(This post is in honor of October being National Bullying Prevention Month)
Let me introduce myself—My name is Rachel. I write, blog, play/work in social media, and I have 2 sons with my husband of almost 15 years. One son on the verge of being a teen and the other a preteen going on 21 years old. Therefore, it stands to reason that at least 22 &1/2 hours a day, I think about my kids and how different their world is than ours. The divide between their generation and ours will only grow wider as technology develops. We need to stay connected with social media (in general) in an effort to teach best practices, but also unfortunately, to know what is going on half the time with our kids and their peers. Yep.
NOW — don’t start reading me the riot act. Of course, I talk to my kids in person. We actually communicate face-to-face over homework, sports, current events, funny inside family jokes, SEX, and problem solving when it comes to preteen/teen angst. There are definitely open lines of communication going on in our house, but I still monitor social media because for the most part, all these tools are new and left to their own devices, kids are going to test the boundaries.
Lately, this type of crap has been plaguing me. Back to school came and went, middle school cliques clicked into place, and new follows/likes/+1’s followed suit (with puberty jumbled in there, too). I am staying on top of things, but honestly, I cannot stop thinking about how MEAN kids can be on social media. That’s right – MEAN. There is no more eloquent way to say it.
You may wonder where I have been. It is all over the news: cyber bullying is a problem. I know this, but what I can’t stop thinking is it is worse than the bullying, general MEANness, of our generation because the bullies HIDE. They hide behind screens and phones. When we grew up, kids were taunted on the playground and in class — right out in the open. Some bullies shouted shit from the rooftops while others hid in the shadows and thought no one was watching. Most of the time—in order to make fun of someone—one had to say it to their face or to someone else’s.
Yeh, there were crank calls and bad stuff written on lockers and notes passed, but there was an element of anonymity which could not be reached. Now, bullies do not have to face their victim, they just have to log in….. Further proving my point: Just as I was writing this post, THIS came across my desk. (Read it to simply see, I am not alone.)
My kids are not perfect. I have corrected many of their online behaviors, but when I survey the scene and take a look at what is going on, I begin to think that I am in the minority. Other kids who are thought to be goodie-goodies or of innocent temperament are GOING AT IT online. They are teasing, taunting, finding a voice behind a screen that is so different than their public persona. To borrow an expression often used by a role model of mine, I do not want to get all sanctimommy and act as though I am the better parent BUT…
WHO is watching them? Mentoring them? IS their public persona so secure, no one believes they would ever do something rude?
(Again, I wrote this even before I read the article published today on kids being rude on social media.)
As parents, wouldn’t we rather be the person who explains right from wrong to our kids? There is no shame in correcting our offspring. It is how they learn. It is not my job to police other kids, by any means. I can only demonstrate what is responsible for my own children, so that is what I keep doing.
While there is so much discussion on the lack of face-to-face time between families and kids themselves….NOW, our kids cannot even be MEAN face-to-face? Bullying is essentially taking place in an alternate universe. No one wants their kids to be made fun of, taunted, or ridiculed, but when it happens IRL (in real life), one can teach their kid to be resilient, stand up for themself.
On the internet, standing up just adds to the white noise in the internet. The victim types back, the perp replies, and it just goes on infinitely. Most of the time without resolve (in my experience). My kid is already wise enough to know this. He told me this— in his own words. He also said, “If they have something to say, say it to me.”
I am not bragging. Just saying he knows this from discussions we have. Naturally, I am proud of him, but I am still watching because who knows how many others are lurking behind their devices.
Do you sense how different the social climate is among kids today?