I watched two videos this week that addressed cyberbullying, and I found them to be very interesting and thought provoking. The first was a Ted Talk by Monica Lewinsky, who you’ll remember became known as the young White House intern that had an affair with then President Bill Clinton (Lewinsky, 2015). Monica Lewinsky’s talk was particularly interesting to me because I remember living through the whole Lewinsky/Clinton scandal. While I was young (12-13 to be exact) I remember it so vividly, and I remember the cruel words that were used to describe her. Even worse, many people in my immediate circle of family and friends were ones that used some of those words to describe her. Words like “mistress”, “the other woman”. Although we didn’t use the more vulgar words, she still had this negative image painted about her. And what’s sad is that while I remember living and hearing of the whole ordeal, I don’t think I really knew the whole story, and hearing her point of view in the talk was a bit of a wake up call for me. My biggest takeaway from the video? There are always two sides to a story, and we (the whole world) got one side of it… what the media wanted us to see and think.. for nearly a decade. Yes, the circumstances were unfortunate, but having to live through the ridicule played out for the whole world to see has got be incredibly difficult. But can you imagine what it would have been like had it have happened in a time where everything is posted on social media? I actually feel a bit sick to my stomach because I can easily see how some people would think it is unbearable to live through. Society scrutinizes every single thing about celebrities, politicians, etc.. and society is relentless. The Lewinsky/Clinton scandal broke out before Facebook and Twitter, but we did have the internet. If anything, watching her speak made be feel guilty, a bit shameful but inspired by her courage.
The second video was also an inspiring Ted Talk given by Shane Koyczan. The video was really amazing. He not only spoke truth of what often times is considered “taboo” to talk about, but he put on quite a performance. He words were so so powerful and nearly brought me to tears, because he is the voice of so many people, young and old, that endure such hateful words and harassment.. and many times when the issue is brought up to an adult, family member or parent, they blow off the issue. “Oh, toughen up”, “it wasn’t that bad” (Koyczan, 2013). But what are we telling our youth? That how they’re feeling and how someone is treating them doesn’t matter? This is what is scary. I want my kids coming to me with any issue that might be bothering them. I am their advocate and if I don’t stand up for them and let them know that they matter, no one will. What would I do to prevent cyberbullying and promote kindness if I had unlimited resources? I really don’t believe that this epidemic is a matter of resources. Parents need to be involved in their kids lives. Kids need to be shown and taught respect. Respect and Compassion trump nearly everything for me, and my kids will show respect to their elders and to their peers.
Just two days ago on the way to school, we were listening to the radio and the father of a local girl that committed suicide as a result of cyberbullying and harassment back in November was on the air speaking with the radio hosts of two arrests that were recently made in the case. My 7 year old son was listening and casually asked me, “Mom, what are they talking about?” While I didn’t get into the way the girl passed, I simply told him, “A young girl that passed away was being bullied and made fun of by other people, and even though the bad things they said about the girl were not true, she believed them. The words we use with others can really affect how they feel about themselves, which is why we always need to be respectful and use honey sweet words with everyone.” There is also another local situation going on in a neighboring school district that goes a long with this topic. Another beautiful girl, 17, passed away this passed Sunday by taking her own life. While the family and student body are coping with her loss, several students approached the school’s yearbook committee asking them if they could create a memoriam page dedicated to her to celebrate her life. They quickly declined stating, “you know we can’t do that because of the way Hannah died”. Instead of celebrating the life of a beautiful student and friend to many, they are afraid of glorifying the way she died. I feel like THIS is part of the problem. Ignoring the situation does NO good. I understand it is a touchy situation for many, but these sorts of things need to be talked about. We need to do better and be open with our children, teach them and our students important values like respect, compassion and forgiveness, and talk about these sorts of things, should they come up.
2 People Charged in Connection to Texas City Teen’s 2016 Suicide. (2017, March 16). Retrieved from http://abc13.com/news/2-arrested-in-texas-city-teens-suicide/1803923/
Bludau, J. ((2017, March 22). Family Petitioning for Daughter’s Memorial Page in Yearbook After She Took Her Own Life. [Web Log Post]. Retrieved from http://www.click2houston.com/news/family-says-pearland-school-denies-yearbook-page-in-memory-of-daughter-who-took-her-own-life-
Koyczan, S. (2013, March 8). “To This Day”… For the Bullied and Beautiful. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sa1iS1MqUy4
Lewinsky, M. (2015, March 20). The Price of Shame. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_8y0WLm78U
Diep, F. (2014, September 30). Confronting My Cyberbully, 13 Years Later. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/09/confronting-my-cyberbully-thirteen-years-later/380888/
Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J.W. (2015). Developing a positive school climate: Top ten tips to prevent bullying and cyberbullying. Cyberbullying Research Center. Hinduja_Patchin_School-Climate-Top-Ten-Tips-To-Prevent-Cyberbullying.pdf
Hoffman, J. (2010, June 27). Online Bullies Pull Schools Into The Fray. [Web Log Post]. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/28/style/28bully.html
Strut Central. (2012, March 22). The Cyber Bullying Virus. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5PZ_Bh-M6o
What Is Cyberbullying? (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it/index.html