It’s one of the most distressing issues in America today. Sadly, you can’t watch, read or listen to the news without coming across a tragic story about bullying or cyber-bullying. As the mom of four boys, I find these stories extraordinarily heartbreaking. As a human being, I find it infuriating—and deeply worrisome because of what it says about our society.
With the topic of bullying being highlighted both in the media and in our personal discourse, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the way young people treat each other. And I keep coming back to the distressing fact that a growing number of kids—even those who are old enough to “know better”—have a complete lack of compassion for their peers. Most of the media frenzy around the bullying issue has focused on the technologies that allow kids to post, chat, text, and read 24/7. After all, popular logic goes, the Internet and cell phones allow these hurtful, damaging words to reach an unlimited audience—and to remain permanently in a public forum—so shouldn’t parents better regulate them? Well, maybe. Some young people are unequivocally ill-equipped to deal with the responsibilities that come with the digital age. But let’s be honest: technology isn’t the real problem here.
The problem is that kids no longer know right from wrong. Growing numbers of today’s youth simply do not know how to act appropriately. Put bluntly, they are just plain mean! Despite priding themselves on advocating “tolerance,” many kids lack empathy. Unbelievably, many don’t understand what behaviors qualify as “bullying”…and they don’t appear to care about how their actions or words (especially those documented online) may hurt someone else’s feelings—or destroy someone’s life.
This has to stop now. I truly believe that bullying is an issue that can be resolved. If you’re raising children, it’s your job to make sure this trend of selfish unawareness stops. It’s your parental responsibility to teach your children to be kind, generous, compassionate people at home. That way, when left to their own devices, they won’t abuse technology in a mean-spirited way. In the spirit of positive parenting, you absolutely need to model kind, respectful, compassionate behavior. All. The. Time. Remember that you’re role models—and keep firmly in mind the words of actress Jamie Lee Curtis, who says, “Children are paparazzi. They take your picture when you don’t want them to, and then they show it to you.” Ain’t that the truth!
While it’s not a bad idea to monitor their use of computers and cell phones—especially when first introduced—don’t confuse the medium with the meanness. Bullying is a problem that starts at home, and trying to transfer the blame to technology is like faulting cars for the multitude of alcohol-related accidents that occur in our nation every year. In each instance, it’s unquestionably a human being’s lack of judgment that results in the downfall.
Parents, consider this your call to action—for Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, for his family, and for all of the young people who feel that there is nothing left but to give up.