Thursday, January 8, 2009

Cyber-bullying Hits Home

My wife has a younger brother who is in his early teens. He's pretty much your typical high school kid: tall, lanky, into some sports, some video games, Mountain Dew, and pizza. He likes to hang out with his friends and have a good time. He's a little more intelligent than athletic, but puts his heart into everything he does, even if he's not the best at it. He's also pretty emotionally open for a guy his age. Add all of this up, and the sum equals exactly what a lot of bullies look for in a target.

I have a soft spot in my heart for the kid because, as a child and teenager, I was picked on as well. It is a rite of passage for a lot of kids. To be honest, I don't know that I would be the person I am today without having gotten a bit roughed up when I was younger. However, when I was my brother-in-law's age, we had the distinct advantage of being able to live the bullying in the hallways of the school. When we went home, we knew it would stop. Sure, maybe the bully would follow you home for a bit, but you knew that your house was your sanctuary. You knew when you stepped through that door, you didn't have to worry about it, at least until school the next day.

Unfortunately, those days are gone. And cell phones took them away.

My brother-in-law has been experiencing what is known as cyber-bullying. Bullying via text message. Some of his would-be friends have decided it would be funny to torment him using a device that he keeps with him at all times. And in doing so have taken away his sanctuary. Don't misunderstand, I'm angry with the kids who are doing this sort of thing, not with the technology. I'm also angry with parents who don't properly police their children's activities, and give them free reign to do, or say, whatever they want to whomever they want.

So parents, please watch over what your kids are doing. Kids, if you happen upon this entry and know someone who is being picked on in this manner, please tell someone. This sort of thing has to be stopped, because it's affecting people your age a lot more deeply than any "traditional" bullying ever did.

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