Why do we need an anti bullying alliance?
On September 10, another child chose death over the pain and loneliness that relentless bullying caused. With that one impossibly permanent decision, twelve-year-old Rebecca Sedwick joined a growing list of recent cyber-bullying casualties. Her suicide — and the subsequent arrests of two girls who bullied her — has already sparked debates over everything from female bullies (the question “are mean girls getting meaner?” got its own Today show segment) to freedom of speech (with shock jocks taking calls from the sheriff accused of violating it, after he used the girls’ online posts against them).
But the most important takeaway is the opportunity to learn from Rebecca’s too-short life. Bullying is a daily presence in the lives of children and teenagers. If parents and teachers hope to prevent another tragedy, they must unite to form a global anti bullying alliance that will keep our at-risk youth alive.
Anti Bullying Alliance: Fighting a global threat
“Every day more and more kids kill themselves because of bullying. How many lives have to be lost until people realize words do matter?” — excerpt from one of Rebecca Sedwick’s notebooks
Is social media digging up a kind of childhood evil that’s never been seen before, or is it simply a bigger, more convenient way to carry out the same age-old taunts and attacks? Should children be held responsible for the consequences of what they type, or should we make sure their juvenile mistakes don’t follow them into adulthood? All of these questions have been asked in the weeks following Rebecca’s tragic death; they come up again every time another victim’s Facebook posts and text messages paint a posthumous picture of the personal attacks and isolation they experienced.
That is why we need to an anti bullying alliance!
The Internet is the sharpest, most effective tool that childhood bullies have ever had. Sticks and stones have nothing on social media; comments are far easier to make and far more difficult to forget. It took mere seconds for Rebecca’s two “primary bullies” to type each of the messages that are now being entered as evidence in the case against them. Smartphones and laptops are the coward’s playground; bullies no longer have to look into anyone’s eyes or risk physical confrontation in order to sting them with their words. In the past, children could recover from even the meanest teasing as those words faded into distant memories; today’s youth doesn’t have that luxury. Online comments — like the ones that not only motivated, but directly encouraged, Rebecca to kill herself — remain accessible forever. As friends and even online acquaintances react and respond to mean-spirited posts, often piling new attacks onto them, those posts stay relevant much longer than a passed note or a whispered insult.
How an anti bullying alliance can bridge generation gaps
“I think it’s only a certain amount of amnesia that allows adults to function… The cruelty that kids can inflict on other kids is astonishing and heartless and ill thought out and occasionally brilliantly thought out.” — author Neil Gaiman, on how bullying victims’ experiences are often minimized (Poets & Writers)
The only truly effective anti bullying alliance is one that’s waged between parents of bullies and the bullied alike. The Internet changed the rules of parenting forever, leaving a unique generation gap between children born into a world of social media and adults who grew up before it existed. Without any precedent or previous experiences to learn from, adults must work together in a true alliance to determine which limits should be set, and how.
That is why we need an Anti Bullying Alliance!
Rebecca’s mother wasn’t clueless. She warned teachers and faculty and even filed a complaint with the school district before transferring Rebecca to a different school. But she wasn’t aware that Rebecca’s bullies followed her to that new school too, in the form of vicious text messages and online comments that lit up her smartphone. Even after she realized that Rebecca shouldn’t use Facebook anymore, the attacks continued via apps such as Ask.fm, which allows members to ask questions and receive anonymous replies. Some of those replies asked why Rebecca was still alive; others encouraged her to drink bleach. Her mother didn’t even know the application existed. She had no reason to believe her daughter’s phone was anything but a distraction from her peers’ attacks. Instead, it was the source.
Parents can’t ignore the lesson that Rebecca’s mother learned the hard way. As smartphones, tablets and laptops become permanent fixtures in adolescents’ social lives, parents must treat those devices with the caution they demand. Bullies can’t be the only ones harnessing the power of new technology. Parents must keep up with the tell-all, share-all trends of social media, so they’re fully equipped to prepare and guide their own children through the most dangerous playground yet.