Last week, the incoming freshmen in our church were faced with an unbelievable tragedy. One of their classmates, Kacie, took her own life, just a month before her High School life even had a chance to begin. Her parents courageously spoke out in the local newspaper the day before her funeral revealing their daughter’s suicide was linked to cyberbullying. While I did not know this beautiful young woman, I do know many of her friends and it has been heartbreaking to watch them all grieve this 100% preventable cause of death. Everyone reacts to tragic news differently, much to my surprise this incident has triggered a very old and almost forgotten part of my own history – the middle school bully who terrorized me for years and my own (Praise God) failed suicide attempt when I was about Kacie’s age.
After a day of reading continuous Facebook statuses on the subject, I felt compelled to share my own experience with being bullied in Middle School on my Reconciled To You blog. Here is a small excerpt:
Dear Middle School bully, I forgive you for the three years of torture you put me through. I realize now that you too had struggles and pains in your life and no one to help you sort them out in a healthy way. My adult heart truly aches for what you must have been experiencing to spend so much energy and time making another person feel so horrible, scared and hopeless. I wish you could have shared your problems with me, so that we could have been friends and sorted life out together, instead of choosing to be my enemy. The most baffling thing for me especially back then, was I never knew, I still do not, what it was about me appointed me your target. I can tell you that I spent many hours trying to decipher what it was, and many more hours trying to change whatever it was I would perceive it to be.
You did not need social media to terrorize me. You did just fine with the telephone, passing notes and using other kids just as scared of you to get messages to me. So while we would like to blame social media, it certainly is not the cause, nor the evil here, but at the core is our inability as a society to admit we or our children are in trouble, hurting or most importantly need help. Instead of blaming the victim for being bullied, sadly I cannot tell you how many adults said, “what did you do?” Or expecting to the innocent party to change or avoid the bully, the next saddest statement, “just ignore her”, someone should have stepped up and reached out to you. Click here to read the rest of the article.
How can we in 2014, still be dealing with bullying – I suppose human condition and our fallen nature play a large role in that. However, the question that can be answered is what have we created and implemented, technologically, to curtail or eventually STOP cyberbullying. I went on a search, and much to my delight found some websites and APPs that offer hope and help for a bullying (cyber or otherwise) free world!
Cyber-Safety and Anti-Bullying:
OnGuardOnline.gov – “Kids have lots of opportunities for socializing online, but they come with certain risks. Parents can help reduce these risks by talking to kids about making safe, responsible decisions.”
STOPit – “STOPit mobile app allows today’s youth to report cyberbullying safely, even anonymously, and stomp out this devastating epidemic right from their smartphones.”
Stop Cyberbullying – “StopCyberbullying was the first cyberbullying prevention program in North America. Its specially-trained young volunteers design and deliver community programs to help their peers address cyberbullying. StopCyberbullying’s founder, Parry Aftab, calls them her “cyberarmy” empowered to tackle this important issue. These teens and tweens staff their own text messaging support line for other young people, build apps to promote kindness, and provide student peer support in their schools.”
The first defense, honestly as parents is to be diligent and monitor your children’s social media usage – simple practices such as:
o Random surprise check of cell phones (if I’m paying for it I have every right to inspect it whenever I want), same goes for Facebook and Twitter accounts (yes, these are free but the data or Wi-Fi is not).
o Consider disallowing Apps such as SnapChat, where information and images disappear within seconds, especially if your child is in Middle school.
o My boys really disliked when I “friended” their friends, but it was my rule, they can’t be your friend on Facebook unless they are my friend on Facebook too.
o Also stay current. Not sure what’s new – Google it, ask another teen, or subscribe to a Technology e-newsletter or website (ie: CNN.com –Technology News)
Lastly, pray. Pray a lot. Pray without ceasing for your children, their friends, and even (no, especially for) their enemies.
Copyright 2014 Allison Gingras