I’ve talked about this before here and here. It’s a topic I feel VERY strongly about having been bullied through my entire school career. My daughter, who will be 9 in December, is most likely going to be bullied at some point in her school career as well. There are some traits I can see will be topics for other children to point out and make fun of. Both my wife and I are doing our best to raise her with self confidence and instill in her that she can manufacture her own strength. That is a lesson in life that neither of us had when we were growing up. We also didn’t have pervasive 24/7 technology driving our bullies over 20 years ago.
So, before anyone gets offended by the title, here is my explanation. Individuals in this context are normal, intelligent and sane minded people that act on impulses with morality and knowing right from wrong. They’re able to see a situation or problem, make judgements on the correct course of action, then act on those decisions. People in this context are just the opposite of an individual. People refers to a crowd of individuals that have lost the ability to think on their own, they’re following a slightly smarter individual that is empowered by the “people” behind them. The thoughts and actions of people are justified if more than one person performs the unintelligent or insane action. Mob mentality is what its referred to as in the news.
Explanation done, this same idea holds true online. The consequences are much much worse however in that individuals that are targeted often are alone. They feel alone, they are alone, no one is supporting them. The article at the top goes into some detail, but I think fails in trying to address the root of the problem by using emojis that evoke compassion. Really? WTF is that about? We are so afraid of offending someone or pissing off someone that we end up not being candid and blunt about the true nature of the problem. Here is my theory.
- Parents are partially to blame for not monitoring what their kids are doing online. Growing up it was easy to keep tabs on a child. Mom screamed out the door and we came running or we were home when the street lights came on. Trouble, if caught, would easily be communicated.
- Schools are partially to blame for not being tougher on the kids who do bully. The schools are bound by ridiculous rules and policies that turn their discipline from a sword into a spork. No one benefits from that.
- Kids are partially to blame in that they’re not getting the right life lessons from people around them. From age 7 to about 15, children are literally soaking up the world like a shop vac sucking water out of a basement. What they see, do and hear shapes their decision processes for the rest of their lives.
- Technology is partially to blame due to its pervasive ability to completely take over someones life. We have, as a society, come to depend on our technology and are starting to lose the ability to function without it. How many times have you asked someone for a phone number and heard back “it’s in my phone, which I don’t have right now.”
My wife and I are split on the technology front unfortunately. I’ve had multiple computers and phones for years now due to my fierce separation of work and personal tech. Work doesn’t need to know what I do on home time. I don’t carry a phone on Sunday, not because I’m religious or anything, I just need to disconnect one day per week. It supports my requirement for solitude. My wife, mother in law, brother, etc. are all the same in their reaction: “How can we get a hold of you if there’s an emergency?” My response is always the same: “The same way you would get a hold of me 20 years ago, leave a message.” It’s received with mixed reactions.
I want my daughter to be exposed to technology, but on my terms. I know there is absolutely horrible content on the Internet and I can’t shield her from all of it, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try and watch her activity daily. My wife gives her the iPod and leaves her alone. I give her the iPod and want to sit with her and watch what she does. My wife lets her on the desktop to do math homework and leaves her alone. I sit with her and watch what she does and helps when needed. Technology for me is a tool and should be used as such. You don’t carry around your hammer or wrench 24/7 so why should you carry around your smart phone 24/7?
I’ve digressed unfortunately, such is that of a random mind. I hope that I’m giving my daughter the sense of safety that she can tell us anything that is bothering her so we can take the most appropriate actions to help her. I’m aware that our involvement in her life will be more and more unwelcome, but that doesn’t mean that I stop helping her. It’s just a shift in helping to something indirect rather than direct, such as a meeting with the Principal after hours as I did two weeks ago. I hope that my daughter never experiences bullying or cyberbullying, but the reality is that she will.
It needs to stop and it starts with awareness and an individual to counter the decision of people.