Monday, January 16, 2012
Cyber Bullying - Who's To Blame?
The beautiful thing about the internet is the ability to stay anonymous. You can say what you like, go where you want and make as many fake handles as you can think up. Of course, people have pretty much been abusing this privilege since day one.
When we hear about bullying online, it's usually because someone had decided they couldn't handle it and committed suicide. The stories are mostly confined to pre-teens and teenagers. Families who have been through this are telling others to monitor their children's internet use. Schools are walking a fine line in an attempt to figure out what is "normal" teasing and what is "bullying". Tread carefully, because if you make the wrong call and someone dies, the parents just may sue you. Sadly, it isn't just children who are guilty of this. In at least one instance a grown adult was the bully who led to the death of a 13 year old girl.
As a mother, I can't imagine the heartache those parents must be going through. If anything ever happened to my daughter someone might want to make sure they lock me up because I can't guarantee anyone's safety if I'm free. Someone is going to pay.
The problem isn't with the kids themselves. The problem is rarely with the kids. It starts, like so many things, with the parents. You don't have to hover over your kid whenever they log on. You just have to set a good example.
Like everyone else, when I go online I have some specific places I always go to. Email, Facebook, etc. As a first time mom who finds herself alone a lot thanks to the military, I also frequent some online "support groups". Sometimes it's just nice to know that you aren't alone. It's nice to have other people you can ask questions instead of calling your bestie up for the 7th time that day. In a lot of ways, I love these groups. Well, I guess I should say I love some of the people in these groups.
The worst cyber bullies I have ever encountered have stemmed from mommy groups and military spouse groups.
There are women in those groups that no one on Earth will ever please. I'm not sure what it is that makes them feel so high and mighty, but whatever you do don't ever try to gain their acceptance. I have watched them berate, degrade and insult other moms simply because they don't like the way they parent. They breastfeed. They bottle feed. They cloth diaper. They use disposables. They vaccinate. They don't vaccinate.
Military spouses? They're no better really. I've seen some amazing groups of women, but it doesn't matter. The catty, bitter, nasty ones online scare everyone away. If you're wondering why so many people have a bad impression of MilSpouses, it's because of these girls. You know the ones. They mock you if you haven't gone through a dozen deployments yet. They laugh when you misuse terminology because hey, this military thing is new to you. Yesterday in one of the military groups on cafemom five or so women chewed out another woman. Her crime? She posted about how hard it was having her husband gone again (8th time, wow!) and instead of being supporting they chose to mock her.
I know, I kind of derailed from my initial point but it all comes full circle, I swear!
If you are wondering why kids are acting like this online, look at the way grown adults are acting. Some example they're setting, huh? I'm not saying that the kids are innocent in this. They aren't. These kids are old enough to know the difference between right and wrong. But if adults act like bullies, can we really expect the children to grow up to be little angels?
Bullying has become a hot topic in the last few years. It isn't going away anytime soon either. The only way we are going to prevent this sort of thing from happening is by holding people accountable, setting a good example...and installing some decent firewalls.
For more information on bullying:
StopBullying.Gov - "StopBullying.gov provides information from various government agencies on how kids, teens, young adults, parents, educators and others in the community can prevent or stop bullying."
KidsHealth - Helping kids deal with bullies.
It Gets Better Project - "The It Gets Better Project was created to show young LGBT people the levels of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach – if they can just get through their teen years. The It Gets Better Project wants to remind teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone — and it WILL get better."
Committee For Children - "The research-based STEPS TO RESPECT program teaches elementary students to recognize, refuse, and report bullying, be assertive, and build friendships."