Of course you’ve heard about cyber bullying, it seems lately it’s ALL you hear about! I hadn’t thought about it much because it hasn’t really affected me (much) or anyone I know, but that’s not to say I’m not aware of it.
I’m in my mid thirties. When I was in high school it was a completely different time. There was no such thing as myspace, facebook, twitter, cell phones, texting, sexting…hell, there was hardly an internet! (The advances in technology over these past 15 years make me feel a lot older than I am by the way.) Sure kids did drugs, had sex at school, got into fights, and bullied other students, hasn’t that happened in every generation past? But it’s was nothing like it is now.
I’m not one to dumb down kids. Teenage hardships are a rite of passage, they mold you into the adult you’re going to be. There isn’t a single person in the world who hasn’t been put down or disliked by SOMEONE at some point in their life. Example, there was one time in high school when I was on the bus, some girl I didn’t know, had never talked to, threw little pieces of gum in my hair from the seat behind me. I never did find out why she hated me so much. Let us not forget the fact that I am blind in one eye which made for relentless name calling and teasing, especially before I had my wandering eye corrected in the 7th grade. Throughout Elementary school they called me “One Eyed Wille” (courtesy of the pirate from the Goonies and the fact that my last name was “Wille”. I hated it then, but I think it’s pretty clever now :)) Yeah it sucked sometimes, but like everyone else you grow a thicker layer of skin and you move on. It was easier back then though. If you got teased, if you got your ass beat, if you got caught doing something embarrassing, the news only spread as far as your school or neighborhood, and only mattered to the people who knew you. If you got a reputation for being a slut you dealt with it, either by continuing to sleep around or by waiting it out until someone else became the topic of discussion. Nowadays, EVERYTHING is instantly on the internet and you are powerless.
I first noticed how cruel cyber bullying can be on twitter. I follow some people from different shows that I watch, yes, a lot are from the shows Teen Mom and 16 & Pregnant.
Side Note: I know, it’s ridiculous that I’m so addicted to these shows obviously intended for a younger audience. I would totally blame being pregnant with Link when it came out because I was addicted to EVERY pregnancy show back then, but I like Jersey Shore too and I’ve never been a guidette from Jersey. Just chalk it up to my mind numbing TV addiction.
Some of them and/or their fans are down right ruthless! This one blogger, Heather that I follow for example, is also victim to a lot of internet hate which I just don’t get. I read her site, Teen Mom Talk, it entertains me, but like with any tabloid you have to know there are always different versions of the story. Obviously if it’s your blog you’re going to write about it from your standpoint, and if you’re friends or acquaintances with the subjects of your articles your opinion may even be biased, but who really cares? There are a dozen sites just like hers, if you don’t like it, read another one! This girl has several hate pages and sites dedicated to her. Some people accuse her of stalking the girls from the shows and claim that they (the castmates) all hate her, but only a few have blocked her, and I see her having conversations with them on twitter constantly. It doesn’t read like they hate her. I read the posts and just shake my head. I can’t believe the lengths and the lows people go to to cut someone down – especially someone they don’t even know.
Recently the Amber Cole video went viral. I haven’t seen it for obvious reasons, but I’ve read about it, and THAT’s the one that really freaks me out. If you don’t know, she’s the 14 year old girl who was video recorded by another student from his camera phone giving oral sex to a boy at school. I’m not about to make excuses for the girl, you’re responsible for your own actions, but I will admit that it’s harder for kids these days to make mistakes like this and move on. She did this thing but it wasn’t just her fellow students or neighbors who were judging her, it’s the whole world! This bystander uploaded the video and in no time at all she was infamous. I remember one incident when I was in high school when a student had a sexual relationship with a bus driver. That story made the local newspaper but it didn’t name the underaged student. These days, there’s no privacy, no human decency, no “names changed to protect the victim”. Nope, if you screw up and someone thinks it’s funny, you’re on the internet, have hate pages made about you, and are being ridiculed and harassed from anonymous people hiding behind the safety of their keyboards who don’t care about how you’re affected by what is being said. And they’re judging you based solely on this ONE thing.
I’m afraid for my kids, for ALL the kids! You could be in the locker room changing clothes, and someone who’s mad at you at that moment (or just thinks it’s funny) snaps a picture of you topless, sends it to a friend who sends it to 10 friends who send it to…well, you get the point. Adolescence is a time for making mistakes, leveling out your hormones, and figuring out all these changes going on in your bodies and minds. You’re supposed to do stupid stuff (not have sex at school, I mean come on, have some common sense at least!) but you shouldn’t have to have those mistakes follow you all of your life. It’s why juvenile records are sealed!
Before the internet, if you had something negative to say about someone, you said it to their face. At the very least you said it someone who told someone else and it got back to that person who then confronted you, but the end result was the same, you either argued it out or you fought it out. If you were scared you were going to get your ass beat, you probably didn’t say anything! It’s too easy to sit in front of a computer screen and spew a bunch of hate and then go play YoVille without another thought or concern for the consequences. There are kids who are killing themselves because they can’t take the abuse, that’s not your average, back in the day bullying, that’s serious. And instead of making people think before they type, it seems to be fueling the fire, like a “that was fun, who’s next” type thing. That’s scary.
I’d love to tell people “it will all go away if you just ignore it” but that’s not really true is it? One time I posted a video to youtube of my preschooler doing her letter sounds while her older sister held up the cards. Because I know my daughters’ love for aggravating each other, it was obvious to me that when she kept holding the cards out of her sister’s sight it was intentional, but some stranger on the web who came across it accused me of favoring my youngest and suggested that my oldest was “scared” of me. Of course after one person says something someone else reads it and watches the video with a slightly skewed perception and then they agree via comment which encourages others to jump on the bandwagon. I watched the video with their opinions in mind and thought “I can see how you would think that if you didn’t know us” and even apologized to my older daughter if she felt that way. But it still eats at me. That some strangers on the internet could make me feel like I show favoritism with my kids considering that they don’t even know me, when I only posted that video with my family (who also know my kids) in mind. So sure, ignore it, don’t respond, eventually the haters will know they aren’t going to get a reaction out of you and they’ll move on, but yes, it does hurt to be unfairly judged when people only see a small moment of your life and assume that’s how it is all the time. It has to be especially hard for reality stars whose stories are edited for maximum ratings.
In the end, we are constantly in a state of evolution, and times are getting tougher. No doubt being a kid isn’t as easy as it was generations ago, but the one thing that should never change is simple human decency. That good ole Golden Rule “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself” should continue to be true no matter what generation you’re born into.