I got an automated phone call from our school's superintendent asking parents to attend a Cyber-bullying meeting. It seems that some of the middle school and high school kids set up a page to specifically target a particular student and a teacher -and so the school wants the parents to be aware of what is happening in the cyber universe. Kudos to the school system for getting involved and being pro-active in this type of activity. Unfortunately, they have to be in this day and age given the cruelty that has led to unfortunate teenage deaths.
However.... my school of thought on this topic is......
What the heck are middle school and even high school kids doing on Facebook?!!?
Call me crazy, but I just don't think social media is meant for children. Engines such as MySpace and Facebook, are practically obsessions for mature, non-bullying adults (oh, and trust me - it seems like there's lots of adult drama out there as well, but generally speaking....), so why would anyone think it's okay for a child to be able to spend their time on these sites?
Don't children have better things to do than sit on a website? Shouldn't they be out and socializing in "real life" than in the virtual one? Isn't there more for kids to do than be busybodies? Shouldn't we be teaching our children to be kind, compassionate, hardworking, and socially adept? Between cell phones and social networking -- there is no space between people anymore. You can't "cool off" after an argument; there is no "I"ll see you tomorrow" and actually look forward to seeing someone because there is that incessant texting, or Instant Messaging. How healthy do we really think that is for young people? Because this girl thinks not so much.
Truthfully, I think our responsiblity as parents has to start with us - as parents. Lead by example -- our children will have the same concepts of what is acceptable behaviour based upon what they see at home; children learn what the live. That means no texting at the dinner table; being able to watch television together as a famly without the laptop being on and constantly checking Facebook notifications; showing our children that life is about living - and not constantly being driven by the social networking circle --which is truly not very social at all.
There is a time and a place for everything; and truthfully, with bad there is also good. Social networking does have it's place in society, and holds value when used in the right context -- but it's not meant for children; monitoring their pages is a laughable attempt at control -- you can't monitor the places that they post, or the things that they say outside of their page. But by not allowing them to run rampant online -- they may think twice about their behaviour in general. There's a bravado when hiding behind a lap top -- not so much in person. Force them to be accountable for their actions in person, and most importantly -- to be a person -- rather than an icon or photo or status update on a page. Teach them to be defined by their actions - not by how many "friends" they have online.
Bullying will always be a problem; it always has been. Sometimes, there are just mean kids. But Cyber-bullying, in my opinion -- is completely a byproduct of lazy parenting.
That my friends, is what has to be fixed otherwise it will never, ever end.