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Posts tagged ‘cyber bullying’


Dear Loch,

Recently the older brother of one of your friends was experiencing some bullying at school. It’s a hard thing to avoid, even in a school as small as yours, where the parents all know each other and the kids have been taught the virtues of kindness and compassion from kindergarden. Perhaps it’s just part of being a kid, something to try on and see how it fits. It made me think of comedian Louis CK’s recent point about not buying cell phones for his daughters. He felt the technology made it all too easy to disconnect from the truth of the real world. If you are cruel to someone in person, you witness first hand how they feel and, how making them feel that way effects you. For the most part it’s not a great feeling for either person. But, when you do it online, silently typing cruel things into a smart phone and pressing send, there is no such bounce back. No moment where you see how your behavior has affected another and, therefore, much less self realization for the bully. Without the emotional fallout to witness, mean for the sake of mean might feel pretty good.

Sidebar: Cyber bullying is a new world for me. We didn’t have smart phones and the internet when I was young and from everything from bullying to dating, I think my generation dodged a big bullet. You, on the other hand have a whole new sphere of ways to hurt one another and people are using it with gusto. You have to be hyper conscious about what you post, who you tag, what you say and what you forward. You shouldn’t share your password with anyone (except your parents) and you have to think, almost more so than you would when you speak, how something you say might be perceived. Those words are never going away. Anything you post will ALWAYS be out there.  Look, it’s easy to be mean but it’s base. It’s not clever or charming and it won’t win you friends or impress anyone worth impressing. It’s a cheap, shallow way to connect with people and you have to work every day of your life to rise above it.

Anyway, this boy at your school was experiencing a lot of taunting. He’d even received threats of bodily harm and as a result had engaged in the occasional physical tussle. By the time I was talking with him he was understandably worn out and angry. The thing is he’s not alone. The girls in your class were recently sat down and talked to about kindness and fair behavior. It seemed there had already been some issues of bullying amongst them (sadly not surprising for girls) and the teachers were looking to nip it in the bud. I’d like to say I’m shocked. Bullying at 5 and 6?! That’s outrageous!! But I’m not. I was bullied mercilessly from age 7 through 9, again at camp from 10-12, the majority of my 8th grade year and then again in the 12th grade.

Bullying happens all the time, to all kinds of people, and it can be at any stage of your life. You can be bullied by your boss, your girlfriend, a frenemy, a colleague. Bullying is everywhere and, at some point in your life, you will have to deal with it. At the end of the day bullying is a misuse of power, a behavior that belongs in the arsenal of the weak. The bully might appear to be dominant but it’s a weak character that chooses this behavior. A truly confident person has no need to belittle or destroy. Only the small have to stand on others in order to feel big.

Bullying-LockersLooking at the size of you I don’t think people will target you for physical bullying. But, mentally, you are kind and sweet and sensitive and that’s probably going to cause you some issues. I wouldn’t want you to be different. I just think we need to be aware of what being the “good guy” sometimes entails. Your Dad was bullied for being a red head but he was also picked on for being kind to the special needs girl at his school. You can’t win, you just have to deal. Recently you were in tears when a 2nd grader, who’s half your size by the way, was mean to you. Part of me wanted to tell you to punt that twerp across the campus but, even in the heat of the moment, I knew that was terrible advice. Yes, you could exert your size for dominance but that’s no way to handle your problems and frankly, I don’t want you to think that way. I don’t want you physically, or metaphorically, throwing your weight around. I think the best way to use physicality to our advantage is by simply owning our space without apology, and I believe that’s possible whether you’re big or small. Emmenating a grounded sense of self – both physically and mentally – will make you less of a target.

I wish I could say this applied to all bullies, but it doesn’t. Self worth and confidence have a way of attracting a different type of aggressor, the kind that would rather break your confidence mentally than your bones physically. If you find yourself on the receiving end of this type of action – because you sure as hell better not be on the delivery end – all I can say is hold on. Be grounded in your sense of self and wait it out. It’s a tremendous acting exercise. You can feel devastated and destroyed inside. You can want to cry, give up or lash out, but if you want it to stop you have to appear strong in public. Come home and unload but don’t allow “them” the satisfaction of seeing you hurt. I promise the situation will eventually pass but you want to feel confident that, as far as anybody knows, you handled it with nothing but strength and pride.

I know from personal experience how hard this kind of bullying can be to handle. How painful it is. How sometimes you’d just prefer to be punched in the face then deal with one more day of someone trying to break you. I know what a toll it takes on your confidence but you have to keep reminding yourself THE BULLIES CAN’T WIN. You have to be stronger than them. No one should make choices for you. No one is allowed to tell you how to feel about yourself or dictate your actions. They can’t defeat you unless you let them, and lest you think you’re all alone you’re not. Bullies have been around forever and personally, I believe life has a way of catching up with them. Whether your bully ends up with no real friends or honest relationships, whether they’re unable to love fully or truly be happy, weak minded, small, petty people pay for it in the end. I know that’s not much to hold on to when you’re in the thick of it, but knowing that fact somewhere in the back of your head might allow you to suck it up for just one more day. There are too many kids who felt they’d rather end it than live with the pain of the bullying anymore. This. Should. Not. Be. We can’t allow ourselves to live in the world the bully creates. We must try with all we have to rise above. Life is too wonderful and precious to forfeit to exhaustion.

It’s possible as a strong willed, popular guy you’re not going to have to deal with this s*^@, but it’s unlikely. The weak are the frequent victims but the strong are repeatedly targeted for threatening the status quo. Look at Obama. That man’s been bullied for the past 6 years and he’s the leader of the free world. No one is immune and you can’t stop it. All you can do is be strong enough of character to remain the best version of yourself without apology. And if it’s not you who’s being bullied? Is it ok to turn a blind eye lest risk having the bully turn on you? No. It’s not. I lost my entire group of “friends” for standing up for someone else but, even knowing how that played out, I wouldn’t change giving a voice to someone who didn’t. The only thing I should have done differently was go to a teacher first rather than publicly engaging the tormenter head on. It wasn’t the smartest move. But, hindsight’s 20/20 right? The bottom line is you can’t call yourself a good person if you’re able to sit idly by while someone else is getting hurt. You need to know what behavior is appropriate and stick to it no matter what anyone else is doing.

I don’t envy you this stage in your life. It can be tough but, it can also be liberating. It’s the time when you start realizing what you’re made of, who you are, and building the sense of pride and self worth that can last a lifetime. You are a good person Loch. You’re kind and noble and loving. Have enough faith in yourself to rise above the noise. Don’t let anybody change the spectacular person you are becoming.

Love you forever.

xo Mom


Dear Loch,

Baby you’re growing up in a crazy world. Technology is so prevalent in your life. So much of how we interact with each other now is digital. You don’t know a world where you take a picture and you can’t see it right away. A world without email or the internet or cell phones. I am not that old but I clearly remember the time before computers…when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. In elementary school my library got a PET computer and then upgraded to the unbelievably fast Commodore 64. We weren’t allowed to touch it, but it was there. In Jr. High my class used to crowd around one Apple computer and watch our librarian/gym teacher play Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?  In high school I took typing. It was called computers, but it was typing. I took a laptop the size of a small stump to University with me but email didn’t exist until my last year. To use it we had to go to a computer lab in the Engineering Building because no one had internet at home. Even then I didn’t go that often because there wasn’t anyone to email. Until high school if you called my house and we weren’t home you just missed the call. Call Answer was one of the fanciest things that happened to my teenage years.

This might sound a lot like the millenial version of “when I was young we used to walk 5 miles in the snow just to get to school…” and in a way, it is. You’ll never know how convenient and connected your world is because you have nothing to compare it to. On the flip side you’ll never know how simple things used to be, and for that, I’m kinda sorry. I can’t imagine going to school when everyone has a cell phone. A device that texts and records and is a constant reminder of how cool or not cool you are. I can’t imagine trying to learn (let alone teach) in a class with that technology. I shutter to think about going to high school parties knowing that anything I do could end up on the web. Every bad decision I made, every silly call, every drunken (yes, drunken, I was no saint) escapade is a memory for me. Something that can be remembered less clearly as years go by. Something that lives on only in stories. But for you, you live in a world where everything you do can be recorded and shared in real time. And once it’s out there it’s not going away. That’s horrifying to me. I had some fun times when I was young, ridiculous times even, but I am SO glad that no one has them on tape.

Kids can be mean and this kind of technology only exacerbates the potential for real hurt.  Here’s my advice on technology:  Take it. I promise I only have your best interests at heart.

1. No cell phones in class. I can’t believe I even have to say this. I don’t understand how all schools don’t have a leave your cell phone in your locker or at the door policy. It’s ludicrous to me. Class can be boring but you’re not there for kicks, you’re there to learn. You might goof off. You might tune out. But for the most part, without your phone, you’ll be taking it in. It’s respectful to the teacher and to yourself. Your dad and I will do everything we can to give you the best possible education. Do everything you can to get the most out of it.

2. If you can help it, avoid video when partying. This won’t always be possible, but things that seem hilarious at the time are just embarrassing played back later, and now with instant sharing, you can relive that naked dance for the rest of your life. You get my point.

3. Pictures are fine. They’re a blast. I’m all about pictures. Just be aware of what’s being photographed. Try not to be photographed drinking or doing anything illegal and for god sakes, don’t take naked pictures of yourself. Don’t SEND naked pictures of yourself. If possible, don’t encourage or accept naked pictures of others. There are so many weird rules now. Having a picture of anyone under 15 can be construed as child pornography, even if you’re a kid yourself. The world is not what it used to be. Ask the 5 year old boy who slapped a girl’s butt at recess and the police were called. He’s now a registered sex offender. He was 5!!! The world’s gone mad. Whether it makes sense or not is almost irrelevant. Don’t give them any rope to hang you by. Plus, the s#*t that happens to people’s intimate pictures after breakups should be enough to make you avoid it all together.

4. Be aware that everything that is put online is essentially public domain. Don’t have anything up there you don’t stand behind. You don’t have to be perfect, just make sure you’re online profile is PG. People are watching. Potential dates are googling you. Employers are checking up on you. Your mother is Facebook stalking you… be smart about what goes up because once it’s there it’s almost impossible to remove. This goes for things you say as well as for things you do. You want to be opinionated? Great. Own it and don’t be cruel. Snarky can be funny. Witty is amazing. Just don’t be mean. Never say anything online (or in person) that would truly hurt someone. Have absolutely nothing to do with bullying. Cyber or otherwise. We are raising you to be kind. To be empathetic. To be a leader. Be someone worth looking up to.

As a side note: If you find yourself on the receiving end of bullying, I am so sorry. Please know it will pass. Be as confident as you can in the knowledge that you are wonderful and that if people don’t understand you now, you will find people that will understand you later. Stay strong and get through it. People who bully are stunted in some way. There is something in them that holds them back from being truly happy. You, however, will be truly happy. If not now, then later. Stay true to who you are. Kids can be a^*holes. Don’t be one of them and don’t bow to them. You are better than that. I may or may not be here to know the man you’ll become, but darling, I know you’re better than that.

5. Direct more attention to people in real time than to people online. I’m seriously considering implementing a “no technology while interacting with others” policy in our house but your dad might implode and I’d struggle. Texts and calls are going to happen but be mindful of your environment. If there are real people in your space (and this includes Starbucks baristas, grocery store clerks and even people you don’t really like) be present for them and not for the person on the other end of the digital device. Unplug, or at the very least, acknowledge and apologize. It’s basic manners but it’s being forgotten fast. Recently your dad and I saw a bunch of 14 year olds at the movies. They were in the lobby in a circle and every single one of them was texting. Not talking. Texting. Who were they texting? Weren’t they out with their friends? Why were their cyber friends more important than their physical friends? I felt 100 years old watching that. I practically said, “These kids today…”

6. Take time to unplug. There is so much information out there and so many social media venues that you could be dialed in from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. I can’t tell you how often I watch TV, surf the web, text and check my emails all at the same time. Your dad and I deliberately didn’t get a TV in our bedroom because we wanted our room to be a haven for sleep, etc., but we get into bed and are both on our phones or iPads clicking away into the night. I know it will only be worse for you. Try to fight it. Play sports. Look out the window. Read a book. Talk on the phone. Talk to me…Be a part of the physical world as much as you are a part of the digital one. Give yourself the gift of boredom. Sometimes the best ideas come out of a quiet mind.

Also: DO NOT TEXT AND DRIVE. No joke. I have to stop myself from doing it. I’m always reminding myself if I get in an accident would that text have been worth it? The answer is always no. Your father has informed me that this will be a mute point by the time you’re driving but you get my point. Pick safety over socializing.

7. Finally, beware the over share. As shocking as it is to hear, everything you do is not important. It’s important to you and it’s important to me, your mother, but it’s not all interesting. I think the generations that are growing up surrounded by social media have become confused as to what’s news. Self editing seems to be losing ground to personal purging. Social media makes people both more aware of others, and infinitely more self centered. Highlights from your life are good. Mundane details of your daily routine are self involved. If the dinner you made turned out better than expected sure, take a picture of it and post it with pride, but daily pictures of your lunch are irrelevant. Don’t post about doctors appointments, or body issues or toilet behavior. Somethings should just remain private no matter how public the world has become.

You live in a connected world. You have had an iPhone since you were 1. You cyber chat with our friends and relatives all over the world. You will remain close with friends you would otherwise lose touch with. You can talk to your girlfriend without the danger or your dad picking up the phone. But remember that you are a person and not a machine. The world goes too fast for us to keep up. Don’t try. As the Buddist’s say, Do what you’re doing when you’re doing it. If you’re at the beach or a party or at dinner just hang out and be with who’s there. Don’t post pictures or text about it, don’t check your email, don’t see what others are doing that might be better. Just do what you’re doing while you’re doing it. In my day that was a given. Now you could miss your life while posting about your life. Don’t. Let technology help you not rule you.

I love you.

Text me!

xo Mom

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