I have been approached to discuss in a blog the topic of cyber bullying. The perspective is of an adult who has been the object of some extremely harsh accusations and slanderous comments for a period of over six months. The person is unable to defend themselves based on their professional status. I was told that the experience has been so painful that they have come to understand and empathize with teens who are driven to the point of being suicidal. I have read through the accusations and commentary and am astounded that adults don’t know better. I feel the intent of asking me to write is to impress upon my readers how harmful, dangerous and real cyber bullying is. I want to write a piece that is meaningful and has impact as I feel it is the least I can do to vindicate this adult. As often is the case, when you go through hell – you hope at least your experience can help avoid others having to do the same.

CONCERNS

  1. I grew up in a different time and any bullying I was subject to was more intimate and private than social media. So, I can sympathize – but not empathize with cyber bullying victims. As such I fear I can not provide the emotional depth the topic deserves.
  2. I was raised not to start a fight or throw the first punch but with the knowledge that I can and should defend myself verbally or physically when necessary. However, society has changed a lot since I was a child. How can I apply antiquated perspectives to our current culture?
  3. Bullying is a hot topic. Unfortunately, from my perspective, it’s become politically exaggerated. The exaggeration and hyper sensitivity appears to have diluted the cases that actually deserve disciplinary action. In other words, there are so frequent accusations of bullying that actual bullying is not reacted to as swiftly and appropriately as it should be. Moreover, I feel zero tolerance has further victimized the person being bullied.How? Because, when I tell my children to finish a fight & defend themselves, they respond that they can’t do that. They assert that if they are reported for a well placed comeback they will be punished. They know that the person who retaliates physically is usually the person who gets caught. They understand that if they deny a negative rumor, people will believe what they want to and they can’t win a battle of “he said/she said.” And the lousy truth is, my children are right on all counts.Additionally,  my children are not comfortable going to authorities, and most of the time, I wouldn’t want them to. Most cases are simply a punk that needs to be shown you will not be pushed around. Going to the authorities deems the reporting child a rat & tattletale. The bully gets smarter & quieter but now has more ammunition to play with. So, it’s a catch 22.

    Furthermore, when my children come to me and I get involved, well – I have yet to have an instance where that pans out to the favor of my child. Besides, shouldn’t they learn how to deal with bullies? Child bullies grow up to be adult bullies. Shouldn’t we let our children figure out how to manage that personality? Mind you, my children and I have not been subject to severe bullying of racial, sexual or physical nature. There are always circumstances where being the “tattletale” is the exact right thing to do. There are times parents SHOULD get involved. But I dare say the majority of issues can and should be dealt with more simply. Are we doing our children service by making them impotent to defend themselves? I think not. As such, I am concerned about making the right point and properly defining bullying so that I am not adding to political noise.

  4. I do not agree with the current philosophy that parents should regularly review texts and social media accounts of their children. I have many friends that do subscribe to that method of parenting. Those people are absolutely wonderful parents. Further, I concur that I am not right or wrong in my philosophies and neither are they. We choose what we are comfortable with.However, I remember being a teen. I remember privacy being something I desired in the same passion that I desired freedom. I would not only have been enraged but also hurt if my parents chose to listen in to my phone calls or read my diary. I am thankful  that my parents did neither. And I will say, they didn’t refrain because I was a perfectly behaved child that gave them no reason to be concerned. I gave them PLENTY of reasons to be concerned. Yet, I thank them for being active, yet respectful in their parenting. I thank them because they gave me just enough latitude to make mistakes that I could learn from. And mistakes and bad choices I made plentifully. The choices were my own and I was forced to take responsibility for my actions, accept the consequences and learn.Therefore, I have decided to treat my children as I would want to be treated. I demand that I have passwords and indicate that I have the right to review their electronic lives at any time. However, I rarely cash in my chips. Why is this relevant to bullying? Because I have more questions than answers as to how we should set out to remedy bullying, cyber or otherwise. I feel this heavy monitoring does not foster independence and in turn does not force our children to be the champions of their own lives. When do we let go? When do we trust? When do we stop monitoring? How do they learn?

Social media and the anonymity along with the public platform provided has upped the ante for bullies. Used incorrectly, the internet is a very dangerous thing. So, what do we do?

HYPOTHESIS:

My instinct is that all we can do is teach our own children. Teach them that everything you say online or in a text should be considered public and something they can never erase. Every picture they share is fodder for commentary. I feel we should warn them away from social media. I adore Facebook. Yet I have asked my teens to consider carefully and come to me to discuss initiating an account before they do so. I have told them that colleges and prospective employers absolutely DO look at your social media accounts. Therefore, the mistakes they make online may have far more lasting and severe consequences than even the things they say and do. I tell my children to pick up the phone and call rather than engage in a media or texting battle. When I saw a text from my son that had some profane language and derogatory commentary about a girl that had broken up with him, I took him to the mat for it. I told him a girl is not a bitch just because she isn’t into you anymore. I told him that just because I do not typically read his texts doesn’t mean that his friend’s parents don’t. In fact, most do. So, I told him to ensure his language and tone is presented in a way that lends to the reputation he wants to have with parents. And, of course, I told him if I saw something like that again, his phone would be mine for a while.

Once we’ve established all of that and really from day one, what I also think is important is to emphasize that everyone is a human being with troubles of their own. That the bully may be physically or verbally abused at home. That the bully may be insecure or jealous. And that for sure, if the bully had better tools in their toolbox, they would make better choices. So, I preach sympathy for the bully. I tell my kids the first tactic to employ is to kill a bully with kindness. When that doesn’t work, I want to tell them to knock the fucker on their ass. But I can’t. And honestly, I’m not cool with that.

However, all the work and effort we do in our own home does not shield our children from bullying because it doesn’t account for shitty parenting and adult bullies that nurture a bullying attitude in their youth. And here is the thing, some things you just can’t change. 

So thirdly, I try very hard to form open lines of communication with my children. I pray they know they can come to me with anything. I try to let them know that I understand emotional despair. I try to validate their feelings. And then I pray some more.

CALL TO ACTION

Therefore, in conclusion, as stated above and as is often the case with me, I have more questions than answers. I’ve asked my teens to write from their perspective. Asking teens that are responsible for a heavy workload of high level classes to do an optional assignment for their mother goes over about as you would expect it to; like a plane with one functional engine.

So, what do you think? What would you do? What are your experiences? How would you advise me to approach this topic for maximum impact? If you have experience with cyber bullying how did you handle it? Was it effective? Do you want to guest blog for me and address the issue based on your experiences? I have been forced to shut down the ability to comment on my site due to spamming. I need to resolve this and several other issues with the employ of technical support. Until I do, please find me on Facebook at Wicked Sexy Smart, or e-mail me at wickedsexysmart@gmail.com. Thank you in advance.