Cyber bullying and the wonderful age of the internet
I still remember the day my Sergeant told us that we would be getting a computer for our shift. Most of us shrugged the gesture off as just another fad. I mean, why would you need to a replace a typewriter anyway.
He also said that with the computer will come a thing called email. Email? We all laughed. What the heck is an email?
The Sarge went on to explain that email would allow us to have better communication. He also said that he could use it to chew our butts if we screwed up. Alas, the birth of the passive aggressive email!
Fast forward a couple of decades…
A day rarely goes by where I don’t receive at least one passive aggressive or outright intimidating email from a boss in my chain of command. (Disclaimer: By no means does a work email of this nature equate to cyber bullying but they still suck when you get them)
Before you start feeling sorry for me, remember this. I’m a grown man, veteran grizzled cop, former Marine. I can take it.
Our children and teenagers have a much harder time.
The dawn of the internet has emboldened many cyber bully’s into action. When I was growing up, the bully had to be somewhere within physical proximity to intimidate.
Today, the cyber bully needs only an internet connection and a device to transmit. Once they zero in on a target and have an audience, they can unleash their torrent of hate and intimidation.
And they can be brutal.
The reason I mention audience is important. An audience is the fuel that drives the cyber bully. With the advent of social media, the cyber bully has the perfect platform in which to make himself appear as a tough guy.
And please note that girls are just as guilty, if not in some cases, more adept at cyber bullying than boys. There have been several documented cases in the media where teenage girls have been driven to suicide by their female cyber bully.
Why cyber bullying is worse than old-school bullying
Cyber bullying can come at our kids in many different ways.
About a year ago my wife and I decided to purchase an Xbox 360 for our 10 year old son. Against our better judgement, we agreed to let him play on-line. We both were ignorant about the “gaming world” and let him play with little supervision.
It was a dumb decision.
One morning, while I was still in bed, I could hear my son yelling in the front room. I decided to get up and check on him. What I found was alarming. My son was playing his Xbox and was visibly upset. With a tear running down his cheek he revealed that some other players had said horrible things to him. Lesson learned.
Cyber bullying is not confined to just social media or cell phone communication. The aim of the cyber bully is to shame their targets so badly that they will do almost anything to make it stop.
Prior to the internet, the victim of bullying could get temporary relief from their attackers. They could seek refuge at home or by some other means of separating themselves physically from the bully.
That is next to impossible now.
Everyday there is a new form of social media that emerges. Kids and teens, because they were practically born on Facebook, have no problem understanding and figuring the technology out. The cyber bully quickly learns these new platforms to exploit their victims in new ways.
This is why just hitting the block button does’t always work.
Why it is never going away
As Americans, we live the good, good life.
We live this good life because of many factors. One of those factors being the driving ethos of our work ethic and competitiveness.
These two qualities come with a cost.
Because of our drive to be the best, we have conditioned our culture to only be accepting of winners. Just like the famous line from the legendary coach Vince Lombardi, “just win baby!”
You don’t have to look far to see my point illustrated. From shows like Survivor, Real Housewives and the other reality shows. Teams or cliques are formed quickly to weed out the undesirables.
The tactic most often used is to denigrate or humiliate your competition. The ones who usually succeed rally others around them to join in the process.
And no, I am not channeling Rod Serling and this is not the Twilight Zone.
Some reading this may be saying, “Bart, just stick with the cop blogger stuff and give us some more crime prevention tips”.
A lot of the despicable crimes that I have seen over the years were done under this guise of exploiting the weak.
Just like cyber bullying.
Yes, there are many things you can do for your child or yourself to minimize being preyed upon. Ultimately, the change can only take hold if we start within our own families.
The kind of family that embraces and nurtures each other rather than separates or belittles.
Only then can we truly deter cyber bullying and the ugliness that it brings.
Some of you have reached out and want to share your story with others. A blog like this one is a great way to reach those who could benefit from your experience and interests. Blogging has changed my perspective and my life.
It could do the same for you.
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