There is so much talk of cyber-bullying lately. This is something we never had to deal with as children and now have a hard time protecting our own children from this. Luckily for now, my kids are in lower elementary school so this is not yet an issue. Most kids at this age do not have cell phones, web cams, or Facebook accounts. However, children grow up fast and I will have to be vigilant and prepared to discuss this subject with my boys.
The Tyler Clementi case has been all over the news lately. This has really hit home for me since the kids were all from areas near where I grew up and went to my Alma Mater, Rutgers. Everyone who mentions the kids involved in this case says they were all “nice kids and good kids”. Yet this crime was committed and a tragedy occurred. It hasn’t been ruled yet whether this was truly a hate crime against a homosexual boy or teasing and bullying gone wrong. Either way, both families are devastated. The Clementi family will never get their son back and his life ended way too early. While the Ravi family is watching their son’s future hang in the balance. Dharun Ravi’s future would be ruined if he went to jail but even if he was found innocent of the hate crimes, society would never forgive him.
So how do we protect our children from being on either end of this equation? Even ‘good kids’ can get caught up in doing inappropriate things to get attention or fit in. Many times these bullying crimes are not committed by true sociopaths, but by kids who are misguided in knowing how to be popular. On the other hand, the victims of bullying can be traumatized for life. Even if there is nothing as extreme as a suicide, this undermines a child’s confidence and can affect them for years.
I guess we need to keep the lines of communication open with our kids and make them aware of this subject. Most schools these days are getting better about discussing this subject and trying to make the children feel comfortable about opening up. They are also trying to make the idea of a bully, ‘uncool’. They praise the kids for being an ‘upstander’ by standing up for anyone else they see being bullied. In the past, kids would just stay away out of fear that they would become a target as well. Well, all this should help but the bullying at this age does not involve the internet where everything is permanent, making it worse for both sides. The victim cannot escape the humiliation and the bully can’t take it back when their conscience kicks in or they realize their mistake.
We definitely need to keep tabs on our children’s internet activity, even if it seems like an invasion of privacy. We have to look for signs of being more angry or withdrawn at home. I know when my son was being bullied a little, he started taking his anger out on his younger brother. That prompted me to talk to him and find out what was going on in his life. Look for any personality changes. We can’t protect our kids from everything but at least we can know we did what we could. And, always make sure they know they are loved and make you proud parents. This might give them the strength and confidence to handle these potential situations better. Beyond that, we pray for the best!!!