Bullying is a word that brings about so many terrible emotions in so many of us that it is almost hard to discuss without getting that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. I remember my first "bullying" experience like it was yesterday. I am still not sure why this kid targeted me, but every day for a solid month he would walk past me and knock me on the shoulder, egging me to fight him. I was called names, laughed at by all the other guys around because I didn't fight back. I can still see him laughing down the hall as I just basically put my head down and sulked to class. I can close my eyes and still see the hallway, see the boy who tormented me, see the other kids around laughing at me. I remember the worst days so well I could even tell you what I was wearing and what he was wearing. Unfortunately, being bullied sticks with you forever.
We are in the 21st century, and social media is the new modern community. Bullying now takes place in the wires and cables of cyber land. I would venture to say that this type of bullying, known as cyberbullying, is far worse than anything we had to deal with prior to the digital revolution. The bullies can now take their hurt to a whole new level. Now they can hide behind screens and not have to say or do those means things to the victim's face. Now they can use words that are considered profane and hide behind false avatars and fake user names. Now they can post about you and have thousands of responses from around the globe in minutes. You are no longer being bullied by the one kid or ten kids in your class; you are now a global victim.
Can you remember your first bullying experience? It takes a memory of your own to recount the experience. In the world of cyberbullying, all the victim has to do to remember his/her experience is to look it up online. Things that are placed online never really vanish. Could you imagine always being reminded of your horrific experience every time you turned on a social media application? The most recent hit on the cyberbullying front is Instagram. As an elementary school principal, I rarely thought that social media cyberbullying would be a problem in my school. I always hoped that the parents of my students would keep our K-4th graders away from heavy duty social media or at least keep a very cautious eye on what they are doing online.
Instagram is a photo sharing discussion board. Students are now taking pictures of their victims and having students vote if they think he/she is gay or stupid, or ugly... you get the idea. Then others can also add comments about the victim and their personal hate remarks can be added to the image blog. After enough results are in, they then send the results to the victim. That victim will always be able to look up this hateful experience. They will not need a memory, just a computer.
Parents, you need to take control of the computers in your house -- including iPods, tablets, the Xbox, desktops and laptops... basically anything that has Internet access. You need to be responsible for what your child puts on the net. The machines that can access the net should be child-proofed and you should never leave a common area in the house where you can watch their interactions online. Remember, you are the adult and it is your rules they must follow. Be proactive and discuss with your child the rules of being on the Internet and the consequences if they do not follow your rules. Our fight against cyberbullying must start at home and you, the parents, are our main line of defense.