light-hearted on FB and to an extent, on my other two blogs too. But, this blog is the closest thing you're going to get to who I really am. Now, with that said, let me say this...

Today I posted a serious question on Facebook. I was halfway joking about this, but I asked how is it possible for a person to be cyber-bullied? I read an article (see, I do read) about all of these kids who committed suicide this past year over things people were saying to them on line and I just couldn't understand it. One of my FB friends, who is also a fellow blogger, said that these kids today are just soft... which is a position I myself took at first.

It took a young woman (I've known since she was about 11 years old) who has grown into a beautiful and intelligent mother, school teacher, and mentor to young children to set us both straight on this issue. She told me some things I didn't know. She said (and I'll quote her), "Keith, cyber-bullying is real. All of the lies posted on Facebook (Twitter, Skype, My Space, YouTube) and texts can make gossip travel faster than it ever could when we were young. Kids have taken cruelty to a new level. That's why schools have to be proactive. Now, people posts pictures they've doctored using Photoshop and all kinds of mess. Sticks and stones work for whatever you said in passing, but the cyber-bullying thing is bullying exponentially."

This was a whole new spin on it. I didn't think about the new technology and things kids have at their disposal now that I didn't have in the mid-1970's and early 1980s when I was in high school and college. People at that age are cruel anyway and with the new technology, I guess they have taken being an asshole to a whole notha level, just like she said. She also went on to say, "You remember getting dressed for gym? Now, you have to worry if someone snapped your photo on a camera phone and posted it somewhere or sent it to everyone in their address book. I talk to my kids about their technology use and what is and isn't appropriate. I understand what kids are capable of because I taught school. It's a brave new world!"

I thanked her on Facebook for her insights. I told my cousin's wife that this is why I ask questions when I don't know something... so I can find out things. In this case, I was glad to find out about this. I can't pretend to have an answer to just what you can do about this, but parents and teachers have to be there for the children they are responsible for, they have to believe them and, most importantly, do something about the situation.

In many of the cases where bullied kids have either killed themselves or come back to school with a gun and mowed down others, the kids often felt as though they were in a hopeless situation. No one was listening to them, no one was willing to go to bat for them. The bullies have to see that their foolishness will not be tolerated. The parents of a bully have to send this message... (In most cases, they won't because, after all, Little Johnny or Little Shaniqua is an angel.)

How many more Columbines will it take to bring this message home?

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