Unless you are a bully you can’t really know how their mind works. But for any of us who have been through pre-adolescent and teenage years, we know what is in the minds of young people.
Being accepted and cared for are what everyone wants, no matter how old you are. Your teen years are tough enough, but when you are faced with demoralizing taunts and threats of, or actual violence from your peer group, it must be overwhelming.
Bullying has taken on a form of its own that is mutating and causing heartache for the victims and their families. It ranges from what one might think is a harmless schoolyard taunt to wishing someone dead on a social media site. It is vile and disgusting in any form, and it needs to stop. It doesn’t need to be “dealt” with – there needs to be an outright end to it.
When children can’t feel safe in their school, neighbourhood or even their own homes, then something needs to be done. Where are we as a society when we have young people ganging up on someone to beat them up, while a crowd of onlookers cheers them on, as was the case in Blaketown earlier this month? How is it that a 15-year-old girl in British Columbia who posts a nine-minute video on Sept. 7, telling her gut-wrenching story of being bullied through a series of white pieces of paper, then kills herself ?
Bullying is a plague and it is likely in all of our communities in one form or another. To think that it’s not would be naïve. It is out of control and if anything is going to be done about it, it needs to be now, before another Amanda Todd leaves this world too soon. Amanda Todd told spelled out what she needed in her video, “I have nobody I need someone”. Her cry for help came too late. The bullies who urged her to kill herself have won this fight. Just what they have won? That is what society needs to ask of itself.
Not to say that bullying only impacts the female population — because there have been too many tragic stories of young men as well who have cut short their own after being bullied — but Amanda Todd’s death is especially sad, considering that Oct. 11 was the first International Day of the Girl. It seems fitting or maybe ironic that this day was also when the Atlantic Canada Ministers Responsible for the Status of Women launched a project to protect girls from cyber-violence.
This initiative provides not only parents and educators, but young girls as well, with information on how girls experience violence and abuse on the Internet, and how to prevent these incidents from happening. The Cybersafe Girl project includes three fact sheets of tips for parents, educators and girls, as well as a website (www.cybersafegirl.ca).
There seems to be a trend where people like Amanda Todd were bullied online in a social media setting. All of her troubles started out as a Grade 7 student who “flashed” or exposed her chest online. Changing schools and moving to different towns didn’t make a difference. She was basically blackmailed by the person she had exposed herself to and that person and photo haunted her for the rest of her young life. As she said in one of her pieces of paper, she can’t get that photo back.
Parents, teachers, friends — please, please talk to your loved ones about the dangers that exist online and the consequences that could follow. This generation is having to deal with something that many of us of adult age don’t have much experience with. That being said, we can help guide them through this and make good decisions.
It also cannot bear repeating enough, have your computer in a public area of your home. Don’t allow kids to have computers in their rooms or use them in an area where their online activity cannot be seen or monitored. Know their passwords, check into their Facebook account. It’s not an invasion of privacy. It’s not the same as sneaking a peak at their diary. This is about knowing what your child and those who may not have their best interests at heart are talking about online.
Karen Wells firstname.lastname@example.org