The Power of Words – Perhaps Why Cyberbullying is SO Damaging.

The written word is very powerful. We assign a substance to it that we do not necessarily assign to the spoken word. When we speak, we allow for emotions to take over. We can see a person losing control and angry words are said that we will accept were maybe not really meant. We can see eyes and body language that may contradict what someone is saying. Finally, there are often times where we are not really listening to every word that is said and we may miss some of what is said, or at least, miss the intent …

When we write something we take away all of the excuses that we allow to the spoken word. Because a person has to think about what they want to say and then take the time to write it, and because we can read it over and over, we can make it into anything we want it to say and often what it says, comes to us out of our own vulnerability and insecurities.

The internet puts a spotlight on all the dark corners of our human-ness. The cruel spoken taunts of children never seem to carry the same weight when a child relates them later. “She called me fat.” “He told me he was going to smash my face in…” It is easy to take second hand information, and miss the tone, the seriousness. It is easier for a parent to dismiss it. It always has been.

Today however, we can see the conversation. We can see the very cruel, relentless and sometimes startling threats made against our children and it cannot be ignored. We are uncomfortable that children could act with such hate towards one another and we are frightened for our children.

We have all been children. As much as we like to march into the schools and demand justice, we all know how it works. There are no written guarantees in life – the good person does not always win. Sometimes it is because people are overworked and just do not see the problem as important as we do as parents, sometimes it is because they are actually part of the problem and do not care for our child. The fact is, bullying is not always stopped and too many times the victim is singled out for further abuse after they come forward.

Children do not seem to hate the bullies as much as they do the victim who will not keep silent. It is an unspoken law that haunts society in many forms. Criminals will respect one another for almost anything … but be a snitch and you are scum. We see it in the army, we see it in business, we see it with social issues. We do not like the people who bring forward problems to be dealt with. Why? That is a very interesting question worth exploring but not in this blog post.

In my latest workshop, I spoke with some of the kids of the parents who have been participating and they confirmed that one of the fears that keeps them from speaking out – is the retaliation for doing so. They do not have a lot of confidence in their parents abilities to understand the situation, and then to effectively handle the solution. Kids are afraid that parents will over-react, share too much of their personal information with others, or even not believe them or blame them for the incident. Our children, it would seem are accepting of the fact that the world is not a safe place and they feel powerless. Oh they can reiterate all the phrases and teachings that are all over the internet. Give them a test on internet safety and they can probably pass with flying colours .. But strip away the rah rah and talk about what is really going on for them and it is a different story.

It is a different world that we live in today. We cannot protect our children from seeing the harder and the seamier side of life. They see it on the news, in their music videos, their movies, television and games. They are not any more prepared to deal with it than we were . .. they are children .. but for many of them .. they are numb to it. Kids that grow up where gangs are a way of life, know that life is cheap and they often do not count on living to a ripe old age … it is more important that they live in a blaze of glory, fearless, and without losing the honour of their gang. Kids today accept violence and death with resignation.

My first exposure to death was when a teacher died in a car accident and we went to her funeral. I was probably about 11. Movies about war and cowboys were not real. In the same way, the news did not seem real. Adults were concerned about how we were all coping with the loss. The community pulled together to help us heal. We were indeed a village raising our children. Today we are isolated as parents, restricted from how we can interact with our kids, obsessed with rights and freedoms and not so much with responsibilities and integrity. Life is cheap. Relationships are plastic take aways. Sex is about hooking up. We went from sex within marriage – honour and respect to making love to sleeping together to hooking up … most kids today have no idea that there is supposed to be anything else connected with sex other than physical release and pleasure. It is a bodily function – nothing more.

I bring all this into the discussion of internet safety because if we are going to address this wonderful tool, and manage the problems it brings … I think we have to be clear about where these problems really come from. One of the things that I found with our research into unplanned pregnancies was that it was not a case of women getting pregnant because they lacked access to, or knowledge of birth control. In fact, it was not even the young girls that were the biggest offenders. We were looking at adult women, in a relationship, who knew what to do, how to do it and where to get birth control. We were looking at women who had more access and acceptability for that than any other generation and yet they were still ending up with “unplanned” pregnancies … so we had to ask the same question, “Why?” The answer led us in a completely different direction for answers than we ever thought we would go in.

I think we have to do the same here. Our children’s needs are not being met. We are stealing their childhoods from them and forcing them to deal with adult scary situations when they are really … emotionally unprepared. Despite their bravado, their intelligence, their technical savvy …. They are still little kids, in need of love and protection. Their monsters are no longer vaguely under the bed or maybe in the closet …. Their monsters are real and live next door, or go to school with them. Fueled by the images and glorification of violence, kids are prepared to kill and be killed. “It happens…” shrugged a 10 year old as he matter of factly discussed that a child might commit suicide from being bullied. There was no emotion, just a statement of fact and several nodded their heads. This has to stop.

We can’t just give them a checklist and hook them up to the internet. We can’t just pray for their safety. We have to reconnect parents and children. We have to support that effort, taking back parental rights, providing opportunities for those families with financial difficulties- to strengthen themselves. Rather than having a community run program so other adults can interact with our kids, while mom and/or dad earn a living … we need to find ways to put mom and/or dad back with the child. If we don’t see parenting as the most important job any of us will ever have we are only applying bandaids while our children are bleeding out.

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~ by blisswindlow on July 4, 2011.

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