We all worry about bullying and cyber-bullying faced by our kids. Kids bullying kids, and teens bullying teens are HUGE topics of concerns. But today, I want to focus on a sneakier version of bullying, and it’s one that parents may unknowingly model to their kids!
We live in a culture that loves public shaming and verbal bashings for the whole world to see. With a click of a mouse and loading of a web page, you can shame anyone you want. It’s a culture that thrives off the humiliation of others and it happens on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Snapchat, you name it—we’ve used it to bully. And sure, who doesn’t love a good CrossFit fail or Pinterest fail video? It can be fun and relieving to see others' imperfections. But how far is too far?
As adults, we set the tone for our children. They model after us and want to be us (even if they wouldn't admit it). They will like the same things we do, and yeah, they will also learn to hate the same things too. They catch on fast and see what we’re doing every day. It’s called modeling, which is a method of learning through imitation. We have all done it, whether it’s exhibiting the same behavior as your co-workers when the boss is near, or pretending to be Superman as a kid. So when we click ‘like’ on the latest Twitter trending bash of (insert celebrity name here), what does your child see and then interpret? That it’s okay pick on others? Mommy and daddy do it—why can’t I?
We have created a culture that lets bullies thrive in the digital space. The best bash gets the most likes and re-Tweets. Heck, it can be even seen on TV! Most news stations ask for viewers to Tweet live, or find the top trending Tweet. Now the whole world gets to see your negative comment! Is this really what we want our children to model from us? Because guess what, they will! And they have.
It’s called cyber-bullying. Children and teenagers have become the victims and victimizers of this phenomenon. It is something we ascribe, as a culture, to mostly youth, who aggressively go after classmates or friends online to shame and publically humiliate. Bullying has grown dramatically over the years. With higher consequences for the victims of these bullies—it’s in the suicide rates of teens and children as young as 11 years old. It’s the school shootings. The incarceration rates of teens. It’s the metal detectors in public schools. The security guards patrolling the halls. It’s the knives and weapons being removed from backpacks because the only way a 14 year old girl feels safe from her bully is to bring a gun on the school bus (Bully documentary).
And where did they learn this cyber-bullying from? Us. Our culture.
So what do we do? How can stop cyber-bullying?
Maybe the first step is acknowledging our part in this. We created an online world of hate, shame, and public floggings. Do you even remember the last positive ‘like’ you gave something on your Twitter feed? It’s time to start changing the way we ignorantly click on hate. Maybe stop liking negative things such as public bashes of people (because celebrities are human just like us, so turn off that digital screenname you hide behind and check out Jimmy Kimmel’s Celebrities Read Mean Tweets videos). Stop feeding the bully machine. See that ‘comment’ as the attack it actually is.
It’s time to start changing the digital landscape. Let more kitten and puppy videos fill your screen. Click in approval for your local PTAs and neighborhood watches. Poke an old friend ;) on Facebook. Reconnect and stop hiding behind that screen. Above all, stop clicking on hate because a thumbs up for bullying is not the message we want to send our kids!
Now you may be asking yourself, “I’m going to work on my attitude online, but how do I stop my kid? She’s a cyber-bully!” Great question! I will tackle the topic of having kid/teen cyber-bullying in my next blog. It will have strategies and tips for you to start implementing in your home and help your child be a kinder, more empathetic kid.
By Arielle Grossman