“Those kids are being mean to that kid.”
It usually manifested in “mob psychology” with a couple of kids picking on a kid that was different and others joining in until it got out of hand.
I remember – dramatic painful memory – this girl… Marlene, in grade 10, literally being chased by 20 kids down the hall… all calling her names and cornering her in a locker bay and just pounding her with insults.
I was (always will be) a small guy… not tough… not feared. But I remember being enraged at this event and pushing through the kids to collect Marlene and shame the kids that were taunting her.
Horrible as that was… it was still something you could “point at”.
“Those kids… “ doing “those things” to “that person”.
They all had to “own” what they were doing.
Many adults today… pull images like this to mind when they hear “Bullying is an issue” and they try to evaluate the current government and social response to bullying with those parameters in mind.
These adults… have no fucking clue.
Bullying today … bears little if any resemblance to the bullying of yester-year.
Marlene… could be rescued from the locker bay. She could go home with her best friend and lock herself in her room, cry and sleep and get up to watch tv and … start facing her tormentors again the next day.
Harsh as that may have been… today Marlene has none of these options.
Today, the twenty kids in the locker bay… is more like “several hundred nameless, faceless kids on social media” (let alone sick, whack-job adults that join in the fun because they are damaged, deranged shit heads that want to play “mean”). The taunting, insults and derision follows her through the halls of the school… into the library, the bathroom and … all the way home.
Locking herself in her room is of no use … as phones and computers tweet away with over-the-top criticism across the landscape of her peer group and back-up on her blackberry until she dares to power it up again and then BOOM… out floods the ill conceived words of merciless immature kids who have not got enough life experience to really understand the harm they are doing.
The answer to this problem… remains illusive.
I want to quote McLuhan and point to the technology as culprits … but that is akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The medium is NOT the message.
Thicker skins may help… but what are we left with?
Legislation is a fools pursuit. It’s against the law to drink and drive… need I say more?
I don’t have answers… but I do know this:
The generation that is currently tasking itself with worrying out solutions to this problem… is ill equipped for the job. They do not comprehend the depth of the problem or the implications of the issue.
Our children are in an unconventional war zone with offensive tools at every turn and very little defensive assets.
Again, I say that I do not have answers but I think there must be value in the following ideas:
1. Ask the kids … no matter how immature their perceptions, they know more about this issue than a stadium full of lawyers, politicians and clinical psychiatrists.
2. Look to the lack of defensive assets… we have rainbow-power fueling the call for safe zones for the LGBT community… and I think there’s a greater need for safe zones in general.
3. We have been far too intrigued by the open-source, crowd-sourced, multi-pathed anonymous nature of the internet. Everything that is wonderful about the internet will not go away if we spend more time building accountability. “Less anonymous” is better than “more anonymous”. If you are afraid to “own” what you do… then you know you are doing something mildly (or more) wrong. Young people do not understand this … only because they lack the human experience to understand the implications – but that is no reason to allow them to drown in anonymous behavior.
If the youth of today had to “own” their words and actions… we would be better off.
Remember that locker bay? Every one of the “taunters”… had a face and a name, and I think that is exactly why Marlene could grow through those hard times. Not so for Amanda Todd.