Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Rant #125: Cyber-Bullies Beware

Bullying has been around for generations. There are always kids who are going to pick on other kids for whatever reason. And sometimes, those kids being picked on fight back, and sometimes not.

When I was a kid, there was another kid, Russell (I won't use his last name) who was a bully. He taunted a couple of us when we were seven or eight years old.

One day, I had had enough, got in a fight with him, beat him up, and that was about it. Later, he was in my classes, and he became if not a good friend, then at least an acquaintance.

Of course, we were older then--and I was about two heads taller than him too.

Anyway, let's proceed to the modern day ...

Yes, there are still bullies who do it the traditional way. They taunt those they think are weaker than they are, make fun of them, and do everything to upset these unfortunate recipients of their venom.

But today, there is a new type of bully--the cyber-bully--who does his or her work online.

It usually takes place on one of those social networking sites like Facebook. I have seen it happen, because my son has been a victim.

Everything is pretty open on these sites, and people use them for different reasons.

I have seen a lot of younger people using these sites as something of an instant messaging service. They send out a message, looking for a quick reply from the person they are directing their message to.

If anyone interrupts them--well, I can tell you that there are a lot of 14-year-old "sailors" out there.

Others simply belittle a respondent because they don't know him or her, and that person has gotten into their group through a mutual friend. I have never read such filthy replies in my life.

And the kid that gets back such a response feels like garbage--much like the victim of the traditional bullying, but perhaps this is worse, because the bully victim isn't face to face with the bullier.

Facebook does little or nothing to those that are acting as the bully. I reported one person, but at best, I think that person only was suspended from using the service for a few days. My son and I have found her (yes, a girl) up on Facebook again after about a week to 10 days of her not being there.

As with traditional bullying, nobody takes responsibility for the action. And nobody ever will on these sites, even if it leads to the one being bullied feeling ashamed and humiliated.

We, as parents, can only do one thing: we can try to fight back.

Like I said, Facebook does little or nothing to the bullies. About the only thing you can do as a parent is to listen to your kids when they tell you about any bullying tactics being used by other kids that is directed to them. Report the bully to Facebook--they will ask you what the offending message was--and see if they do anything.

And impress upon your kids that they are not to respond to these bullies. A response simply propels them to put up more venom.

Believe me, the sites themselves won't do much. It's like the wild, wild west out there on these sites, and nobody wants to take responsibility.

So you have to grab the bully by the horns and do it yourself.

Kids are going to go on these sites, so you can't bar them, because they will go on anyway.

The best thing to do is monitor these sites yourself. If your kid tells you that another kid has said something vile to him, see what it is, and then do the best you can with it.

As a parent, I personally feel powerless to do anything else.

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