Monthly Archives: December 2015

Is Technology Making Our Kids Cruel?

You’ve heard about the rise in the number of teenage suicides at middle school and high schools in the previous 8 years. Students have been cyber-bullying each other and making the kind of terrible comments they once made in person except now, with the anonymity accorded the through cyberbullying, it’s easier not to get caught. Sadly most teens aren’t reporting their victimization to their parents or their teachers. They suffer silently until one day they commit a drastic act and the community and their families are left asking themselves “why?”

Rebecca Sedwick, 12, Whitehaven, Florida
12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick was cyberbullied for one year and finally succumbed to suicide in October 2013. One of her tormentors blatantly rebecca-sedgwicktold people she didn’t care about Sedwick’s suicide or her role in it. The suspects, ages 12 and 14, were charged with felony aggravated stalking. This came as no surprise to police. Even though the accused girls’ parents were contacted by police about Sedwick’s death, the parents did not cooperate with police and the girls were still allowed to use their social media accounts.  One girl who began dating Sedwick’s ex-boyfriend, posted comments on the Internet saying Sedwick should “drink bleach and die.”

The father of the 14-year-old told The Associated Press that his daughter was “a good girl” and he was “100 percent sure that whatever they’re saying about my daughter is not true.”

“The parents were not doing what parents are supposed to do,” Sheriff Judd said. “My goodness, wake up.”

Judd said Sedwick was “terrorized” by as many as 15 girls who ganged up on her and picked on her through online message boards and texts. Some of the girls’ computers and cellphones were seized in the investigation. He said the two girls arrested were the major culprits. On Sept. 9, young Rebecca Sedwick climbed a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and jumped to her death.

Amanda Todd, 15, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Amanda Todd
was in the 10th grade at Coquitlam Alternate Basic Education in Coquitlam. Todd shared a topless photograph of herself with a man in an internet chat room. Unfortunately he couldn’t suicide13n-2-webbe trusted and the picture ended up making the rounds at her school. After Todd’s suicide, the suspect proved to be a 35-year-old man who was officially charged in April 2014 in the Netherlands in connection with Todd’s suicide.

The unidentified suspect was charged with extortion, internet luring, criminal harassment and child pornography. The police mentioned the suspect is involved in other abuse cases and not just the Todd story. Todd was lured into sending a pedophile a semi-nude picture of herself over the internet and it cost Todd her life.

A peer made the photo of her breasts his Facebook profile photo. A student punched her. The resulting cyberbullying tormented Todd so much that she made a heartbreaking Youtube video where she explained the reason for her impending suicide. She held up placards with messages that included “every day I think why am I still here?” and “they said I hope she sees this and kill herself.”

Todd was mercilessly bullied, forced to change schools, turned to drugs and alcohol and began to self-mutilate by cutting herself. Todd tried to kill herself by drinking bleach, but was rushed to the hospital and survived. The school was aware of the YouTube video before Todd’s suicide and had “support in place,” according to Cheryl Quinton, a spokeswoman for the district. Grief counseling was provided to students at the school. Whatever supports were in place they were clearly ineffective.

 

The Survivor
Now and then, a teenager manages to overcome their bullies and survive. Riyadh1_640x345_acf_croppedThis young man, Riyadh, who was bullied throughout high school for being a homosexual, posted his own Youtube video claiming “after time passes your bullies just end up being normal people. They’re not evil people. It’s not some scar that should remain there forever.” However when he placed a telephone call to his former bully he admitted “Im actually shaking.” The bully was surprised that the young man had been afraid of him and said “you were there at the time….me personally if you pulled me aside I think I wouldn’t have kept going at you kind of thing.”

I disagree with Riadh’s defense of bullies. Some people are lifelong bullies. They thrive on insulting people and they need to be in control of other people’s autonomy. Consider a tyrannical boss or co-worker who targets employees in order to feel superior. These people are bullies. And bullies raise bullies. It’s that simple. And that tragic.

To be sure many teenagers use social media and they don’t bully people. They usually post nice comments about themselves and others. I believe for many people bullying is a choice and with or without technology, they would still be bullies. But the internet makes it much easier to attack people, ergo it makes it easier to bully. It’s doubtful anyone anticipated cyberbullying as an outcome of technological advancement. In spite of our technological advancement we are still taking one step forward and two steps back.

 

Your Child isn’t the Best at Everything

It used to be that good parenting involved telling your child things like

  • you can do anything you put your mind to”
  • “you’re the smartest kid around”
  • “you’re the prettiest girl”
  • “you’re better than everyone at ________”

These statements, although well intended, are false. (Of course the road to hell is paved with good intentions). No one is the best at everything. No one can do anything he or she puts their mind to. No one is the prettiest or the most handsome, talented, brilliant, what have you. These are lies.

successGood parents want their children to feel good about themselves so they say nice things like that. But that’s doing a child a disservice. That child grows up thinking “I’m the best at everything” until that child meets a few people who are even better and has a rude awakening. That hurts one’s self-esteem. It’s a shock when whatever Mom or Dad told him or her is a lie. My parents lie? Really?

A friend of mine grew up in a really great family. Great but a bit elitist,  a bit, well, snobby. They were always telling her how wonderful she was and how special and how she couldn’t fail at anything she did because she was so great. She actually was gorgeous, smart and she had a talent for classical piano. At that time in our sheltered little corner of the world she really was a star. Then she went off to college and met other stars and was staggered by this. At first she didn’t notice. She thought she was superior to everyone else. Then over time she realized other people were just as pretty if not prettier than her. They played piano better than she could. They got better grades.

Her self-esteem plummeted. She had been taught to play the comparison game. Everything was a competition. Her parents had set her up for great disappointment and when she spoke to them on the phone while away at school they changed their tune. Well now she was an adult, what did she expect? Of course there were other terrific people around. Grow up. That was something we told you to get you through your high school years and because we love you. All parents think their kid is the best. Didn’t you know that?

angryShe was angry and betrayed. It was as though they threw a bucket of ice water at her. She didn’t trust her parents for a long time. She felt that the rug had been pulled out underneath her feet. After a while she got it together and stopped playing the comparison game with other people. She did the best she could for herself and worked to meet her own standards, which at first, were ridiculously high. Over the years she realized she couldn’t do everything and she had to re-think that pedagogy. A long road to be sure. But then again that’s what a transition to adulthood is about – pain and success.

Still it might have helped her a great deal had her parents been honest with her. Rather than saying “you can do anything you put your mind to“, why not “you are very strong in  (whatever subject). Why not pursue that for a career?” And rather than saying “you play piano better than anyone else,” why not, “you are a very good piano player,” and leave it at that?

We set up our children to always be great at everything they do when we tell them falsehoods about themselves. That just adds more stress to an already stressful teenage experience. We’re well-meant but that doesn’t mean we’re doing well. We aren’t the absolutely, undisputedly greatest parents in the world, after all.